BETHESDA, MARYLAND (WUSA)--The next time you hear someone say "It's just marijuana," we want you to consider one local mother's story. Maria Solaun lost her only son in a high-profile murder case that rocked Bethesda back in 2005.
She shared her story in the hope that other mothers never have to experience her pain.
We met on a warm summer afternoon. Maria read us a letter from her only son, Bijan Nassirdaftari.
"You shouldn't believe in me, considering everything I've put you through. You're such a strong woman, and I'm so proud to be your son. I really, really love you," she read from her teenage son's impassioned words.
Maria cherishes the letters of gratitude and love written to her each mother's day by Bijan.
"I can't say enough about how much I care about you and love you," she reads, as she sniffs back tears.
He wrote every mother's day except the year she called 911 to have him arrested.
"Bijan had put a fishing line from his top bedroom window, and on the bottom was a bag of marijuana," Maria told us.
Bijan started smoking marijuana as a high school sophomore. Recreational use spiraled into dependency.
"I couldn't take it anymore. I couldn't take it. I was tired of flushing marijuana in the toilet and I couldn't take it anymore," she said.
After attempts at punishment and rehab failed, Maria made the most difficult decision of her life.
"I cried, I screamed and I called the police," she said. "Six officers swarmed our house and they took him away in handcuffs."
Months later, on the night of July 17th, 2005, the promise of marijuana led Bijan to a quiet Bethesda neighborhood with three thousand dollars of his friends' pooled money in his pocket.
"As a mother, we all try to protect our children. Those last minutes of his life, I wasn't there," said Maria, her eyes brimming with tears.
Bijan was meeting three other young people in their car. He thought he was making a marijuana buy. But it was a set up for robbery.
Maria continues, "As his six foot body fell on the sidewalk, blood pouring out from both sides, somebody went and reached into his pockets to take his money."
Bijan and his Mom were so close, they had an unwritten rule. When she called, he would always answer. On that night, he didn't.
"I called every hospital, trying to find my son," she said. Her expression is one of anguish.
At 1:30 in the morning, she contacted police.
"They said, sit tight, somebody's going to come to your house. At that point, I turned to my husband and I said we've lost our son," Maria said. "When the officer came here, I ran to the street and I said, I have three children. And if you think you're going to tell me anything different, you need to leave."
Bijan, her firstborn, was dead. At the age of 17.
"He was not a bad boy, but marijuana makes you make bad decisions. And that's what happened." Maria bows her head.
Before the murder, Bijan had tried to escape. He was beaten, choked and even bitten, losing the top of one finger in the struggle. The man who put the bullet through his head bought a new dirt bike hours later.
"It's not worth it. It's not worth it. Today, my son's in a cemetery. That's where I go to see him," she said.
Or she goes to her son's bedroom.
"This is Bijan's desk." Maria gestures to a wooden desk. Seven years after his murder, it remains untouched. Athletic trophies, a self-portrait, his treasured size 13 shoe collection... all reflect a life that could have been.
She explained, "I sit there. I smell his clothes. Because it still smells like him. I look at his childhood books. That's where I'm closest to him."
The monogrammed towels on his bed were never used. The duffel bag packed for his freshman orientation at the University of Maryland, unopened.
A proud Gonzaga High School graduate, ironically, he hoped for a degree in criminal justice.
Maria holds his yearbook and reads the inscription under Bijan's photograph. "A special thanks to my Mom and my family for always being there for me, no matter what."
Three people were convicted for their part in Bijan's murder. The killer is serving two life sentences.
"Originally when they talked about the death penalty, I was like no! No, this boy belongs to a mother that brought him into this world," said Maria.
Meantime, Maria is serving a life sentence of her own.
"Marijuana can kill. It puts you in bad places. With bad people. Marijuana can kill."
Bijan's parents donated his arms and legs, his eyes and some of his skin so others can live the life he never had.
Written by Andrea McCarren
9NEWS NOW & WUSA9.COM