Hello, RPD Series readers! This is the third installment in a series of questionnaires, character profiles, if you will, answered by the men and women of the Riverdale PD and Calera County Crime Lab themselves.

This time, we are joined by the enigmatic, tall, dark and handsome criminalist, Neil Coates:

Name: Neil Michael Coates

Age: I turn 31 on October 24 , 2013

Height: I’m about 6’1″

Weight:  180

Occupation: I am a Criminalist with the Calera County Crime Lab. I specialize in trace evidence analysis.

About: I’m not really used to talking about myself, so I’m not really sure what you want to know…

I guess I’ll just start with the basics. I was born on October 24, 1982 here in Riverdale, Virginia. My parents are Michael and Helen Coates. My dad is a psychiatrist and mom is a retired professor at Riverside University.

I’m an only child, but my parents took in my cousin Noah Harkham when he was 16 – I was 11, so in some ways we are as close as brothers. In other ways…let’s just say the history between us is complicated. Noah probably already told you about the circumstances around all that. His parents were murdered in a convenience store robbery.

[JIO: Noah said to ask you about that day.]

He said to ask me about it? [Deep breath] I guess that’s fair. I was there when it happened. Without going into a lot of personal family stuff, let’s just say that there are hard feelings surrounding that day, for everyone. It all happened so fast and I was just a kid, so… I, um, I don’t really feel like this is something I can talk about. I mean, that was the single worst day of a lot of people’s lives and it isn’t really – or shouldn’t be – something you just talk about, do you know what I mean? 

[JIO: Is that why you are so…hard to read? Why you keep your emotions under such tight wraps?]

I don’t know what you mean, I’m a completely open book. (Small grin) You sound like my dad. He’s always trying to analyze me in the context of That Day. But, to answer your question: to a degree, yes. That Day changed me. I didn’t speak for six months. I don’t really remember that, but that’s what everyone tells me. And when I did start speaking again, I sort of…just kept everything below a certain level, I guess you could say. I’m working on that, now, though. Robin has been helping me.

[JIO: Tell us about your relationship with Robin. How’s that working out?]

[Big smile] Robin is the single best thing that ever happened to me. She’s the reason I got saved, which, in turn is the reason I’m still here today, I believe. She’s just this incredibly warm, sweet person with a heart as big as the sky.  She is lit up from within with God’s love and, unbelievably, she chose to share that light with me. God has changed my life. I was in a really dark place for a long time and He has shown me that there is another way, a peace that anyone can experience if they just accept it.  I’ll probably always be a bit reserved, I think that’s just who I am now after all this time, but I’m starting to let myself feel – truly feel – without fearing what those feelings might mean, or what they might make happen… I don’t really know how to describe it.

[JIO: Okay, now the standard questions: favorite music, films, books, etc?]

I have always identified more with the music of the 80s instead of the 90s, which was when I was really growing up. When I think of the 90s, all I can think of is boy bands and grunge, neither of which I can stomach. I most like bands who started in the 80s, but have kept putting out great music: U2, Echo and the Bunnymen, Duran Duran and the like. Of the new bands, there are very few I like, really. It’s mostly individual songs rather than bands that I have on my iPod. Some examples? Ummm…. there’s this song by a group called The Walkmen called The Rat, and then there’s this song by Birdy called Wings. Actually, that’s all I can think of right now.

Movies…I actually really love movies, but I hardly ever take the time to watch very many. I tend to gravitate toward disaster movies, for some reason, and some comic book movies. Frankie would probably shudder at that last – I don’t think he’s a big fan of the comic book movie franchises. Too commercial, I think. But, I did get him to watch the first Captain America movie with us and he had to admit that it was good [laughs quietly].

Books are a guilty pleasure for me. I will read just about anything, but I really like pulp novels and contemporary crime fiction. I know, I know, I should probably be sick of crime with my line of work, but it’s fun to read about a crime and know I don’t have to process any of the evidence myself. I won’t admit this to just anyone, but there are a lot of the ‘tween books that are really good. Like, there’s this really good one called Life as We Knew It, about what happens when the moon is pushed closer to the earth by a meteor impact. The whole weather and climate systems get drastically changed and people have to really struggle to survive. It’s good. But one thing you will never find on my bookshelf are the paranormal teen romance crap books.

[JIO: You mean like Twilight?]

I didn’t say it, you did, but yeah. Absolutely never going to touch that.

[JIO: See? You do feel strongly about some things.]

I guess so. 

Anything else? Or…?

[JIO: Well, you touched on your work – what drew you to forensics?]

Again, without going into a lot of self-psychoanalysis, I think I was looking for something to help me process what happened That Day, and how people can do things like that to each other – 

[JIO: You’re talking about Noah’s parents.]

Yes.

[JIO: I just want to clarify for anyone reading: They were killed by a gunman holding up a convenience store.]

21 years ago, yes. And for a long time I couldn’t understand it. I still don’t, really, except from a Biblical viewpoint. But somehow, the science and puzzle solving aspects of forensics helps me take a horrendous act – say a murder or a rape – and break it down into little bits of information that inform the whole. 

[JIO: And that makes it easier to understand.]

It makes it easier to process, mentally and spiritually. It offers just a slight modicum of insight into how, if not why, the act was carried out, and if you have something that you can make sense of out of something so senseless as a whole, you can get a feeling of control over it and a feeling of closure when you help bring justice into it. Again, I’m not really sure how to put it into words.

[JIO: I think that was the perfect way to phrase it, actually. Thank you, Neil, for letting us get inside your head a little today.]

Anytime.

[JIO: I may take you up on that. But, for now, I’m going to let you get back to work.]

Excellent. Thank you.

Thanks again to Neil for stopping by. Next time, we’ll get to hear from Neil’s best friend, the adventurous and affable Conrad Ward. See you then!

-J.I. O’Neal

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