Sitting barefoot on the floor of her one-bedroom apartment more than a year after her twin daughters were murdered by their father, Anjum Coffland sifted through two large plastic bins filled with memories of her girls.
Inside, there are Brittany and Tiffany Coffland’s first Halloween costumes, their newborn hospital hats and even the paper boxes from the twins’ first McDonald’s Happy Meals.
“I even kept the border that was on the wall from their babies’ room,” Anjum said, lifting a folded piece of floral wallpaper from one of the bins.
Anjum still lives in the Illinois condominium she moved into a month before the murders. She has made the place her own, something she wasn’t able to do when she shared an apartment with her late husband. There are photos she took herself framed on the walls. Her couch is decorated with a plethora of eclectic pillows, as well as a single beige one with several landmarks of St. Charles sewn into it.
Reminders of her beloved daughters are everywhere. A gold-framed baby announcement sits on a TV stand in the living room, next to tiny elementary school graduation photos and high school pictures of Brittany and Tiffany. Anjum also keeps endless photo albums filled with pictures from the twins’ childhood.
Pointing to a picture of Brittany and Tiffany in the NICU as children, Anjum recalled, “It was hard to tell them apart in the beginning, but then you get used to it.
“They were very tiny,” she added. “I was scared to hold them.”
A Different Life
Anjum’s albums document happier times than she’s experienced recently.
Early next year will mark the second anniversary of the day the twins’ father, 48-year-old Randall Coffland, shot the girls inside the apartment they all once shared in St. Charles. It just was four days before Brittany and Tiffany’s 17th birthday.
“Last year is almost a blur,” Anjum, 48, told InsideEdition.com. “Now it’s starting to hit, what happened. Things are getting tougher.”
Anjum’s life was turned upside down on March 10, 2017, when her estranged husband, known to the family as Randy, invited Anjum over to his apartment and informed her he’d killed their twin daughters before shooting her in the leg and then taking his own life.
She is now living on her own for the first time in her life, a short drive from where the murders took place. Things Anjum once relied on Randy to do, such as paying the bills, she is now doing herself.
“People don’t see the behind the scenes of what she really goes through,” Anjum’s friend, Mahareen Ahearn, told InsideEdition.com.
Anjum gets up and goes to work every day at a temporary housing agency. She returned to work just three months after the tragedy, saying it helped her to get out of the house and get back into a routine.
“I’ve learned to live on my own,” Anjum added. “It’s OK to have someone in your life to support you, but I will not rely on anyone else anymore.”
Just a month before the murders, Anjum and Randy made what she describes as a “mutual decision” to separate.
It was a long time coming, said Anjum. She said she'd asked Randy for a divorce 10 years prior, but they stayed together because he was the breadwinner of the family.
“I was just working a little side job. My husband said, ‘You leave, I'll quit my job. Then, how are you going to survive?’” Anjum said. She felt trapped.
Anjum, who met Randy when she was just 17, had been married for 28 years when they finally split in February 2017. Her Pakistani family disowned her when she left the house at 18 years old to live with him. Ten years later, she was pregnant with Brittany and Tiffany.
“I thought within a week, maybe a month, may be two months, they'll just come around, but they didn't,” Anjum said of her family. “They didn't reach out to me. So for 25 years, no contact.”
With no support, leaving Randy wouldn’t be an easy task, so Anjum stayed for years. They tried therapy, but it did little to help, she said, and he became more and more controlling as time went on.
“His personality changed over time. It changed because he got an ego,” Anjum said. “He was taking care of all of us. Everyone listens to him in the house. I [couldn’t] do anything without asking him. He just got a chip on his shoulder. And it got worse and worse.”
In 2015, Randy was diagnosed with depression and began taking an antidepressant, according to Anjum. Weeks before the tragedy, Anjum said he was taking two to three depressants a day and drinking heavily.
In February 2017, Anjum decided she was ready to leave him.
“The kids were old enough and [could] understand everything,” Anjum said. “We explained to them, ‘Mom and Dad are just not working out.’ And, they knew that. When you're that miserable, it's hard to wait another year or another two years.”
Anjum moved down the street from her old apartment to a one-bedroom condominium, where she still lives today, because she wanted to be close to her daughters. She let the Brittany and Tiffany stay with their dad because “they were comfortable in that apartment.”
She never thought she’d have to question their safety.
On the morning of the murders, Anjum said she began receiving long messages from Randy at work.
“I have secrets too,” he wrote cryptically, inviting her over to his apartment to learn more.
“I said to him, ‘You’re scaring me, why can't you just tell me right now?’” Anjum said. “He's like, ‘No, you'll find out when you get here.’”
At around 5 p.m. on March 10, Anjum entered her old home. There, she saw Brittany, lying on the couch, turned away from her. She seemed oddly still.
Before Anjum could approach her, Randy pointed a gun at her and shot her in the leg.
"They're already dead,” she said Randy told her.
The next moments were documented in harrowing 911 calls placed by both Anjum and Randy, and released by police after the crime.
In his call, Randy confessed what he’d done. He could also be heard telling Anjum that he wanted her “to live and suffer” like he had. “I just shot and killed my two kids, and I shot my wife, and I'm going to kill myself now,” Randy told the 911 operator.
A few minutes later, Anjum was on the phone with authorities, screaming for help. “Oh my God, my husband shot my kids! My daughters are dead!”
When police arrived at the 400 block of South First Street they said Brittany, Tiffany and Randy were all found dead of gunshot wounds to the head.
Anjum, still alive, was bleeding in the hallway.
In the months following the tragedy, Anjum battled depression, suffered nightmares and struggled to cope with the gaping hole that the deaths of her daughters left in her life.
The mom said she had to make many decisions during her extreme grief, decisions she now regrets.
Anjum chose to have everything in the apartment where the murders occurred thrown away. “Get rid of everything” is what she told her friends, she said.
Now, she wishes she’d kept the girls’ journals or some of their clothes.
Anjum had confided in her friend Ahearn about her rocky marriage before the murders. The pair had met up and bonded over the fact they were both from Pakistan and both separated from their husbands.
Their friendship turned out to be essential for Anjum during her intense grief, and still is to this day.
“I would go to her house at like 1 o’clock in the morning when she was having a breakdown,” Ahearn said. “No one was there to help her out. Being a mom of kids, I can’t imagine that happening.”
Ahearn gave Anjum the keys to her house, and when she had bad dreams, Anjum would slip into her friend’s bed and cry.
“She would have nightmares. She still does,” Ahearn said. “I told her there is no reason for her to ever have to be alone and handle this by herself. If there is a tough night still, she knows we can still call each other.”
It’s a hot Sunday in August and Anjum stands on the grass in front of the graves of her daughters and Randy at the North Cemetery, a short drive from her home. It’s where she’s stood every Sunday since they were buried.
One week after another, she lays flowers in front of the dark gray headstone, which has all of the family’s names engraved in it. Anjum’s name is next to her husband’s, another decision she said she made too quickly while in the thrall of grief.
She remains firm, however, that she will not be buried next to him. She’s told friends her desire to be buried on the other side of the headstone, next to Tiffany.
Not wanting Randy to get his wish of being cremated, Anjum had her husband buried next to their daughters. “Be next to your daughters and tell them what you did,” Anjum said of the decision.
She still places flowers in front of his grave, though. “Can I ever forgive him? No. Never going to happen,” Anjum said. “I put flowers on his grave because [he was] a good father [before the murders], but I don’t talk to him.”
To some, St. Charles would be a constant reminder of a painful memory, but to Anjum, it’s the place where her girls were the happiest.
She still passes her old home every day to get to work. She feels her decision to stay in the city is the right one.
“I have no other family. My girls were my family,” Anjum said. “Of course I can move somewhere else and it would be easier. I love the fact that they walked these streets. They loved St. Charles. I always want to cherish their memory and that they were here.”
For the girls’ 18th birthday party this past March, Anjum threw a party and invited the entire community. Around 100 people showed up to cut a cake in honor of the twins.
“They looked forward to their birthday parties, and I missed their 17th birthday party. I was in the hospital,” Anjum said. “I wanted to do this for myself, for my girls, for the city of St. Charles, for everybody who had been there for me with this horrific tragedy.”
Coping hasn’t been easy, but she’s found ways to heal. Months after the girls died, Anjum got her first and last tattoo. She had previously been against them.
On her forearm, the words “I am okay if you’re okay” are written alongside a music note.
The words are from a song by 7 Minutes in Heaven, one of Brittany’s favorite bands. Underneath the words, the twins' names and dates of birth and death are written.
“They loved music. And I really wanted this to be something I've never done, and I wanted my girls to know that Mom is OK because you guys are OK,” Anjum said. “I will survive this somehow. I won't let them down.”
Recently, Anjum’s decided to return to therapy. She had stopped going a while after the murders.
“Emotionally it’s very draining when I leave her office, but I know I need to talk about it,” Anjum said. “I know I am going to relive to it over and over in my head, but I just need to talk about.”
She still struggles with the idea that Randy didn’t have to take innocent lives. She thinks he could have just killed her if he was angry, but he didn’t have to take their children.
With the holidays coming up, Anjum plans to be surrounded by the close-knit group of friends she has built. Last year, she was “robotic” during this time, she said. This year, it’s different.
“I don't know what my future holds. I wish I knew. It would make it easier for me to go through life right now,” Anjum said. “I miss my girls so much every day. My life will never be the same again.”
Now, Anjum is spending time focusing on herself. She works out. She finds refuge in music. In the future, she hopes to travel the world, something Randy was against, she said.
No matter where Anjum finds herself, she’s adamant that she is going to keep living — for Brittany and Tiffany.