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Coffman receives 45-year prison sentence in stabbing death of half brother

By Herald-Whig

Posted: Dec. 16, 2015 8:55 pm

PITTSFIELD, Ill. — Diana Harris lost a part of herself when her son Dennis Coffman died.

“I’m sorry for my grandchildren and my children,” Harris said. “I’ve lost my zest for life. All I want to do is cry.”

Harris made the statement Wednesday at the Pike County Courthouse before Joseph Coffman was sentenced to 45 years in the Illinois Department Corrections for the 2014 stabbing death of his half brother Dennis Coffman.

Joseph Coffman, 29, a former resident of Fort McDowell, Ariz., showed no emotion as Judge Diane Lagoski handed down the sentence. He faced 20 to 60 years in prison.

A jury needed a little more than two hours Oct. 14 to find Coffman guilty of first-degree murder in the July 19, 2014, death of Dennis Coffman, 47, of Atterberry, as the two drove from Missouri to Illinois on Interstate 72 after a night of drinking in Hannibal, Mo.

Prosecutors said Joseph Coffman was angry after he claimed he was mistreated by bar patrons in Hannibal.

“When you have an argument and you’re not winning, you walk away,” Lagoski said. “You don’t pull out a knife and stab them 18 times.”

Harris was one of six of Dennis Coffman’s family members who spoke in court.

“I don’t hate you,” she said in her tearful statement in court. “He wouldn’t hate you. I can’t hate you. I do think you need to pay for what you did to me and my family, and I’m afraid you will hurt somebody else.”

Dennis Coffman’s daughter Sasha Tymchek said her father once traveled across the country with a pickup truck full of toys for her son, and nothing was more difficult than when she had to tell him that he died.

“Still to this day Gavin asks for Papa Dennis,” she said.

His sister Patricia Gauch said it has been unbearable to watch their mother suffer since his death.

“Her broken heart is a life sentence on her beautiful soul,” Gauch said. ” You not only took my brother away from me, you took my mother.”

Pike County State’s Attorney Zach Boren argued that Lagoski should impose the maximum 60-year sentence, saying his previous convictions in Arizona showed that he was violent.

“He knows how he gets,” Boren said. “He’s well-aware of it.”

Public Defender Keisha Morris said Joseph Coffman suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and from a traumatic brain injury. While being held in the Pike County Jail, he has attended church and an alcohol recovery support group, and has taken medication to help with his conditions.

Morris asked for a sentence of 20 years.

Joseph Coffman’s half sister Tanna Cornely said her brother had a difficult childhood and he had hoped he would get a second chance in Illinois. She asked the court for leniency in the sentence so he could eventually reconnect with his two daughters.

“He didn’t come here to do this,” Cornely said. “He did not come here to hurt Dennis.”

In a statement to the court, Joseph Coffman said he didn’t move to Illinois to kill his half brother.

“If I could take it back, I would,” he said. “If I could change places with him, I would.”

However, Joseph Coffman blasted the family’s portrayal of Dennis, who he said repeatedly disrespected him.

Joseph Coffman received credit for 515 days he’s already served in the Pike County Jail. He will have to serve the entire sentence and will be subject to three years of mandatory supervised when he’s released from prison.