“Do it harder; do it quick,” Chittum was allegedly telling Chase, as he was choking his girlfriend to “put her out of her misery,” Assistant State’s Attorney Lauren Heischmidt told the jury in her opening statement. “The defendant was behind Chase, coaching him, giving him tips.”
Chittum, 35, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder, a count of dismembering a human body and concealment of a homicidal death. Coats went missing in late November 2013. Chase has since pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 60 years in prison.
Chittum, formerly of Alton and a former member of the Outlaws motorcycle club, has been in the Madison County Jail awaiting trial since December 2013. Testimony at trial was that Chase was a member of the Black Pistons motorcycle club , which was like a “farm club ” for the Outlaws. Chittum said during a recorded interview that the two became friends when they were members of an alcohol recovery group.
Heischmidt said Tuesday that Coats and Chase were in an argument at their home in the 2500 block of College Avenue, and Chase pushed her, causing her to hit and badly injure her head. Chase said he wanted to “put her out of her misery,” so he and Chittum allegedly dragged her into a bedroom, where the first attempt at strangling her failed.
The prosecutor said that Chittum felt for Coats’ pulse and told Chase she was not dead. They then dragged her into a bathroom, where Chase slit her throat. Chittum then allegedly said, “Now she’s gone,” Heischmidt told the jury. “They senselessly, violently and brutally murdered her,” the prosecutor said.
She then described how Chittum allegedly called his wife and asked to borrow her car. She then drove it to Alton and left, and the two suspects then cut up the body, placed it in bags and took the remains up to the Joe Page Bridge near Hardin. The remains were found near, and in, the Illinois River in Greene County.
When Coats’ mother, Elizabeth Kovach, began to notice her daughter was not contacting her, as she always did, she reported her missing. Police launched a 27-day search for Coats, but an investigation led the a confession by Chase, who led authorities to the remains. Crime scene specialists from Illinois State Police then performed a detailed search of the College Avenue apartment where the murder took place.
Investigators found blood in the bathroom. “Scratched into the soap scum in the bathtub was the word, ‘Help,’ Heischmidt said. The prosecutor said Chittum will say he left before the murder and returned to Collinsville, but phone records from Chittum’s phone showed he was in Alton, then in East Hardin, then in Alton.
Defense attorney Evelyn Lewis said her client went to sleep on the couch during the killing. “Brandon did not kill her. He wasn’t even aware of it.” She claimed Chase told police that Coats injured her neck, yet there is no evidence of a neck injury. She said Chittum never called police about the incident because “he was in the Outlaws, and he was afraid what was going to happen to him.”
Testimony in the trial began Tuesday. The trial may last into next week.
SOURCE: The Telegraph