ROBESON COUNTY, N.C. (WTVD) -- Along I-95 in Robeson County, overlooking Exit 31, Marquiese Coleman's picture is plastered on a billboard, a sign of his status in this tight-knit community, and of the mystery behind his sudden death last summer.
"One of my friends called me and she was like 'you need to get up. 'Queise' has been shot," recalled an emotional Tanisha Coleman, Marquiese's mother, using his commonly-used nickname.
According to the Robeson County Sheriff's Office, deputies were called to a home on the 800 block of N. Alford Road at around 2:40 in the morning on Thursday, July 29, 2021, for a person shot. When they arrived, they learned the victim, Coleman, had been taken to UNC Southeastern Medical Center by car. He was pronounced dead upon arrival.
"It felt like the floor dropped out from under me," said Stephanie Blackadar, a relative of Coleman's, after learning the news.
Coleman, just 19 years old, was a star athlete at Saint Pauls High and a member of Fayetteville State's football team.
"This would have been his second year. He didn't get to play football his first year due to COVID," said Tanisha, a constant presence in the stands at his games.
The past six months have been difficult for the family to process, with the holidays proving especially challenging.
"Christmas was even harder because I'm going shopping for my other two and I can't shop for him. When I walked in the store, I'm seeing stuff like 'Oh God, Quiese would like this,' and I couldn't get it," Tanisha recalled.
They raised money to put up a billboard, requesting people to call a tip line and share information on the case.
"It absolutely tears me apart and fills me with what I can only describe as rage at the idea that his family walks outside everyday into the world and has to wonder if they're going to walk into a store and the person who killed him is going to be there," said Blackadar.
In a statement to ABC 11 about the investigation, Robeson County Sheriff Burnis Wilkins wrote:
"The Homicide Division Detectives continue to work the case and are very actively seeking suspect information. We continue to ask for potential witnesses to the incident to come forward with truthful information. Conflicting information from various persons that have knowledge about the murder has caused credibility issues thereby causing us to further seek the truth.
Our thoughts and prayers continue for this family and his friends and I appreciate their continued concerns and support as we seek answers."
"I'm still hopeful. We're not going to stop being loud or making noise about it until something does happen," said Adrianna Coleman, Marquiese's sister-in-law.
"Quiese was an outstanding loving person. He would give you the shirt off his back if you asked him to. If you needed him to do anything, he would help you regardless of what he had to do, he would put his stuff to the side and go out and help other people. He loved his family, he loved his friends. Basically, Quiese got along with everybody. He didn't see anybody as an enemy, so this is kind of stunning to us why this happened to him," said Tanisha.
"The big question is just who, because we can sit all day and think about why would someone do this, but we wouldn't find an answer. There was just no reason. Quiese didn't bother anybody. He was a good person, a really genuinely good person," Blackadar said.