The daughter of senior Raechel Isales Coffey was found dead, along with her half-sister, in a tent on a campground north of Lake George on Tuesday, Sept. 6.
According to the Democrat and Chronicle, police believe that the two girls — 10-year-old Noel Parcells, Coffey’s daughter, and 3-year-old Mia Parcells, were shot by their father, Adam Parcells, Monday, Sept. 5 with a .45-caliber rifle while they slept before he turned the gun on himself.
Coffey gained sole custody of Noel in court in March after Parcells had hit Noel. She had originally shared custody with Parcells and his wife Marcie, Mia’s mother.
“Adam wasn’t right,” Coffey said. “There was something seriously wrong with him, and it had gotten really bad over the course of this year.”
Trouble started when Parcells asked Coffey to take the girls camping on Sept. 1. Coffey refused but Parcells went against her wishes when he showed up in his car with Mia at the home of Coffey’s mother, Theresa, on Friday, Sept. 2.
“He was very selfish and believed that his children were his possessions,” Coffey said.
Although he claimed that he was only taking both girls to the playground across the street, he drove off with them, telling Raechel Coffey that he was taking them to Abbott’s Frozen Custard on Monroe Avenue in Brighton when she called him, according to the Democrat and Chronicle.
After confirming with Abbott’s that Parcells had never arrived there, Coffey called the police to file a missing person report (MPR), but was informed that, because it was a custody case, she could not. Coffey was angered by this technicality.
“What’s the point of having sole custody with no unsupervised visitation … if he can just take my daughter from the playground, and the police won’t do anything about it?” she said.
On Saturday, Sept. 3, Theresa Coffey called 311 twice, but did not have any more luck than her daughter in filing an MPR. On Monday, Sept. 5, Coffey called the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), but was denied an Amber Alert — the notice that is broadcast when there is suspicion of a child abduction — because no MPR had been filed.
The next day, Coffey went to Family Court as directed by a number of agencies. She then proceeded to call the Rochester Police Department and was finally issued an MPR. Coffey then began the process of filing an Amber Alert with the NCMEC. At this point Marcie Parcells and Coffey decided they were going to go search for the girls themselves.
Before they could leave, N.Y. State Police arrived at Coffey’s home, separated the two women and told them that their daughters had been found dead.
“I just started screaming, and it was the worst scream I could ever feel come out of my body,” Coffey said. “It came from somewhere else.”
Coffey transferred to UR from Monroe Community College in January 2009. She is a scholar in the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program in The David T. Kearns Center. She is majoring in applied math and considering a double major in English.
“Raechel is one of the strongest, most generous … compassionate and … determined people I know,” said Associate Dean for Diversity Initiatives Beth Olivares, who has known Coffey since 2009.
After hearing of this tragedy, many members of the University community came to assist Coffey. According to Coffey, people involved in the McNair program and the Kearns Center slept at her house to ensure that she was alright, and most professors from the English and Math departments came to Noel’s funeral and wake. She was sent flowers and provided with counseling as well.
“Her daughter Noel was the focus of her life,” Naomi Jochnowitz, an associate professor in the math department close to Coffey, said. “What has happened is really an unexplainable tragedy.”
The Kearns Center also put together the Friends of Noel fund to help with funeral expenses and an anonymous donor gave Coffey a cemetery plot in Mt. Hope Cemetery. Another donor provided a headstone. After all funeral expenses are taken care of, a scholarship will be started in Noel’s name at the Nativity School, where Noel was planning to start middle school on Tuesday, the day she was found dead. So far, $2,500 has been raised through private donations and a benefit at Beale Street Cafe in the South Wedge.
“We loved Noel and we love [Raechel] and we all want to do whatever we can to make Raechel’s life even a bit easier,” Olivares said.
Dean of Students Matthew Burns also offered words of compassion. “Our hearts go out to Raechel, and I can only hope she feels some sense of helpful support from her UR family,” he said.
Coffey is planning to withdraw from UR for the semester and attend counseling. She wants to put up Noel’s tombstone before it gets cold. If possible, she plans to return to UR for the spring semester.
“She was a free spirit and a dancing spirit,” Coffey said of her daughter. “She never wanted to grow up.”
Goldin is a member of the class of 2013.