The Unsolved Cases of Monroe County
By Madison Scott
DA’MARRI SHAW AND BRENT COLEY
Da’Marri Shaw and Brent Coley were shot and killed during what police say was a home invasion in 2008.13 years later and their families are still searching for answers as to who was responsible. This is the second part of an ongoing series covering the unsolved cases in Monroe County. Here are their stories.
On February 19, 2008, 15-year-olds Da’Marri Shaw and Brent Coley were murdered at 334 Wilkins St. in Rochester. Officials say that around 8:15 p.m. the two boys along with Da’Marri’s older brother Braxton and their friend Quest were in Quest’s home when another group stormed in and started shooting.
Da’Marri’s mother Danita Forney says earlier that day she was packing her things to get on a bus to Detroit, Michigan to visit her mother.
“That day I was pretty much getting ready to go out of town because I had to go to Detroit to make sure everything was okay with my mom,” Forney said. “At first, I wasn’t going to go, but you know he convinced me. He was like ‘Ma, don’t worry, go ahead and check on your mom, everything will be okay, I’ll hold the house down,” she added.
Forney says there was something in her gut telling her not to go, but Da’Marri assured her that everything would be alright. She says these last moments with her son have haunted her to this day.
“I was getting on the bus to leave and I just had a mother’s instinct like ‘Should I go? Should I leave?’ because I just had that gut feeling. Mothers always get that feeling,” said Forney.
Though it was this gut feeling that Forney said never went away. She received a phone call later that night from her oldest daughter Tana with news no mother ever wants to hear.
“That night I get a call from my daughter Tana and she was like ‘Ma, Ma, Ma, Da’Marri was shot,’ she was crying so I told her to slow down so I could understand her. And again you know she said ‘Da’Marri was shot,’ Forney said. “I was so in shock I threw my phone and had to buy a new one the next morning before I came home.”
The next morning, Forney took a flight home to Rochester. Upon her arrival she immediately had to go identify her son’s body and speak with police.
Officers told Forney that when they arrived at the scene, they found Da’Marri outside of the home and Brent a block away in front of a house on Friedrich Park. They told her both boys were then taken to Strong Memorial Hospital where they were pronounced dead.
“They were shot in the home, but Brent was found a block away because he was trying to run home to his dad around the corner. Da’Marri was found in the driveway, he ran out of the house. That’s how they both ended up outside of the house, because they ran,” Forney said.
The families of the two Charlotte High School students say they are now left with nothing but questions as to who could have murdered these young boys. Da’Marri’s mother says she will never give up fighting for justice for her son and his best friend.
“All I want is to get justice. That’s why even after 13 years I keep trying to keep Da’Marri’s name alive and Brent’s name alive,” said Forney. “Brent was just like another son to me”, she said.
Within the initial days of the investigation, officers reported finding drugs in the home. They said this is what led them to believe that the motive behind the murders was drug-related. Other sources have said police have an idea who potential suspects may be, but the lack of witness cooperation is what is holding the case back from being solved.
Forney says she is confident there were other people on Wilkins St. that night who may have seen what happened. She says it could be fear that is preventing these witnesses from coming forward with information.
“Like right now as of today with all these killings in Rochester the community isn’t going to come together and you know snitch because they are scared of like retaliation. But if someone said something I think his case would be solved,” said Forney.
An article from 2008 says that Monroe County District Attorney at the time Micheal Green, labeled Da’Marri as a “potential witness” in the 2007 murder of James Slater. Green and Da’Marri’s mother both say there is no reason to believe the two cases are related.
“Those cases have nothing to do with each other. Whoever shot Da’Marri and Brent was after Quest. They were trying to rob Quest. That’s what I gathered from you know the ‘streets’,” said Forney.
Other than these rumors circulating the ‘streets’ and evidence of drugs in the home there have been no leads in the case. Forney says that other rumors and information released from the media have created false narratives about her son and his best friend.
“People say he was in a gang and that there was a house party that night and all these things. There were a lot of different things you know that the news was saying about my son and Brent. Me as a parent I know my son. I know he wasn’t in a gang and I know he didn’t like house parties,” she said.
Forney says that harmful narratives like this could be detrimental to the case and other unsolved cases like her son’s.
“That’s the thing about police officers and the news. They always try to label a person when they don’t know that person. The boys were only babies; they were kids. It ruins the whole case because they don’t know about our kids or their families and where they come from,” said Forney.
Forney says she has dedicated the last 13 years of her life to keeping Da’Marri and Brent’s stories alive in her community. She says no matter how much time passes by she will never give up on hope for answers.
In the years following the deaths of Da’Marri and Brent, Forney joined an organization called ROC The Peace. This organization helps to spread information about unsolved cases throughout the community.
“Sirena Cotton is the founder of ROC The Peace which she started because her son had gotten killed as well. We go out you know, we walk, talk and pray. We host events and festivals and talk to the community about cases like this,” Forney said.
This past September brought new hope to ROC The Peace and other families of victims with unsolved cases. Forney said the Rochester Police reached out to their organization announcing that they were launching a website for unsolved homicides in the city.
This website includes public information on unsolved cases in the area along with a forum where families of the victims can write about their loved ones. Investigators and the families of Da’Marri and Brent are hopeful that this website could bring in tips for this case and others like it.
“I most definitely do think this website could help solve this case. It gives opportunities for other families and my family to get on and share some stuff. You know, like put pictures up and put messages up on there. It helps us families too, you know, for peace and comfort because that way people can see who Da’Marri was if they didn’t know him,” said Forney.
For more information on this case and other cases in Rochester, you can visit the Rochester Unsolved website.
THE PEOPLE BEHIND THE POSTER… WHO WERE DA’MARRI SHAW AND BRENT COLEY?
Those who knew Da’Marri and Brent say they were great kids who loved sports and most of all each other. Da’Marri’s mother says that ever since middle school the two boys were attached at the hip.
“Brent was at my house every day. If you see Da’Marri you see Brent, they were just two peas in a pod,” said Forney. “They loved being around each other, you know? They were kids just being kids,” she added.
She said the boys were always playing basketball and had dreams to make it to the NBA.
“He wanted to be in the NBA. That’s what they would always talk about him and Brent, that dang basketball. He would always say ‘Ma when I grow up I’m just going to buy you a nice house if I ever make it to the NBA.’,” said Forney.
Da’Marri’s goal of eventually buying his mother a house perfectly captures his character says Forney. She says family was always his first priority.
“He pretty much just loved being around his family and friends,” said Forney. He would make everyone laugh. If I was down he would always make me laugh or say ‘Ma are you okay?’. He was just funny,” she added.
The surviving friends and family of Da’Marri and Brent say they will never stop trying to keep the boy’s spirits alive. Their families say they are adamant the boys will receive justice one day.
“His last words to me were ‘I love you.’ He was like ‘Ma just know that I love you.’,” says Forney.
This love shared between Forney and her son is what she says has given her the strength to continue on the fight for justice.
If you have any information regarding the 2008 murders of Da’Marri Shaw and Brent Coley, please contact Rochester Police at 585-428-6720.