Hearings for man charged in wife's fatal shooting continued until end of May

Staff writer

The case against a man accused of fatally shooting his wife after an argument was continued until the end of May a judge ruled in a Friday morning hearing in the Williamsburg-James City County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court.

Robert Lee Coates, 75, has been charged with second-degree murder and the use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, according to filings in the Williamsburg-James City County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court.

While Coates previously appeared before Judge Sharon Will via video conference from the Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail, on Friday he appeared in person and shackled at the ankles as two Williamsburg-James City County Sheriff’s Office deputies stood within an arm’s length.

Judge Will conferred with Williamsburg attorney J. Stephen Roberts Sr. who told the court the Coates family sought his service but had not retained him as of Friday morning.

Roberts told the court the family had difficulty ascertaining whether or not Coates could afford legal services because he did not have an active power of attorney to oversee his finances since his incarceration on May 4.

A previous bond hearing on May 7 was postponed until Friday after Coates’s two daughters told Will at the initial hearing they intended to hire a lawyer the same day.

Will agreed to continue the attorney and bond hearings again until 8:30 a.m. May 31.

“It would not be prudent for you to go forward on a bond hearing without an attorney,” Will warned Coates.

Roberts was not immediately available for comment.

Coates was charged after an argument with his wife, Irene Moore Coates, turned violent on May 4, according to court documents filed in the Williamsburg-James City County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court.

One of Coates’s daughters had stepped outside of the home in the 200 block of Sandy Bay Road because of the ongoing argument when Robert Coates stepped outside and told his daughter “I killed the (expletive),” the filings said.

Coates’ daughter ran inside and found her 72-year-old mother on the floor in the living room covered in blood, gasping for air, according to the court documents.

At about 3:30 p.m., James City police arrived and found the victim and the victim’s daughter in the living room, the filings said. The victim’s daughter had put pressure on the wound and officers put a tourniquet on the victim’s leg near the wound.

Irene Coates died from her injuries as officers and her daughter tried to carry her to an awaiting medic, according to the court documents. Medics pronounced her dead at the scene.

Officers were told Coates was at a neighbor’s home and they arrested him there, the filings said. Coates’s neighbors said he told them “I shot Irene.”

Coates’s property has been searched at least twice after his arrest, according to unsealed search warrants filed with the Williamsburg-James City County Circuit Court.

Investigators searched Coates’s home, garage and vehicles at the property on Sandy Bay Road, according to the warrants.

James City County Police Department investigators recovered a shotgun, ammunition, a knife, glasses, a towel and blood, according to the warrants. Investigators also photographed the property.

James City County officials have declined to release multiple 911 calls made in connection with Irene Coates’s death.

Editor’s note: Williamsburg attorney J. Stephen Roberts Sr. is of no relation to Virginia Gazette reporter Stephen P. Roberts Jr.

Roberts can be reached at 757-604-1329, by email at srobertsjr@vagazette.com and on Twitter @SPRobertsJr.

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