A California surfing school owner has been charged with killing his two young children after driving them from their home in Santa Barbara to Mexico.
During an interview with the FBI, Matthew Taylor Coleman confessed that he had taken his two-year-old son and 10-month-old daughter to Rosarito, Mexico, where he shot a “spear fishing gun” into their chests, according to an affidavit filed by an FBI agent with the criminal complaint.
The 40-year-old said that “he was enlightened by QAnon and Illuminati conspiracy theories”, according to the affidavit, and that he “believed his children were going to grow into monsters so he had to kill them”.
Coleman was charged with the foreign murder of US nationals, the US attorney’s office said in a statement. The office said a judge had scheduled an arraignment for 31 August. It was not immediately clear whether Coleman had an attorney to speak for him.
QAnon is a wide-ranging internet conspiracy theory whose adherents believe that a secret cabal of Democrats, celebrities and billionaires is controlling the world while also engaging in child sex-trafficking.
Its potent blend of classic antisemitic tropes and contemporary rightwing politics was supercharged by the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, when it merged with other conspiracy communities, including anti-vaccine and anti-lockdown groups and the proponents of false allegations of election fraud in the 2020 presidential race.
But much about the tragedy that befell the Coleman family remained unclear. A farm worker found the children’s bodies on Monday at a ranch near the resort town of Rosarito in Baja California, about 40 minutes from the US border, Mexican authorities have said.
Coleman and the children had checked into a Rosarito hotel on Saturday, according to authorities there, but video footage showed them leaving before dawn on Monday.
Coleman returned alone later that morning and then left the hotel for good, they added.
Coleman’s wife had reported to Santa Barbara police on Saturday that her husband had left with the children in the family’s van. The family was supposed to go on a camping trip, she told police, but Coleman instead took the children and left without saying where he was going.
According to the court affidavit, Coleman’s wife said she didn’t believe the children were in any danger, that she hadn’t had any problems with her husband, and “they did not have any sort of argument” before he left.
Police and family members were unable to reach Coleman over the phone, but an iPhone-finding application placed his phone in Rosarito on Sunday, and on Monday it was traced to an area of Mexico near the San Ysidro port of entry in San Diego, according to the affidavit.
Authorities detained Coleman at the border checkpoint, where during an interview with an FBI agent he said “he was receiving visions and signs revealing that his wife, AC, possessed serpent DNA and had passed it on to his children”, according to the affidavit. Coleman said he knew what he did was wrong, according to the court documents, but that “it was the only course of action to save the world”.
The FBI has long warned of QAnon’s potential to inspire violence. It first warned that QAnon and other conspiracy theories would probably inspire “domestic extremists” to carry out violence in May 2019. In a June bulletin to members of Congress, the agency noted that the fact that the conspiracy theory’s many predictions had not come true could create a feeling of “obligation” among adherents to engage in violence.
Coleman’s statement about “serpent DNA” may be a reference to the “lizard people” conspiracy theory, popularized by the prominent British conspiracist David Icke, which falsely asserts that many powerful people are actually reptilian aliens that look like humans.
Anthony Quinn Warner, the Nashville suicide bomber who blew up himself and a recreational vehicle on Christmas Day 2020, reportedly also followed the lizard people conspiracy theory.