LOS ANGELES—The deaths of two young Black women, who were beauty models, have raised questions, left many upset, and left some wondering: is there a serial killer of Black women on the loose?
On September 10, 2023, around 12:00 p.m., the body of 32-year-old Nichole Coats, affectionately called Nikki by loved ones, was discovered inside her South Grand Avenue apartment, according to a Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) news release. Her death is not being investigated as a homicide and no further information is available, according to the LAPD.
Family members told news reporters she went on a date on September 8. Two days later, her body was found after her family requested a welfare check because they had not heard from her.
Less than a mile away, on September 12, 2023, around 3:54 p.m., the body of 31-year-old Maleesa Mooney, was discovered inside her South Figueroa Street apartment, at Skye at Bunker Hill. Her death is being investigated as a homicide, according to police.
“Anytime we hear of women and particularly Black women being murdered, it just brings to mind our Teachings that we have to respect and protect the Black woman,” said Student Minister Abdul Malik Sayyid Muhammad, Nation of Islam Western Region Representative. “And you feel a little pain, because when you kill a woman, you’re killing a nation, and to see these two nations murdered like that, of course there’s no indication in terms of who or what or why, it leaves room to have all kinds of thoughts and speculation because there’s a vacuum there,” he stated.
The LAPD Central Bureau Homicide has been investigating the deaths of both Ms. Coats and Ms. Mooney, according to a news release. It indicates that detectives have been working closely with members of the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner as to the cause of death of both women.
“Since both cases remain active investigations, details about either case will not be released; however, based on the investigations thus far, there is no evidence to suggest that the deaths of Ms. Coats and Ms. Mooney are related to one another,”the news release stated.
But the families want answers now.
“This is senseless and I want some answers because my daughter is gone,” Sharon Coats, Nikki’s mother, told KTLA news. “And it’s not fair. I want everybody to find out who did this to her. She shouldn’t be gone.”
“I couldn’t recognize her,” Nikki’s aunt May Stevens recalled of the discovery. “I believe it was murder, I really do. One of her legs was up in the air in a kicking position. That’s not somebody who just laid in their bed and died,” KTLA’s Vivian Chow and Chris Wolfe reported.
Nikki’s mother said her daughter didn’t have any enemies and was loved by friends and the community. She wants answers and for the suspect to be caught before they potentially strike again.
“I don’t know who she went out with or what transpired there,” Ms. Coats said. “I have no idea, but I’m going to find out. So, if you’re out there, you’re going to get caught. You’re messing with the wrong person.”
On September 16, Ms. Coats posted a thank you to everyone who donated to her daughter’s GoFundMe burial fund.
“This has been very difficult for me because it was totally unexpected,” the statement attributed to Ms. Coats said. “The support that I have received from my family and Nikki’s friends has been overwhelming with happiness and joy.”
Romel X of Muhammad Mosque No. 27 in Los Angeles is a business coach, filmmaker and actor, who said he met Nikki about seven years ago through a circle of mutual friends. Some of them are musicians and models from the same area in Los Angeles, he said.
“We all bonded, so there’s a small group of us who are just really affected and hurt by it because we loved her. We cared about her and we wanted to see her happy because she was just a very happy, loving person,” Romel X told The Final Call.
He said he finds it interesting that people and the media are so focused on what she did, but she was so much more than a model, he said.
“She was a beautiful sister who was searching for love. She was a creative person,” he said. “I guess, sometimes I forget she was a model, because I knew her on a personal level, and she had just gotten a job and a raise; so a lot of things were looking good for her in her life and the direction she was going. The model thing is just a small aspect of who she actually was as a woman and as a Black woman.”
When a week went by, Maleesa Mooney’s family just knew something was off, her cousin Bailey Babb told KTLA in a separate report.
“Her messages weren’t delivering and we knew something was up because we all have a special relationship with Maleesa,” Babb said.
“Maleesa has always been someone who is a peacemaker in our family, someone that’s always been the backbone, and making sure everyone’s getting together, loving on each other,” Maleesa’s sister Jourdin Pauline told KTLA. “So, this is a really big piece of us that’s gone now.”
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, of the estimated 4,970 female victims of murder and non-negligent manslaughter in 2021, data reported by law enforcement agencies indicate that 34 percent were killed by an intimate partner. By comparison, about six percent of the 17,970 males murdered that year were victims of intimate partner homicide.
Overall, 76 percent of female murders and 56 percent of male murders were perpetrated by someone known to the victim. About 16 percent of female murder victims were killed by a non-intimate family member—parent, grandparent, sibling, in-law, and other family member—compared to 10 percent of male murder victims, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
When Attorney Nana Gyamfi, co-founder of Justice Warriors 4 Black Lives, a collaborative project of community members fighting on the legal front lines in support of Black liberation, first heard Nikki’s and Maleesa’s families speaking out, she thought about the community’s work around finding the “Grim Sleeper” serial killer of Black women.
Due in large part to the work of the women’s families, activist Margaret Prescod, founder of the Black Coalition Fighting Back Serial Killers, Atty. Gyamfi and others, Lonnie Franklin, Jr. was found guilty of killing 10 young Black women and girls over a 22-year period. The serial murders occurred in South Central Los Angeles between August 1985 and January 2007.
“That’s the first thing I thought about, especially as the families talked about the ways in which they were being ignored by law enforcement, not being given information, really felt like law enforcement was not investigating,” she told The Final Call.
“I couldn’t help but think about the reports that we saw with ‘NHI – No Humans Involved,’ on the top of them, written by LAPD, who had found our sisters over that 20-year period, in alleys and dumpsters,” added Atty. Gyamfi.
What’s different about these cases is that Nikki and Maleesa were found in the downtown “alleged” luxury area, continued Atty. Gyamfi, so they’re not in South Central. They haven’t been sort of tossed away by society, allegedly, and yet, it is still happening, she noted.
“It really tells us about the danger of being Black women,” Atty. Gyamfi said. “People think they can outclass their way from anti-Blackness, pay their way out, basically, of the dangers of being Black in the United States, and you can’t pay your way out of it.”
She thinks it may be too soon to assert the culprit may be a serial killer, from a technical perspective in that these are two people. But it’s not too soon to be on red alert, and for people to talk about it, she urged.
The reason Mr. Franklin and others who have been serial killers could harm the community is because people were on some level embarrassed or afraid, and were not speaking out publicly, Atty. Gyamfi said.
“There’s just a lot of reasons that people don’t say anything initially and so people weren’t on red alert,” she said, “like literally there was someone hunting Black women and girls in South Central; and because the police were not sharing that information, we who were living in South Central, did not know we were being hunted!”
Atty. Gyamfi said she appreciates Nikki’s and Maleesa’s families speaking out and cautioned Black women, who live downtown not to assume it is safe.
“Be on alert and understand it is possible that there’s a person who is hunting Black women and young women,” she urged.
Student Minister Muhammad noted the Nation of Islam’s Teaching that “A Nation Can Rise No Higher Than Its Woman,” but also that society is in a time where the Satanic forces are turning the genders against one another.
“It’s making the woman feel that she can act independent of a man and a man thinks he can act independent of a woman, so there’s no synergy there as to how to protect the Black woman. And the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan said it’s hard to protect what you can’t control,” Student Minister Muhammad said.
It is a sad time, and now, the community must address what’s taking place, he said.
“What’s in the environment that’s causing us to see Black women kidnapped, sex trafficked, raped, robbed and murdered to the degree that it is?” questioned Student Minister Muhammad.
“There’s a law of cause and effect here that we as a Black community have to take a look at and when we find the intricate truths in our environment, then we have to put something in place to protect our women. But our women will have to give us a measure of control in which she can operate in and live in and be safe,” he stated.
Whether Black, Brown or White, any female who lives downtown must be careful because it is a cesspool for mentally disturbed, deranged individuals and that area of L.A. has serious contagious aberration, he urged.
“You’ve built all these beautiful buildings downtown, but you haven’t dealt with the dissident and the decadents of the individuals who dwell downtown,” he said.