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Psychological Evaluations and the Coleman Murders

Matthew Taylor Coleman and his wife, Abby Coleman, were living a picturesque life in their Santa Barbara, California home with their two young children—Kaleo, a two-year-old boy, and Roxy, a ten-month-old girl— when events took a turn for the worse.  While the family was packing for a camping trip, Matthew allegedly placed the children in the family van and drove away without a word to Abby.  She was unable to reach him by phone but eventually tracked his location with the help of authorities and the Find My iPhone application.  After being stopped by law enforcement at the U.S.-Mexico border and taken into custody, Matthew told investigators he killed his children with a spearfishing gun after being “enlightened by QAnon and Illuminati conspiracy theories.”  Believing that Abby possessed serpent DNA that had been passed down to his children, Matthew claimed the death of his children was “saving the world from monsters.”  Matthew has been charged with the foreign murder of U.S. nationals. 


Matthew’s actions are a shock to everyone, especially Abby.  According to reports, had she known he was grappling with these beliefs, she would’ve sought help for him.  Matthew, a surfing instructor, has sparked concern in the parents of his students.  Although those parents are thankful their children are safe, Matthew’s actions have everyone questioning how well they knew him.  Devastated and grieving, Abby hopes to have the opportunity to confront Matthew one day and receive answers to this confusing nightmare.


In North Carolina, all parties to a custody or visitation matter must attend mandatory mediation pursuant to Article 39A of Chapter 7A of the General Statutes.  However, this mediation session may be waived on motion of either party or on the court’s own motion for good cause shown.  One circumstance where good cause is shown to waive the mandatory mediation is if there are allegations of severe psychological, psychiatric, or emotional problems.  N.C.G.S. § 50-13.1(c).  In addition to waiving mandatory mediation, one party may motion the court to order a psychological evaluation of the other party in a custody or visitation matter.  Although the psychological concern may not be a glaring issue, the court has an obligation to act in the best interest of the children involved in the case.  Therefore, psychological concerns that one parent may pose significant risks to children must be appropriately evaluated for the court to make a decision.


Although Abby had no idea Matthew aligned his beliefs with the QAnon conspiracy theory, motioning the court to order a psychological evaluation of a parent is best if you have a good-faith concern regarding a parent’s mental and psychological stability.  However, you should reasonably expect the other party to request that you undergo the same evaluations.  Additionally, it is crucial to recognize that the testing may not reflect any significant issues or could even backfire for your case.  You should consult with your attorney if you have any concerns that the other party’s mental and psychological stability may interfere with his or her ability to parent effectively.