Discovery of fresh grave, dead California man lands Alabama woman in jail

Published 4:51 pm Wednesday, October 26, 2022

An Alabama woman has been arrested after police found a freshly dug grave and the body of a California man buried there.

Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office deputies were called to a residence on Raceway Parkway in the Mount Olive community after family members grew concerned after they had not heard from Zachery Steed Coats, 31, who was from Wildomar, California, in months.

As deputies attempted to reach Coats at the residence on Friday, they spotted what appeared to be a freshly dug grave. After cadaver dogs indicated someone was buried there, deputies got a search warrant and began digging up the grave.

The identity of the body found was confirmed by the Jefferson County Coroner’s Office on Wednesday as that of Coats.

Deputies charged Christal Elaine Skelton, 39, with abuse of a corpse.

It was not immediately clear what led investigators to consider Skelton as a suspect in the case. The coroner’s office said the case was being handled as a homicide but did not say how Coats was killed.