Melanie Colon was one of Philadelphia’s 331 homicide victims last year.
The young mother, then 22, went missing from her North Philadelphia home on May 8, 2012.Her body was found less than a week later, just before Mothers Day, in a wooded area near Tacony Creek Park.
Like the vast majority of the city’s crime-related fatalities, she had been gunned down, shot six times at close range.
Melanie’s family still struggles with her loss, and with the fact that her killer has not been brought to justice.
“It has got a little easier – it’s almost about to be two years,” said Melanie’s brother Ralphiee Colon, 18. “But the emotions are still there. I’m hurt every day thinking about it.
“I think the nighttime and the morning are the most difficult, because it’s like I’m going to sleep without her and I’m waking up without her. Then, during the day, it’s just me wishing that she was here.”
He believes his sister would still be with him were it not for the firearms flooding the city’s streets.
“She would still be here because them guns is powerful, they can take people out fast,” he said. “I think that’s the easiest way you can kill somebody, is to pull the trigger. And once you pull that trigger, you can’t reverse it back.”
Ralphiee’s loss was compounded this year by the death of his mother, Zoraida Miranda, on May 3.
“I’ve already accepted fact [Melanie] is gone and I have to live with this for the rest of my life, but, really, losing my mom, it affected me a lot,” he said. “I just don’t understand the timeframe; my mom didn’t even make it to the one-year anniversary of my sister’s death.”
Ralphiee is now grieving the loss of two family members, compounded by the pain of watching his father, stepmother, older brother and young nephew struggle with their wounds as well.”It’s got to a point where everybody keeps their emotions to themselves,” he said. “Now, we try to talk to each other, but we can’t. I’d rather keep my stuff to myself. I talk sometimes, but it’s kind of hard.
“That’s another reason why I be hurt, too,” he continued. “Because I see my family hurt and I can’t do nothing. I can’t bring happiness back to them, just like, vice versa, they can’t bring happiness back to me. And it hurts them to see me hurt.”
Ralphiee is also dealing with Melanie’s son, Joshua, now 5, getting older – and beginning to ask questions about his mother.
“He started school already in kindergarten. He’s being more smarter, he’s getting bigger – he’s turning into a nice little boy,” Ralphiee said. “He talks about Melanie more and he knows she’s dead. He doesn’t understand the full situation of her getting shot, but he understands she passed away. But he knows that she’s always with him.”
Ralphiee said his primary motivation now is keeping Melanie’s memory alive and continuing to search for answers in her slaying, partly by maintaining a Facebook tribute page that has more than 10,000 “likes.”
“We can’t let anyone forget about her because she was killed for no reason – we don’t know why she was killed – and we need people to still talk about her,” he said.
“I’s about keeping word out. At the end of the day, it’s what I have to do. I’m OK – I don’t want to kill myself because if I kill myself, what would that do? I will go to Hell and I won’t see my sister and my mom. So I’ve got to keep going.”