Killer Candidate

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Gail called their father to discuss her concerns, and soon after that, the oldest of the five Chalker siblings, Carol, was dispatched to Cochise County to check out the situation.

But the night all three sisters reunited, at the Rodeo Tavern, everything went wrong. When Carol pulled Annette aside to ask about the drugs, Annette didn't just deny it, she got angry — and confronted Gail.

And then they started arguing about the air compressor.

Gail had fronted Annette $500 for work that she hadn't gotten around to doing. And Gail was getting fed up.

So when Annette asked to borrow the heavy power tool to do some drywalling, Gail refused. Not until Annette made up the work she owed.

Everybody's recollections of the night get a little blurry at this point. (Everybody, after all, was drinking.) Colby Rawson says he and Annette were supposed to stop by Coleman's house that night to get the compressor. But others, including Gail, say that they only agreed to talk about it the next day.

What's undisputed is that Gail and Coleman left the bar for bed, tucking in Carol, Gail's older sister, who had passed out from the evening's festivities.

Then, less than an hour later, Annette and her fiancé packed up her kids in the pickup truck and drove to Coleman's ranch.

As Rawson would later recount to the sheriff's deputies, Annette knocked on the door. When there was no answer, she started walking back to the truck.

And then, Rawson said, the light came on.

"She waved at me and turned around and walked back," Rawson would recall. "I thought she was waving at me to get out of the truck. Well, I got out of one side and the little boy got out of the other side. . . . So I ran around and said, 'Kyle, hey, get back in the truck.' You know, 'I'm just going to help your mom load the compressor.'"

Rawson heard Annette open the door. She called out, "Where's Gailbert?" — the nickname she used for her little sister.

And then he heard a pop.

"I thought it was a door slamming or something," Rawson said.

He put the little boy back into the truck and walked up the porch into the house, with no idea that his entire life was about to change.

There, inside the house, was Annette.

"She's laying on her back, 20 feet from the door, bleeding profusely from a hole in her face," Rawson said. ". . . I went, 'Oh my God!' It was like, so unreal. I couldn't believe it was really happening. And I went over there and when — whenever her heart would pump blood, it would come out of that hole in her face.

"So I put my thumb on it and I . . . I couldn't believe it."

It took the police nearly an hour and a half to arrive on scene, and the EMTs weren't supposed to go into the house before police. So Rawson desperately performed CPR and tried to stanch the bleeding.

"The worst thing about it," he says now, "the thing that really got me — when I was on the floor doing CPR on her, he [Dan] was at the bar mixing a drink. Annette was the best thing in the world. But Gail wouldn't help me. Dan wouldn't help me. Nobody would help me."

Annette was pronounced dead before she ever reached the hospital.

The scene at the ranch was so confusing that, when deputies finally arrived, they handcuffed Annette's fiancé, Rawson, before they realized that it was actually Coleman who'd fired the gun.

And as for Dan Coleman, he invoked his Miranda rights. At the advice of his lawyer, he wouldn't answer any questions.

If roles had been reversed, and Annette Chalker had been a man and Dan Coleman a woman, there is no question things would have been different in the aftermath of the shooting.

After all, Annette did barge into Coleman's home while he was sleeping — and she had exchanged fiery words with her sister earlier in the night. Gail Chalker, the only eyewitness inside the house, would tell deputies that her sister had been belligerent and violent when she entered the house.

But while no one would think twice about forgiving a woman for shooting a male intruder in the head, they don't necessarily cut a man the same slack.

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Sarah Fenske
Contact: Sarah Fenske