ALTON — Friends of a woman whose live-in boyfriend allegedly strangled her, slit her throat then dismembered her body, are uniting to raise funds to cover her funeral and gravemarker expenses.
As of Monday, the website (http://www.gofundme.com/CourtneyCCoats#) for the Courtney Coats Memorial Fund had garnered $1,285 toward a goal of $15,000.
“Courtney (Coats) was an amazing woman whose life was cut way too short,” the website says. “She died at the young age of 30 years old. She brought so many people light and laughter and love. She was a beacon to her community and friends. Courtney touched the lives of everyone around her. The news of Courtney’s disappearance sparked an immediate desire for searches and door-to-door talks to receive any information to where she might be.
“News of Courtney’s life and the impact she had literally made it all the way around the world and so many people prayed for her safe return,” the posting by Crystal Rogouski continues. “When the news was grim, those same people stepped forward to give their deepest sympathies.With the power of Courtney’s spirit, fiery personality, and the love that she gave everyone she met, it is my wish that we raise enough money to take care of her final expenses, a beautiful memorial and enough money for her family’s court battles ahead.”
People also can contribute to the memorial fund in person or by mailing a check to Jerseyville Banking Center, 1101 S. State St., Jerseyville IL 62052.
The family has not set funeral arrangements for Coats, who a friend said did not have life insurance.
There reportedly will be a vigil for the dead woman after the holidays.
The killing, likely in November, was the only homicide in Alton this year as of Monday.
Coats most recently had worked at Jimmy the Greeks, 1856 E. Broadway, for about a week. Prior to that, Coats worked at Aunt Sam’s Uptown Eatery, 2512 College Ave., near her apartment.
The daughter of Pete and Beth Coats of Jerseyville, she had attended Jersey Community High School.
A friend of several years said Monday that Coats enjoyed riding on that friend’s Harley-Davidson motorcycle, with the two women singing “praise and worship songs” as they traveled down roads.
“She was an excellent rider; we would ride for hours,” the friend said. “She was a Christian, she believed in God. She was dearly loved.” The woman said when she heard Coats was missing, she feared for her safety because she knew her friend would not just leave the area. She said she searched for Coats along the Mississippi River, near Wood River Creek, with an impending snowstorm about to hit the Alton area. She feared Coats may have been stricken or passed out, but could not say why she was drawn to the river.
Another fund-raising effort to help with Coats’ funeral expenses — with half the proceeds going toward Coats’ funeral expenses — is the online sale of an orange and black scarf, Harley-Davidson’s corporate colors. The scarves are emblazoned with a purple bow, symbol of anti-domestic and interpersonal violence, with a white “C” and a purple “C.” The $12 scarves, from Christina’s Bows of Moro, are available on a Facebook page: https://m.facebook.comthebowlady01?id=387063828064303&_rdr.
Coats’ family reported her missing Nov. 25, two days after she last was seen, with Alton police issuing a missing person alert. At the time, police said Coats reportedly had left the upstairs apartment she shared with boyfriend Patrick A. Chase, 28, on foot and carrying a green duffel bag. APD detectives initiated what would be an inter-agency investigation involving search warrants, subpoenas and interviews. It culminated with a search and discovery of Coats’ body, then subsequent arrests and charges against two suspects.
Police said last week that they believe Coats died the same day she went missing, that she was killed inside the couple’s residence.
In the meantime, Coats’ friends set up a Facebook page, “Help Find Courtney Coats,” which they changed Monday to “Rest in Peace Courtney Coats.” It had 2,110 “likes” as of Monday afternoon, with numerous tributes from friends and others. Coats’ personal Facebook was removed in recent days.
Coats’ friend said she was excellent with Chase’s young daughter. An Alton police official said the couple had a history of domestic violence, which Coats’ friend confirmed.
“They fought a lot, but when they were good, they were good,” she said. “She loved Pat’s daughter.”
She said she feels badly for the little girl, who is 5 or 6 years old. “Both role models are gone” from her life, the woman said of Coats and Chase. “Patrick was one of the most amazing dads.”
Following a lead, authorities began a search for Coats’ body, discovering her dismembered remains at 11 a.m. Friday at the edge of the Illinois River in East Hardin near the Joe Page Bridge in Greene County. Agencies assisting Alton police in the search were Alton firefighters, Alton Volunteer Emergency Corps, U.S. Coast Guard, Greene County Sheriff’s Office, Madison County Emergency Management Command Post, Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office, Illinois Department of Transportation, Illinois Department of Natural Resources and the Department of the Interior’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Later Friday, the Madison County State’s Attorney’s Office charged Chase and friend, Brandon L. Chittum, 30, of Collinsville, each with two counts of first-degree murder and one count each of dismembering a human body and concealment of a homicidal death. The dismembering charge says the men allegedly severed the victim’s arms, legs and head. The concealment charge claims the men concealed her body in a vehicle, eventually driving to the river shoreline and dumping the corpse.
Circuit Judge Kyle Napp set bond of $1 million for each man.