PATERSON, NJ -While Thursday marks the two-year anniversary of the day 24-year-old Shanaya Coley went missing from outside her Paterson home, her mother, Rachel Martin, is not marking it as a day to commemorate a loss.

Though Shanaya’s lifeless body would be found more than four months later in an abandoned car in a Paterson apartment complex, Martin, through a strong faith in God and the loving support of family and friends, shares a belief that she never really “lost” her daughter.

She didn’t get Shanaya back the way she had held out hope for that she would, Martin said, but she did get her back, she told TAPinto Paterson. “This was God’s way.”

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Calling what she’s been through a “journey of faith” Martin offered an assurance that she never questioned God about why she had to face the ordeal. “Who am I to question God?” she asked. 

Adding to the tragedy of the situation is young Amir, soon to turn 6, who will grow up without the mother he still asks for regularly. Martin said that Shanaya passed the love she received growing up onto Amir, and that the young boys displays that love in kind by regularly kissing a picture of his mother.

“I tell him he can always talk to Shanaya,” Martin said, adding that Amir often looks to the sky and repeats a phrase often used in the family when he says “I love you too much.” When Amir gets especially lonely for his mother, his grandmother tells him to wrap his arms around himself to feel her. “He can still feel her heartbeat.”

Her positivity aside, Martin still wants “justice” for Shanaya, and continues to be in contact with law enforcement officials every 30 days or so. “I stand behind them, they are doing their jobs,” she says of the Paterson Police Department and the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office. “Too often people see (police) as the enemy, but they can’t fight alone, we need to work together with them.”

While the Prosecutor’s Office did not respond to an email for comment, Paterson Public Safety Director Jerry Speziale shared his memories of being part of the search for Shanaya in the hours and days after she went missing.

“That is what true community policing is about,” Speziale said, rejecting the idea that law enforcement officials “just do a case and move on.” 

“It effects all of us, it hits home,” he added, using the words respect, trust, and understanding to describe the types of relationships he strives to develop.

Referring to everyone who has offered their support to the family as “warriors” for Shanaya her mother had just one request: Keep her name out there.

“There is so much happening, we have to be her voice” Martin said. “This is real, it’s not an easy journey.”


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