A Virginia man was found guilty of second-degree murder Monday (April 2) for fatally punching a woman he claims called him the n-word during a heated verbal exchange. Robert Coleman, 27, will be sentenced on May 24 and is expected to serve 10 years in prison.
According to reports, 27-year-old Coleman and his girlfriend Nikki Howard went to a 7-Eleven convenience story in July to purchase cigarettes, the victim, Fedelia Montiel-Benitez went there to buy alcohol. The two then began arguing (it’s still unknown what started it) and Howard is seen on security surveillance trying to break up the quarrel. Footage shows Montiel-Benitez leaving the store before turning around to face Coleman. That’s when she used the n-Word.
Coleman told law enforcement he snapped upon hearing the racial slur and punched the 39-year-old, which landed her in a coma. Montiel-Benitez died 10 days later. Coleman insisted he never intended to kill Montiel-Benitez and alleged because of her large size and short hair, he assumed she was a man. The Washington Post reports, Montiel-Benitez .351 blood alcohol and size may have led Coleman to believe it would be a fair fight.
Prosecutor David Lord argued her appearance as well as her high alcohol level was in poor taste to bring up in court. “She deserves to be treated with more humanity,” Lord told the jury.
Coleman reportedly fled the scene and when detectives later found him, he denied any involvement. Coleman only admitted to the argument once he learned of Montiel-Benitez critical condition. Lord said Montiel-Benitez didn’t know English that well to use the word, and continued by saying, even if she did, “words alone” isn’t a good enough reason for murder.
Coleman’s attorney said while they’re disappointed in the second-degree murder charge, they’re content with the proposed 10 year sentence, given the murder charge carries a sentence of up to 40 years.