Murdered student's family says college refused them honorary degree

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It was August of last year when time stood still for Derrick Coates and his family.

"Every day is a challenge waking up to know she's not here," he said. 

That was when the body of his 21-year-old daughter Ashley Coates was found with another person's body inside of a burning vehicle. The family says the case remains unsolved.

"It's hard to process I think that she's away at school and then I come to reality and it's hard to deal with," Derrick said. "The worst part of it is that we have no closure."

Ashley father says his daughter was accomplished in many ways. As a violinist, she played at Carnegie Hall, she also had started a production company and was pursuing an online Master’s Degree at Full Sail University when she was killed.

Her father says so many dreams died when Ashley was killed, but he is determined to make sure one of those dreams will be accomplished -- obtaining her Master’s Degree. 

"I was asking the university if they could find it in their hearts to give her an honorary degree," Derrick said. "Not only for her, but for us. We are a family that when we start something like to complete them."  

In one response the university told him:

"I am sorry but because Ashley was unable to complete all the courses and we are unable to count her as a graduated."

But Mr. Coates says he would not give up and contacted the university. He was told:

"Our Accrediting body does not allow us to issue honorary degrees."

But after some research, Coates says he found out that is not true.

"For a university to say no and to find out they have done it, it just ripped my heart out," he said.

So Coates reached out to the Fox 2 Problem Solvers for help. We contacted the university which had a very different response.

In a statement the university wrote: "The information Mr. Coates received regarding his initial request was a staff mistake. We offer our sincere apologies.
It would be our university's great honor to extend this honorary degree."

Mr. Coates says when this honorary degree is issued, his family will be at the ceremony to receive it.

"We'll feel some closure to see that one of her goals she set for herself was achieved," he said.