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Days after two Black models were found dead in the same week and in the same downtown Los Angeles neighborhood, their families demand answers.

On September 10, the father and aunt of Nichole “Nikki” Coats, a 32-year-old sales rep and aspiring model, found her bloodied body inside her apartment after she stopped responding to family on Sept. 7. She told relatives she’d be going on a date on Friday, Sept. 8.

Her aunt described a gruesome scene at her apartment. “I couldn’t recognize her,” May Stevens told KTLA 5. “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.”

Meanwhile, two days after discovering Coats’ body, law enforcement responded to a welfare check and discovered the body of 31-year-old Maleesa Mooney. The model and real estate agent hadn’t responded to family texts and calls for a week.

The incident marked the death of two Black models in the same week just a few miles apart.

black models
The family of Maleesa Mooney held a vigil on Sunday, Sept. 17, 2023. (NBC LA)

“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 Pauline Jourdine told KTLA 5. “So this is a really big piece of us that’s gone now.”

Death of Black models: Violence against Black women on the rise

Authorities haven’t released details into Mooney’s death, but they’re investigating it as a homicide. Meanwhile, the L.A. Coroner’s Office hasn’t yet released details about Coats, with police currently labeling it as a “suspicious death.”

“The most disrespected person in America, is the black woman. The most un-protected person in America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America, is the black woman,” Malcolm X said during a famous speech in Los Angeles on May 22, 1962.

As of Monday, Sept. 18, no new details had emerged about the deceased Black models. Coats’ family, however, told ABC 7 News that police had begun to question other people who lived in the apartment complex. After learning about the death of Mooney just five minutes away, they grew suspicious the two deaths might be connected.

“She had four friends go into… her apartment. I don’t know how long they stayed there. They came out, but Nikki didn’t come out. This was on Friday,” Coats’ mother Sharon said.

Notably, the rate of killings of Black women increased by 33% in 2020. It’s higher than the overall rate increase for all Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

A report this year by L.A.’s civil rights department shows that as violent crime rates fell across the city, rates of violence against Black women continued to rise.

The family of “Nikki” Coats set up a GoFundMe to support funeral costs as a community remembers two Black models taken before their time.

Deon Osborne was born in Minneapolis, MN and raised in Lawton, OK before moving to Norman where he attended the University of Oklahoma. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Strategic Media and has...

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