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Authorities probe deaths of models found in Downtown LA


Both bodies discovered only blocks apart

The family of a woman found dead in Los Angeles said they suspect her death may be linked to that of another woman who passed away in similar circumstances just two days later. Authorities have since announced no connection between the two deaths.

Two models, Nichole Coats, 32, and Maleesa Mooney, 31, were both found dead in their downtown LA apartments. Police haven’t so far linked the deaths, but Coats’ family raised suspicions over the circumstances.

Coats, also known as Nikki, was found deceased on Sept. 10 at her home on Eighth Street and Grand Avenue, after her family grew concerned due to lack of contact. Maleesa Mooney was found dead on Sept. 12 in her apartment on South Figueroa Street, following a radio call for a welfare check, according to a statement from the Los Angeles Police Department.

A murder investigation has been opened into Mooney’s case, with a cause of death yet to be released by the County of Los Angeles Medical Examiner. Police are actively searching for a suspect and have urged anyone with information to come forward.

The family of Coats has suspicions about the circumstances surrounding her death. According to CBS Los Angeles, which interviewed the Coats family, they are seeking answers over exactly how Coats died and whether it could have been at the hands of another person.

Her father, Guy Edward Coats Jr., who found his daughter dead, said: “She was covered up, and I went over and I said ‘Nichole’ and I touched her arm, and she was just like stone.” Coats’ mother, Sharon Coats, said through tears: “I want to know what happened. That’s it. I just want to know what happened to her.”

“I couldn’t recognize her,” Coats’ aunt, May Stevens, also told CBS Los Angeles. “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.”

LAPD Officer Drake Madison told the Los Angeles Times on Sept. 15 that he had “no idea” regarding the circumstances of Coats’ death. He said: “We had no information of any type of homicide or anything. We couldn’t find anything on that. ... It could be anything.”

The LAPD confirmed to CBS Los Angeles that it is treating Coats’ case as a “death investigation” and, at press time, are awaiting the results from the coroner’s office.

The family also said they believe there is a possible link between the deaths. Speaking about the death of Mooney, Coats’ aunt, Linda St. Clair, said: “That scared us all, because now we feel that it’s related. She wasn’t far from where Nicole lived and they were the same age bracket and she was a model.”

“I just feel in my heart that there’s some foul play somewhere,” said May Stevens. “Somebody’s not saying something. Somebody’s not talking.”

While the family are exploring avenues that may give answers into how Coats died, St. Clair paid tribute to her niece, describing her a “beacon of light.”