Family holds vigil for Rockford 15-year-old on anniversary of his death

Local News

ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Family members say their memories of Za’Shawn Coats still touch their lives everyday.

Coats was killed near the corner of Kent and Ferguson Streets on Martin Luther King Day, January 21st, 2019, becoming Rockford’s first murder of the year.

Pam Wilkins keeps tributes to her grandson both inside and outside of her home.

“We keep his table right there. All of his books. His pictures and stuff from school. Some stuff I couldn’t depart with, and I just kept it,” she said.

Wilkins says the hurt of that day hasn’t gone away.

“I’ve got grand kids as young as four that need counseling behind this. And sometimes, I don’t know what to say to them. They come up to me, they’re like ‘Granny, I miss Za’shawn.’ I just hug them because I don’t know what to say,” she said.

Wilkins says spending time with her family and friends helps her cope with his loss.

“Somedays are not good for me,” she said. “I just want to be left alone. And my kids, they’re like ‘no mom.’ Or my grand kids, they really keep me going. They do. They’re like ‘Granny, c’mon. Granny, I love you. C’mon Granny.'”

Wilkins says it is important for her that the family be together on the one-year-anniversary of Za’Shawn’s death.

She said, “We just all try to stay together today. Everybody took off of work, you can see the kids not in school. It’s just hard. The last couple of days have been really hard for us.”

Za’Shawn’s sister, Jemiya Wills, says a candlelight vigil is the perfect way to remember her brother.

“He would be happy to have a vigil, because he liked things to be all about him. He liked to be the center of attention,” she said. “He just want to make everybody laugh. When he [was] around, he gonna know you’re in the room.”

Rockford police arrested 24-year-old Juan Mora as a suspect in Za’Shawn’s murder. Mora is due in court for a status hearing on the case next week.

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