Still, his name had entered the files of DeSoto police, and Milano would surface in their sights again.
Sometime in 1987, Milano met Glen Ralph Coleman, another opportunist, and the two struck up a friendship.
Two years earlier, Coleman had run into trouble with the federal government back in Maryland, where he owned a carpet and furniture cleaning company which held a contract to clean airplanes for the U.S. Air Force. In 1985, he was accused of billing the Air Force for work he had not performed, and bribing cooperative airmen to help him bilk the government. The Air Force barred Coleman from further contracts, and he apparently decided it was time to move to Texas.
When Coleman met Milano, the former carpet cleaner was interested in getting into real-estate deals. Milano says he plugged Coleman into some property in Oak Cliff, and that Coleman made money from the venture.
The two men, Milano says, became friends. "He had an office in the same building as I did," Milano says. "I thought he was the nicest person I'd ever met. He was very personable. He introduced me to his wife, I introduced him to my family. We went bowling together. We ate together. We became fast, firm friends. That was my belief."
In 1988, Milano's marriage began to fall apart. He and his wife separated in April, with Milano moving out of the house and into an apartment. He readily concedes that the problems were as much his fault as his wife's. "Look, I was a lousy husband," Milano says. "I was unfaithful. But she lived in a $300,000 home, she drove a new car every six months. I was damn good to my child. I was just a lousy husband."
Milano would later acknowledge to a family court counselor during the couple's divorce that life with him wasn't always rosy. He drank too much, and the couple squabbled over finances.
Coleman began to act as a sort of go-between between Milano and his estranged wife. As the weeks of the separation passed, Coleman appeared to be getting closer and closer to his estranged wife, Milano says. Too close. Then one day in late 1988, at a local stable where both men kept horses, Milano claims that Coleman sneaked up on him and took a swing at him with a sledgehammer. Milano was bruised in the shoulder, and Coleman later told Milano's wife that the incident was an accident. Milano did not report the incident to police.
Already resentful of Coleman's closeness to his wife, Milano now believed Coleman was out to hurt him. Milano was outraged, and ordered his estranged wife to stay away from Coleman. Milano even told his wife that he believed Coleman might be trying to kill him.
Several weeks later, in January 1989, Coleman's body was found by the roadside. He had been dead only a matter of hours.
Business acquaintances of Coleman, and Milano's wife and mother-in-law, all told police that Coleman had been in fear of Milano during the last days of his life. Sworn statements taken by police in the days after the killing show that Coleman was meeting often with Terrie Sickels and her mother Nancie, purportedly discussing the danger that Milano posed.
It was those statements that initially led police to arrest Milano. But they could never make a case against him, and ultimately he was cleared of involvement in the crime.
Investigators, in fact, soon began unearthing evidence that the murderous intentions may have been working in the opposite direction.
On June 3, 1988, after Milano and his wife had separated, Coleman had arranged to have a life insurance policy taken out on Milano. The policy, issued by Great West Life Assurance Company, named Coleman Enterprises as its beneficiary, and paid double indemnity--$200,000--in the event of death by "external, violent and accidental means." The first year's premium cost $270.
The policy required Milano's signature, but the agent who sold Coleman the policy gave police a sworn statement saying he never met Milano. Instead, the agent said, he reluctantly agreed to give Coleman the policy form with a blank signature line, and Coleman later returned it with what he said was Milano's signature.
"The bastard had been planning to kill me," Milano now says.
DeSoto police investigators came to believe that as well. After dropping Milano as a suspect in the Coleman murder, they instead began to concentrate on the possibility that Coleman was killed by whoever he was trying to hire to kill Milano.
Milano's estranged wife and mother-in-law became suspects in this alleged plot. (Terrie Sickels and her mother, Nancie Sickels, did not return phone calls from the Observer.)