Her friend, Spree Langford, was outgoing and polite, a girl who loved to dance and go to parties.
On Monday afternoon, the plague destroyed them.
According to police, the two girls were bludgeoned to death with an aluminum baseball bat by Nataya's mother's boyfriend. He was in Nataya's house looking to steal money to buy cocaine, the police said.
The boyfriend, Peter Regan, 28, of Woodbine, confessed to the killings yesterday shortly after he was charged with two counts of first-degree murder, Middle Township police said.
Police said Regan told them he struck the girls five or six times each on their heads and stripped off some of their clothes to make it look as if they had been sexually assaulted - though they were not. Police said Regan had been using cocaine earlier in the day.
Middle Township Police Chief William H. Hevener said Regan at first denied committing the murders, but confessed after police found bloody clothes at his mother's house.
Regan, whose street name was "Ness," had been dating Nataya's mother, Sandra Green, for only a few weeks.
"I hope he rots in hell," said Green, 32, yesterday, her face drained, as she sat in her parents' home here with the members of her large family comforting her.
"She was my baby," Green said. "She didn't even have a life."
It was Green who found her daughter, nicknamed Taya, Monday night about 9:30 after returning from a day shopping and visiting relatives. She had had the day off from her job at Woodbine Developmental Center for the mentally retarded and had left her two other daughters, Tawana, 15, and Antoinette, 10, with her sister, Mary.
The family's one-story modular house in Burleigh was Green's "dream house," the place she had built two years ago to give her daughters "things I wasn't able to have," she said.
"I didn't even get through the door. Taya was right there," Green said. ''I almost stepped on her. Then I checked her pulse and everything and she was cold and I ran right out and called the police. I didn't even know the other girl was still in there."
The other girl, Spree Langford, was Nataya's best friend and distant cousin. Although her mother lives in Atlantic City, Langford spent most of her life with her grandmother in West Cape May.
Langford was an A and B student at Millville Senior High School until the end of January, when her attendance fell off dramatically - as did her grades, said Fred Setser, assistant principal for discipline and attendance. In April, she was enrolled in the Alternative School program, for students with disciplinary problems or those with a number of suspensions.
Setser said Langford's only transgression was cutting school. "She was very polite, and took her punishment for any offenses," he said.
By May, Langford stopped going to the alternative school as well, Setser said. She had planned to go to New Haven, Conn., to live with her sister in the fall.
According to Starr Langford, 21, the oldest of Spree's sisters, and the one in New Haven, no one incident triggered the problem at school. "She was a 15- year-old girl, and that was what life was like. It's not easy," she said.
Nataya was a better-than-average student, said John Sowa, the principal at Middle Township Middle School. She was a cheerleader with a B/C average. She never had an attendance problem. "She loved life and her friends," Sowa said.
Yesterday, Green, a small, youthful-looking woman, said in a low gravelly voice that she wouldn't be going back to her dream house for a while.
She had told Nataya to stay at home that day - a cousin said it was because Green had seen Nataya walking with a group of kids suspected of doing drugs and wanted to protect her from bad influences.
Both Green and Regan, who is a laborer at a local pallet-making company, grew up in Woodbine, a semirural town of overgrown fields, narrow streets and poor to middle-classs families. Green had known about Regan's drug habit but thought he had quit.
"When we first started talking, it seemed like he was trying to get his life straightened out. I thought he was off drugs."
She had started to have suspicions recently, she said.
"As time went on, he told lies, just about a lot of things. Every day he asked me for money. I didn't give him any. I was getting ready to break off the relationship."
But on Monday, after 2 p.m., when Regan asked to borrow her car, Green let him. He told her he was going to visit his mother nearby and would be right back. He was gone 2 1/2 hours.
According to police, Regan drove the silver Mitsubishi Gallant to Green's house and was surprised to find Langford, who was planning to stay the night. Nataya had left for a few minutes and walked to her great-grandfather's house to call her father, Henry Smith, of Cape May Court House.
Police said Regan apparently picked up the baseball bat, which was in the house, and struck Langford, leaving her dead in a bedroom. Nataya came home a few minutes later and Regan beat her to death before she could walk in the house, police said.
Police said the girls appreared to have struggled but would not discuss the specifics. They said both died of fractured skulls.
"The investigation indicates he went there for the sole purpose of stealing money to buy drugs," said Hevener, the Middle Township police chief.
After the murders, police said, Regan fled, flinging the bat out the car
window onto State Route 47, where police said they found it early yesterday.
Regan was being held at the Cape May County Jail on $200,000 bail last night.
The murders stunned the residents of Middle Township, which was rocked by another drug-related murder in December when Robert Gordon, 41, was found dead in a parking lot in Rio Grande.
"Some mothers stayed home from work today to watch over their kids," Hevener said. "When this whole thing comes out, people are going to shake their heads and go, 'Oh my God. The kinds of things someone will do for drugs.' "
Yesterday afternoon, in the red-carpeted sun porch of Nataya's grandparents' house, relatives looked in vain for a picture of Nataya playing baseball. What they found made them shake with rage: It was a recent picture of Regan, squatting on the Wildwood Boardwalk with two Green relatives.
Police say the accused man was looking for money to buy drugs.