It took a few seconds for Saleema Buddington to find the video on her cellphone of her husband dancing.
A muscular man in white socks and underwear filled the small screen, moving his arms and stepping side to side and forward and back to the laughter of someone off camera.
Buddington, 33, kept the short clip of Derrick Cottle as one of the mementos of the man she’s known and loved since they met 17 years ago outside a Sears store. She did so much with him and now faces the reality of life without him after he was shot and killed the night of April 25 on Reno Lane in Wilkes-Barre.
Her account of the deadly shooting differed from the one Shauntae Thomas — the city man charged in the homicide — provided police. There were no threats by Cottle, 40, to retaliate against Thomas for an argument between their sons at a basketball court on Coal Street, especially with a claim that people would be killed, she said.
She was angered by the support on a Facebook page for Thomas, 36, who is held without bail in the Luzerne County Correctional Facility awaiting a preliminary hearing and vowed to protect her husband’s name, reputation and their family.
“I won’t have anybody slander his name, because that’s not who he was,” Buddington said. “I need to stand up for him because he would stand up for me.”
“As far as violence goes, that’s not him,” Buddington said. “He went to work. He ran his business. He took care of his family.”
CYC dance before shooting
On the night of the shooting her husband was at the Wyoming Valley CYC for a “daddy daughter dance” with their 6-year-old. She stood on his feet as they practiced in the kitchen of their house for the much-anticipated affair.
The son involved in the argument called Cottle at the dance, according to Buddington. After contacting her to come to the dance, Cottle left and picked up his son on Coal Street.
Cottle turned onto Reno Lane, where his son saw the other young maninvolved in an altercation. Cottle, who was unarmed, got out of his car and wanted to talk to the young man’s father.
That’s when Cottle was shot, she said.
The gunshot wounds were on the front of Cottle’s body, she said, indicating he was not running from the shooter. “He just killed him,” she said.
It’s that kind of violence that Buddington said she and Cottle moved away from in New Jersey. She declined to identify the location in New Jersey and, out of concern for the safety for their children, she would not identify them.
“It was better here,” she said of Wilkes-Barre.
Found a home
They established roots and found a place to call home. She intends to stay.
“I’m not going anywhere,” Buddington said with determination in her voice as she sat on a sofa with an array of framed photographs of the children individually and together on the wall behind her. In the middle of the display nine photos clustered around a wood cutout of the word “Family.” The morning sunlight poured through the front windows, illuminating the living room that opened to a dining area and kitchen at the other end of the house.
“This is the house he built for us. This where we want to be. This where we are going to be.”
Cottle wanted each of his seven children to have a house and worked long hours at his trucking company, Terrific Transport, as the sole provider. They were renovating a house next door in the city’s East End as a rental.
That project takes a backseat to other issues in front of Buddington, mainly how to put food on the table and pay the bills. She has been attending a local trade school, studying to become an administrative medical assistant.
Her teacher, Susan Morris, said Buddington is set to graduate in December. She enrolled so she could earn an income for her family.
“She is a very conscientious student,” Morris said.
Morris never met Cottle, but said he supported his wife’s going to school.
Social media comments
Morris too reacted to comments on the social media site that she said contained misinformation about Cottle and his family. A person with the identical last name has a lengthy criminal record and people are confusing him with Buddington’s husband.
“They’re not transient transplants. They are contributing members of society and pay real estate taxes on several properties,” Morris said.
A Facebook page, “Support the Family of Derrick Cottle aka Iself Terrific Allah,” appeared Friday with information about him and a fund that was set up for his children: Cottle Children College Fund, Choice One Credit Union, 101 Hazle St., Wilkes-Barre, PA 18702.
Buddington has been struggling with how to tell her youngest children, ages 5, 6, and 8, that their father is dead.
“The three babies don’t understand yet,” she said.
They ask where their daddy’s at and wait for him to come through the door, she said.
“They had the best daddy in the world. From day one, he was always there,” Buddington said.
She was the tougher of the two parents. Even though he stood 6 feet tall and weighed a solid 232 pounds from his pre-dawn workouts at Planet Fitness, Cottle was the softy.
“He melted, like water and sugar,” she said.
He was the one who secretly gave them chewing gum despite her protests, and he was the one who scratched his name among those of the children in the fresh concrete sidewalk in front of the house. In the middle he printed “ISELF,” the name he chose when he acquired knowledge of himself, Buddington.
Cottle would want them to stay strong and support each other as a family, just as if he were alive, said Buddington. They will live up to his expectations, she added.
“We all we got. We stick together,” she said.