ALTON — Two men are in the Madison County jail on first-degree murder and other charges after police found the dismembered body of Courtney Coats, 30, of the 2500 block of College Avenue, Alton, who had been missing since Nov. 23.
Patrick A. Chase, 28, of the 2500 block of College Avenue, Alton, Coats’ live-in boyfriend; and Brandon L. Chittum, 30, of Collinsville, a friend of Chase, were charged with two counts each of first-degree murder, a count each of dismembering a human body and a count each of concealment of a homicidal death.
The body was found at 11 a.m. Friday along the Illinois River shoreline near the Joe Page Bridge in Greene County.
Lt. Scott Golike of the Alton Police Department said at a news conference Friday that police received a lead the body was near the bridge and pursued it. The search was done with the help of the U.S. Coast Guard, the Alton Fire Department, the Greene County Sheriff’s Office and other agencies helped in the search.
The suspects were charged Friday after the body was found. They are each being held in lieu of $1 million bail.
The murder charges are two versions of the same acts. They both claim the suspects strangled and slit the victim’s throat. Golike said police believe she was killed on the same day she went missing.
The dismembering charge claims they severed the victim’s arms, legs and head. The concealment charge claims they concealed her body in the trunk of a vehicle.
Golike said police believe the murder occurred in the College Avenue residence on the day Coats went missing.
State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons said it appears they used that vehicle to take the body to the spot where it was found Friday.
Golike said any time a person is found missing, police treat the case as a potential crime, but there were certain unspecified circumstances that made officers suspicious from the start. Each day that goes by tends to increase the suspicion that a crime was committed, Golike said.
He said Chase and Coats had a history of domestic violence, but he declined to go into detail.
Golike said police have been putting tremendous effort into the case since Coats was first reported missing on Nov. 25.
“We have worked tirelessly since Nov. 25, following dozens of leads and electronic communications,” Golike said. He said the department is grateful to other agencies involved because the case nearly exhausted the department’s manpower.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the members of the Coats family,” he said.
A department spokeswoman said charges are the result of several search warrants, subpoenas and interviews.
“The citizens of Alton can sleep well at night knowing that they have such a devoted, professional and dedicated police department,” Police Chief Jason Simmons said.
Gibbons said his office will go for convictions and stiff sentences with maximum effort.
“Unfortunately, there is no longer a death penalty in Illinois. If there were, this is the type of case that would look very closely at as a death penalty case. As it is, we will be looking for a highly extensive term,” Gibbons said.
The sentence for murder is a prison term of 20 to 60 years, but the additional charges may be applied as consecutive terms, resulting in prison terms in the “triple digits,” Gibbons said.
He praised the police and others involved in the search.
“They never gave up. They never gave up on Courtney’s family. We are hoping this will bring some type of closure to them,” Gibbons said.
“It is never easy to lose a loved one during the holidays, especially when it was the result of a violent and heinous act. Our thoughts and prayers are with them,” Gibbons said.
Golike said both Coats and Chase worked at part-time jobs in the area. Coats appeared to be well-liked and had many friends, he said.
Coats’ disappearance has been highly publicized since Nov. 25. She was last seen walking away from the College Avenue residence on Nov. 25, police said.