Friday, December 9, 2022

Court docs: Man charged in wife’s death accused of assaulting her twice before

Robert Lee Coates (WYDaily/Courtesy of Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail)
Robert Lee Coates (WYDaily/Courtesy of Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail)

A 75-year-old James City County man accused of killing his wife Saturday has been previously charged in connection with domestic incidents involving his wife.

On one charge, a judge found the evidence was sufficient to convict the man of battering his wife, but later dismissed the charge.

Robert Lee Coates is accused of shooting his 72-year-old wife, Irene, with a shotgun around 3:30 p.m. Saturday.

According to a criminal complaint filed in the case, James City County Police were called to the couple’s home in the 200 block of Sandy Bay Road Saturday for a possible stabbing or shooting.

When police arrived, Irene Coates’ daughter told police her father had shot or stabbed her mother after the couple had been arguing inside the house.

During the argument, the daughter left and went outside the home. “Shortly after” she left the house, Robert Coates came outside the house and told his daughter “I killed the b—h,” according to the complaint.

The daughter then went inside the home and found her mother on the living room floor covered in blood and gasping for air, according to court papers.

RELATED STORY: Police identify woman killed in James City County shooting; husband in custody

Irene Coates “had blood heavily squirting” out of a “large arterial wound” to her right leg, the complaint indicated. Her daughter attempted to apply pressure to the wound, but was unable to stop the bleeding.

At that point, police arrived and put a tourniquet on Irene Coates’ leg and wrapped gauze around the wound.

Officers picked up Irene Coates and tried to take her outside to a waiting ambulance because she was still bleeding “profusely,” but she died on the way, according to documents.

As officers worked to save Irene Coates, they learned Robert Coates had gone to a neighbor’s home and told them “I shot Irene.”

Officers went to the neighbor’s house and took Robert Coates into custody.

Police recovered a shotgun and “other evidence” at the couple’s home, authorities wrote in the complaint.

Robert Coates was arraigned Monday on charges of second-degree murder and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony.

On Monday, he asked for additional time to hire an attorney, the Williamsburg-James City County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court Clerk’s Office said.

His next hearing is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. May 17 in the juvenile and domestic relations court. 

Robert Coates has twice before been charged with domestic assault in James City County, once in 2003 and again in 2005.

In 2003, Robert Coates was found not guilty in the juvenile and domestic relations court about one month after the charge was first taken out.

In 2005, a judge found evidence was sufficient to convict Robert Coates of assaulting his wife, but continued the case to June 2006, when the charge was dismissed.

Before dismissing the charge, the judge required the then-61-year-old to complete a substance abuse evaluation and follow treatment recommendations.

Robert Coates does not appear in other Peninsula general district or circuit court records except in one incident in Williamsburg-James City County General District Court for a “trespassing by hunters or fishers” charge in 2012.

Records show he waived the misdemeanor court hearing and prepaid the $50 fine and $81 in court costs.

Williamsburg-James City County Circuit Court records show a divorce case for the couple filed in 2009.

The case was purged after three years and was not finalized, court records show.

Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing is the Assistant Editor at WYDaily. Sarah was born in the state of Maine, grew up along the coast, and attended college at the University of Maine at Orono. Sarah left Maine in October 2015 when she was offered a job at a newspaper in West Point, Va. Courts, crime, public safety and civil rights are among Sarah’s favorite topics to cover. She currently covers those topics in Williamsburg, James City County and York County. Sarah has been recognized by other news organizations, state agencies and civic groups for her coverage of a failing fire-rescue system, an aging agriculture industry and lack of oversight in horse rescue groups. In her free time, Sarah enjoys lazing around with her two cats, Salazar and Ruth, drinking copious amounts of coffee and driving places in her white truck.

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