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A California man who shot a fishing spear into the chests of his two toddlers and left them to die on a ranch in Mexico allegedly believed he was "saving the world" by preventing them from changing into serpent monsters, federal authorities say.
Matthew Taylor Coleman, 40, faces charges of foreign murder of U.S. citizens: his 10-month-old daughter and 2-year-old son, according to a criminal complaint filed by federal authorities Wednesday. Their bodies were discovered Monday morning with dozens of stab wounds in Rosarito, Mexico, Mexican officials said.
Coleman, who authorities say confessed to the murders after being detained at the U.S.-Mexico border, cited conspiracy theories commonly linked with QAnon and the Illuminati as reasons for his actions, the complaint said. He told investigators he was receiving visions and signs revealing that his wife possessed "serpent DNA" and had passed it on to his children.
"Coleman stated that he believed his children were going to grow into monsters so he had to kill them," the complaint read.
It continued, "Coleman was asked whether he knew what he did was wrong. Coleman stated that he knew it was wrong, but it was the only course of action that would save the world."
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In his confession, according to the complaint, he told authorities where the kids' bodies were located, which was consistent with where the two children were found: the Rancho Del Descanso agricultural ranch in the Mexican state of Baja California, about 35 miles south of the border.
In court on Wednesday afternoon, a federal judge ordered that Coleman be detained. He is scheduled to be arraigned in Los Angeles on Aug. 31.
"Serpent DNA" is an apparent reference to the "lizard people" conspiracy theory, which falsely purports that reptilian aliens secretly run the world and have taken over important positions in government, banking and Hollywood, according to NBC News.
While the lizard people conspiracy theory predates both by several decades, NBC News reports, the complaint says Coleman told authorities that he learned about "serpent DNA" through QAnon and Illuminati conspiracy theories, which have blended in various ways as online believers share both across social media.
The so-called reptilian conspiracy theory was also believed by the man who set off an explosion at an AT&T building in Nashville on Christimas Day in 2020, federal officials in that case said at the time. The bomber had made statements about the theory, according to investigators, and they were told he went on camping trips to hunt possible aliens.
The pair of California children and Coleman, who operates a surf school in Santa Barbara and has a master's degree in Spanish, were first reported missing on Saturday by the man's wife, who was concerned because the family had planned to go on a camping trip together, according to the complaint. Their Sprinter van was missing, but the woman at the time did not believe her children were in any danger.
The next day, Santa Barbara authorities asked her to used Apple's Find My iPhone feature to search for her husband's whereabouts. The program revealed Coleman's last known location in Rosarito, Mexico, the complaint said. The FBI took over the case from there and alerted U.S. Border Patrol agents to be on the lookout for Coleman and the children.
Surveillance video showed Coleman and his two children on Saturday checking into the City Express Rosarito hotel 20 miles south of the San Ysidro Port of Entry, according to the Baja California Attorney General's Office.
According to Baja authorities, a surveillance video showed Coleman and the two children leave the hotel at 3 a.m. Monday. Hours later, he returned alone, and subsequently checked out of the hotel.
When Coleman tried to return to the U.S. through the San Ysidro Port of Entry at 1 p.m. on Monday, he was apprehended by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents, who were already on the lookout for him, the complaint said.
Federal authorities were concerned that he did not have his children but had not yet learned that two children of similar age had been discovered on a ranch nearby earlier that morning.