Brittany & Tiffany Coffland were twin sisters only four days away from their seventeenth birthday when they were murdered at the hands of their own father. They were juniors at St. Charles East High School in St. Charles, Illinois which is a quiet suburb of Chicago. They had only just left school a few hours earlier & when classmates learned of their deaths, they were stunned & devastated; it was the first murder the town had seen in nine years.
Brittany & Tiffany were born on March 14, 2000 to parents Anjum & Randy Coffland who met while working at a discount store when Anjum was seventeen & Randy was nineteen. Anjum immigrated with her family from Pakistan when she was twelve; she was the third of four children from a religious, Muslim family. Her parents didn’t allow her to date so they disowned her when she was eighteen & made the decision to leave the house & live with Randy. She assumed that her family would eventually come around, but they never made any contact, even after the girls were killed.
Because of her youth & inexperience, Anjum didn’t immediately recognize that Randy was a controlling person. After they were together for a week, he demanded that she become a Christian. Ten years after they got married, they welcomed Tiffany & Brittany into the family. When she first discovered that she was pregnant with twins, she was scared to tell Randy who was hesitant to have any children, let alone two at once. She said that when she did, he wasn’t upset.
Anjum says that despite the girls being twins, Brittany & Tiffany were opposites. Brittany was very outgoing, a member of the cheer squad & active in gymnastics; she worked in the bakery department at a local grocery store & the staff described her as “vibrant.” She planned to go into the hospitality industry after she finished school; her mom thought the job would be perfect for her personality. She made friends very easily & loved life.
Tiffany tended to be more reserved but would eventually open up & come out of her shell when she got to know a person; she had been working at a pet store & had a passion for animals. She was a wonderful student, excelling in her AP classes & considered being a vet, only deterred by the thought of putting an animal to sleep. She gravitated toward animals even more than she did people since she felt that an animal’s love seemed so unconditional while people had the ability to be hurtful. She was described as someone who would just light up a room with her smile & her personality & that she made people better just by knowing her. Both girls were described as very sweet & kind-hearted. Brittany & Tiffany shared a love of music & going to concerts.
By this time, 46-year-old Anjum & 48-year-old Randy were married for twenty-eight years when they decided to separate in February of 2017. The split was a long time coming; Anjum had asked Randy for a divorce multiple times in their marriage.Throughout their marriage, she walked on eggshells, trying to keep her husband happy. Because of their financial situation & the fact that the girls were young, they stayed together. Randy was the breadwinner of the family & he told Anjum that if she left him, he would quit his job & neither of them would be able to get by; at the time, Anjum was only working a side job.
Because of the lack of extended family support, Anjum decided it would just be easier to stay with Randy so they remained married, trying therapy which did little to help. As time went on, Randy became more & more controlling. His personality began to change & his ego grew, feeling that because he was financially taking care of the home, the members of the family needed to answer to him. It got to the point that Anjum couldn’t do anything without asking Randy first though she began defending herself, arguing with Randy that he wouldn’t even allow her to spend $2 without his permission. She wasn’t allowed to get her nails done & he only allowed her to get a haircut once a year to trim the ends.
A classmate of Brittany’s said that she would occasionally talk about the troubles at home, explaining that she wasn’t sure if she would be able to complete her assignments because she wasn’t having a good home life. Her friend said that she put up a strong front, but you could tell she was hurting. Despite her own struggles, friends said that Brittany always made it her priority to comfort & care for others; she was described as someone who smiled non-stop & had the biggest heart.
In 2015, Randy was diagnosed with depression & began taking antidepressants & drinking heavily. As the girls got older, it became more important to Anjum that they leave because the girls could see & understand what was going on. When Randy & Anjum sat the girls down & told them that they were separating; the girls weren’t surprised, it was clear to see that their parents were unhappy together. Randy stayed in their luxury fourth floor, three bedroom apartment in downtown St. Charles while Anjum moved out to a one-bedroom condo, just down the street so she could stay close to her girls. She felt Brittany & Tiffany’s lives would be more stable if they remained in the home they were comfortable in with their dad, never questioning their safety. Anjum was able to decorate her condo & make it her own, something she was never allowed to do when she lived with Randy.
When they split, Randy maintained his control & he forbade Anjum from seeing the girls without his presence. Even if the girls wanted to see their mom, he wouldn’t allow it unless he was there.
On Thursday, March 9, 2017, Randy went to Anjum’s home & the two talked & drank wine. Randy told Anjum that he wanted them to reconcile & get back together while Anjum explained that she wanted a divorce.
The next day, Friday, March 10th, while Anjum was at work, Randy began leaving her messages, saying he wanted to kill himself. He called her later in the day to tell her that “he had secrets too” & invited her over that evening so he could explain further. Anjum told him that he was scaring her & asked him to please, just tell her what he meant right then & there. He insisted that she would find out when she came over; he lured her to the home, telling her that he had paperwork to give her.
A woman living in the apartment complex said she saw Randy & Anjum walking up the stairs at about 4:45pm; she said that it appeared that Randy was in a hurry since he was taking two to three stairs at a time. They didn’t appear to be upset or arguing.
As Anjum entered her old home, she noticed Brittany lying on the couch; she was turned away from her but Anjum noticed that she seemed oddly still. Friends was playing on the TV, one of Brittany’s favorite shows. Anjum stood in the kitchen, looking for the paperwork Randy told her was there while Randy stood behind her. He told her to turn around & when she did, she saw he had a gun held to his head. She couldn’t believe what she was seeing, & asked him what he was doing, fearing the girls would wake up. He calmly told her they were already dead. He then pointed the gun at Anjum’s head & told her he wanted her to live & suffer. He immediately moved the gun from her head to her legs & shot, a single bullet tearing through both thighs. The second he pulled the trigger, Anjum knew that her girls were gone. Despite being shot, Anjum managed to run to a bedroom & lock the door behind her.
At about 5:12pm, two separate 911 calls were placed by both Randy & Anjum. When Randy called, just before the dispatcher spoke, you could hear him say, “I want you to live & suffer like I did.” The call lasted only a minute & a half; Randy calmly explained to the 911 dispatcher, “I just shot & killed my two kids and I shot my wife & I’m gonna kill myself now.” The dispatcher urged him to stay on the line but after he explained what he had done & what he was going to do, he never spoke again & the call ended. When Anjum called 911, she was hysterical & screaming, explaining that her daughters were dead, screaming out her daughters names over & over. The call lasted about seven minutes & ended with Anjum talking to first responders who had arrived at the apartment.
Police found Anjum bleeding in the hallway; Randy, Brittany & Tiffany were all dead, each from a single gunshot wound to the head. Police found no sign of any struggle in the apartment, nothing was strewn about. Brittany was found on the couch & Tiffany was in her bedroom; both were covered with blankets except for their heads. It appeared that Tiffany had been watching a video on her laptop in bed, her head laying on her pillow, before she was killed. Randy was in the primary bathroom, his face submerged in blood stained water that filled the bathtub, his cellphone on the ledge of the tub as well as a spent casing. A magazine of ammunition was on the bathroom counter. Two 9mm handguns were found inside the apartment; one near Randy’s body & the other in a closet. He had a valid Firearm Owners ID card. Police recalled that earlier that month, on February 9th, they had been called out to Anjum’s condo for a domestic incident but no physical battery was reported at that time & no one was arrested. There was no indication of violence in the past.
It’s likely that Randy killed the girls just before Anjum’s arrival since a downstairs neighbor remembers hearing a “boom” sound at about 4:30pm. He also heard the faint scream of a child coming from the fourth floor. He recalls that the family seemed “normal” & he’d never heard any fighting before. When police spoke with Anjum in the hospital, she said that Randy had made comments about killing the girls in the past, but she never thought he was serious. She said that he loved his girls & spoiled them, giving them anything that they wanted. When Anjum tried to discipline the girls, Randy would get upset with her.
It’s believed that Randy shot his wife in the legs so that she would survive & have to deal with the emotional aftermath. Anjum was on suicide watch for about a week after her girls died, barely remembering the days that passed in a blur. She remembers going to the funeral & looking at her daughters as they lay in their caskets, feeling that they did not look like them. “They looked beautiful but they weren’t my girls.” In the months after, Anjum suffered from depression, nightmares & had issues coping with the horrendous loss of her daughters. During this horrific time, she was faced with many decisions the week after the murders, making decisions in a haze which she now regrets. She chose to have all the items in Randy’s apartment thrown away; she regrets not keeping some of the girl’s things, like their journals or clothing.
Every Sunday without fail, Anjum goes to the North Cemetery near her house, where her daughters as well as Randy are buried together. She lays flowers at their headstone which contains her own name engraved next to Randy’s, another decision she made too quickly during her intense grief. She remains firm that she will not be buried next to him & will instead lay on the other side of the headstone next to Tiffany. It was always Randy’s wish to be cremated when he died, but she refused to grant that for him. She chose to bury him next to his daughters, “Be next to your daughters & tell them what you did.”
She chooses to place flowers at his grave, saying that she will never forgive him for what he did though he was a good father before that horrible day. As she stands in the cemetery & talks to her girls, she has no words for Randy. Anjum has chosen to stay in St. Charles, “I have no other family. My girls were my family.” She wants to stay in the place where they lived & which they loved, cherishing the memories they shared when Brittany & Tiffany were alive. She remains in the condo she moved into a month before the girls were killed. Inside, she keeps many memories of her girls; their first Halloween costumes, the border wallpaper that lined the walls of their room when they were babies, their infant hospital caps & pictures of her girls fill her home.
A year after the girl’s death, Anjum threw an 18th birthday party & invited the community; 100 people came to honor the twins. The girls loved their birthday & Anjum was still recovering at the local Delnor Community Hospital when they would have turned seventeen. In the months after the murders, Anjum got a tattoo on her forearm, something she had been against in the past. It read, “I’m okay if you’re okay” next to a musical note; words from one of Brittany’s favorite bands, 7 Minutes in Heaven. Under the words are her twin’s names & their dates of birth & death.
Anjum remembers how much the girls loved music & they would want her to go on & survive. Anjum started going back to therapy, something she had stopped for a while after the murders. She struggles with the decision Randy made to take two innocent lives in his anger. The holidays have been a struggle but she surrounds herself with a close knit group. She continues to move forward despite missing her girls every day of her life; she’s exercising, listening to music, trying to focus on herself & travel the world, which is something Randy was against. She’s adamant that she will keep on living for her girls. She returned to work three months after the murders, working at a temporary housing agency, hoping to establish a routine & to get out of the house. She ended up taking time off of work to heal & travel, using the time as a mental break, realizing she had gone into auto-pilot after the girls were murdered.
Friends & classmates were confused & devastated at the sudden & tragic way in which the girls were killed. A friend commented, “It’s unnerving to realize that someone you were so close with, and could see in a day, could be gone in a matter of hours.” School officials made a statement on Facebook that Brittany & Tiffany were “true saints undeserving of this tragedy.” Their apartment building served as a memorial & friends & neighbors left flowers, handwritten letters & memories in front & classmates wore purple or blue to school in their memory & the school observed a moment of silence on Tuesday, March 14th which would have been Brittany & Tiffany’s 17th birthday.
Anjum is now a member of Everytown Support Fund which is a nationwide community of survivors that strive to end gun violence. She participated in National Gun Violence Survivors Week which was started in February of 2019 & honors the 58% of Americans who have personally experienced gun violence. She hopes to extend waiting times to those obtaining a weapon, especially those who have mental health issues or are in a toxic relationship.
The first time Randy purchased a gun was one month before he killed his daughters. At the time, he was abusing both alcohol & his prescribed antidepressants & anti-anxiety medications. Anjum was completely unaware that he had made the purchase. She’s pushing for laws that require anyone purchasing a gun to provide references, stating, had she or another friend been called, a red flag would have been raised that he was actively going through a divorce.
Anjum urges women to maintain their independence, having a job & making money to keep a controlling partner from gaining even more of an upperhand. She knows she’ll never fully recover from the loss of her girls, but she hopes that her tragic story can help others to keep fighting.
- The Washington Post: ‘I just shot and killed my two kids, and I shot my wife. I’m going to kill myself now.’
- Chicago Tribune: St Charles man called 911 to say he shot daughters, wife
- Chicago Sun Times: 911 tapes released in St. Charles shooting
- Inside Edition: Anjum Coffland is still grappling with the murders of her teen daughters at the hands of her late husband
- People: 5 Things to Know: Dad’s Murder-Suicide of Twin Daughters Was Partially Recorded by 911
- Everytown Support Fund
- People: Anjum Coffland’s Husband Killed Their Twin Girls and Shot Her. Now She’s Fighting to Keep Guns from Abusers
- Shaw Local News Network: Anjum Coffland: Surviving 3 years after her daughters’ deaths
- Daily Herald: Father had threatened to kill daughters before
- Patch: ‘I Have Secrets Too’: Police Reports Released In Fatal St. Charles Shootings
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