TEXARKANA, Texas — A woman accused of killing a man during the course of a robbery in 2012 pleaded not guilty Monday to capital murder at a hearing in Bowie County.
Alana Leigh Coleman, 39, was arrested by U.S. Marshals in Mexico in October in connection with the Aug. 12, 2012, death of Donald Ray Morris. She allegedly fled to Mexico later the same month.
Coleman appeared for arraignment Monday before 5th District Judge Bill Miller. Assistant District Attorney Katie Carter announced last month that the state will not seek the death penalty for Coleman. That means Coleman faces life without parole if convicted of capital murder.
At the same hearing in January, Miller appointed Texarkana lawyer Butch Dunbar to represent Coleman. At Monday's hearing, Coleman asked Miller to remove Dunbar and appoint someone who specializes in criminal law. Dunbar's is a general law practice.
"That'll be denied," Miller said in response to Coleman's request for a different lawyer.
Coleman next complained to the court that Dunbar hasn't yet received discovery in her case. Discovery refers to evidence and the right of the defense to examine it all in advance of trial. Dunbar told the court he and Carter have discussed the case and the discovery materials are ready for him to pick up from the district attorney's office.
Miller scheduled the case for a pretrial hearing next month and said a tentative trial date may be set then.
Coleman's DNA was allegedly discovered at the murder scene, according to a probable cause affidavit.
Morris was discovered dead in his unit of the Redwood Apartments on 7th Street in Texarkana, Texas, by police. A manager at the apartments noticed a broken window with blood on it and blood on Morris' door when she went to deliver the mail at about 6:30 p.m. that evening and called police.
"There appeared to have been a very violent struggle in the apartment and there was blood spatter all over the apartment," the affidavit states.
A broken pair of bloody scissors and a broken knife were found near the body. Neighbors of Morris' told investigators they had seen Coleman's car parked at the complex earlier that day.
Investigators believe Coleman murdered Morris because she wanted his cash. Coleman was allegedly a prostitute known to visit Morris and nude photos of Coleman were allegedly discovered on a camera in Morris' apartment.
In December 2012, investigators received a report from the crime lab that indicated DNA from an unknown female had been found at the murder scene.
Investigators wanted to compare Coleman's DNA to the sample but Coleman was believed to be in Mexico. To obtain a sample of Coleman's DNA, investigators went to Coleman's mother. The mother told investigators Coleman had been living with her brother until she allegedly assaulted and robbed the brother in April 2012.
The brother told investigators he had placed all of Coleman's belongings in garbage bags and stored them in a shed in his mother's backyard. The bags were collected by police.
Items from the bags, including unwashed panties, toothbrushes and razors, were sent to the crime lab. Ultimately the lab tested the panties and a sample with the same DNA profile as found at the murder scene was allegedly discovered.
Now that Coleman is in custody, investigators are able to obtain a search warrant for Coleman's DNA and collect a sample directly from her.
Coleman is being held with bail set at $1 million. In addition to capital murder, Coleman is facing a motion to revoke a probation she was serving for possession of a controlled substance and a warrant for failure to appear on a misdemeanor theft charge.