"I still have trouble believing that he's gone," his mother tells PEOPLE

By Steve Helling
Updated March 24, 2012 08:30 AM
Credit: Landov

In his quiet moments, Tracy Martin keeps replaying the night of Feb. 26, when his son Trayvon Martin died, allegedly at the hands of neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman.

“I had gone out for dinner,” says Tracy, “and when I got home, Trayvon wasn’t there. I tried calling his cell phone several times, and it went straight to voicemail. I wasn’t that worried, because he had been spending time with my 20-year-old nephew who was a responsible young man. There wasn’t a panic that he wasn’t at home. I figured that they had gone to the movies, because they had said they might. So I laid down, thinking they would show up later.”

The next morning, when he woke up, Tracy realized that Trayvon had not returned home.

“I started making calls, and I reached my nephew,” Martin says. “He said he hadn’t seen Trayvon. Then I really started getting worried. So I called the Sheriff’s department to file a missing persons report. I let them know it hadn’t been 24 hours, but it was unusual for Trayvon not to return home.”

Three police cars soon pulled up and a detective asked Tracy for a recent picture of his son. “I had one on my phone, so I showed it to him,” Tracy says, his voice tightening. “He told me he was going to show me a photo and ask if it was my son. He pulled out a photo of Trayvon’s dead body. And the nightmare began.”

Stunned and devastated, Tracy called Trayvon’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, from whom he’s been divorced for several years.

“I couldn’t believe what I was hearing; it just didn’t seem real,” recalls Fulton, her eyes filling with tears. “And finally I said, ‘I need you to go and actually identify his body.’ I needed to know if that was my baby, dead.”

The next few hours were a blur for the family.

After Tracy identified the body, the family started dealing with the fact that Trayvon was gone.

“It’s that call that’s every parent’s nightmare,” says Fulton, a programs manager for a local government agency. “I just started to cry and cry. People tell me I’m strong; I’m not strong. I’m a mother. I still have trouble believing that he’s gone. I look at every door and think, he’s just going to walk through it any minute. I just want to see him again; but I can’t. He’s in heaven, looking down at me.”