Invisible Children

Shane Alan Coffman and 5 Siblings

Content note: Case narratives include descriptions of severe violence inflicted on children, including abuse and neglect, sexual violence, torture, and murder, as well as mentions of suicide and domestic violence. They also include photos of victims and perpetrators of violence.

Shane_Coffman2Coffman and Gilson

The body of eight-year-old Shane Alan Coffman was discovered in a freezer in a trailer home in February 1996. His five siblings, ages seven to twelve, were taken into protective custody. All of the children had been abused, and two were so malnourished they had to be hospitalized. Authorities believe Shane died due to excessive discipline at the hands of his mother, Bertha Jean Coffman, and her boyfriend, Donald Lee Gilson, in August 1995. The children had been taken into foster care briefly two years before, but were returned to Coffman after she met certain requirements. Coffman and her children moved into Gilson’s trailer in June 1995.

The pastor at the church where the children had attended Sunday school reported that he had frequently fed the children at church, and that he had called social services with his concerns on several occasions. However, when Coffman moved in with Gilson the children were no longer allowed to attend church. The school district reported that the children had been withdrawn from school off and on, but that at the beginning of the school year the mother had sent a letter reporting her intent to homecshool. “It raised a red flag for us,” the district’s spokesperson admitted. “But we can’t police home-school.”

Gilson admitted in court that he killed Shane by beating him with a board on August 17, 1995. Gilson was given the death penalty and was executed in 2009. Coffman was sentenced to life in prison.

Date: February 18, 1996
Location: Little Axe, Oklahoma

Documents: Date:
Boy’s Body Found in Oklahoma Trailer’s Freezer 02-18-1996
Donald Lee Gilson