DA’s office looking into ‘technical issue’ that delayed indictment in a 2022 child death case

DA’s office previously stated Medical Examiner’s Office hadn’t turned in a report but Bexar County disputed that

SAN ANTONIO – KSAT reporting may have helped the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office uncover what they’re calling a technical issue that delayed indictments in a child death case for more than a year.

That is the latest question in the case of 12-year-old Danilo Coles who investigators believe was killed by his father and stepmother, Derrick Coles and Kapri Cheatom.

Coles died in Feb. 2022 from injuries allegedly inflicted by Coles and Cheatom.

Danilo Coles. (Courtesy, Pamela Allen)

An arrest affidavit said the couple allegedly made the boy hold heavy boxes over his head for long periods of time and severely whipped him, causing internal bleeding.

Coles and Cheatom were both arrested in February of 2022. Coles was eventually released on bond, while Cheatom had her charges dismissed in May of 2022 because she was not indicted within 90 days of her arrest — which is required by state law.

On Aug. 28, KSAT questioned the district attorney’s office about why the case had yet to be indicted.

Derrick Coles (left), 32, and Kapri Cheatom (right), 27, were each charged with injury to a child causing serious bodily injury, jail records show. (Bexar County Jail)

In an interview, first assistant district attorney Christian Henrickson said that the case couldn’t move forward until they got the final report from the Medical Examiner’s Office.

Bexar County Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Kimberley Molina couldn’t do an interview because she has to testify in the case but Bexar County sent the following statement on her behalf:

“The Medical Examiner’s Office and the District Attorney’s Office exchange documents using a software solution specific to the criminal justice system. Log entries in that system indicate that the District Attorney’s Office received the autopsy report earlier this year.”

KSAT immediately reached out to the District Attorney’s Office asking for a follow-up interview with Henrickson. We were told he wasn’t available for an interview but the office sent the following statement from Henrickson:

“Bexar County prosecutors are deeply committed to ensuring justice for victims of crime. The Bexar County Criminal District Attorney’s Office currently maintains the highest homicide conviction rate seen in Bexar County over the last twelve years. This success is in part due to the cooperative relationships the DA’s office has with partnering agencies.

The cooperative relationship between our office and the Bexar County Medical Examiner’s Office has enabled us to discover technical issues in the sharing of information. These issues were recently highlighted in a case involving the death of Danilo Coles, where an autopsy report provided by the Medical Examiner’s Office as requested did not timely make its way into the files of each defendant in the case.

On our side, we are committed to correcting these technical issues and improving the efficiency of prosecution. We know that the Medical Examiner’s Office is committed to the same goals.

We look forward to ensuring justice in this and all other homicide cases prosecuted by our office.”

We asked for clarification about why the technical issue was undiscovered for so long and if there were other cases affected by it. The DA’s office has not responded.

On Monday, Coles was finally indicted on a charge of injury to a child causing serious bodily injury, but Cheatom was not. In August, Henrickson told KSAT that their cases would be presented together to a grand jury, but according to court records, that process hasn’t happened for Cheatom.

Cheatom is currently not in jail or charged with any crime in the case.

Coles’ case will now go through the 437th District Court. His first court appearance has not been scheduled yet.

If he goes to trial and is found guilty, he is facing up to life in prison.

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About the Authors:

Erica Hernandez is an Emmy award-winning journalist with 15 years of experience in the broadcast news business. Erica has covered a wide array of stories all over Central and South Texas. She's currently the court reporter and cohost of the podcast Texas Crime Stories.

Misael started at KSAT-TV as a photojournalist in 1987.