SEAT PLEASANT, Md. (WUSA) -- A murder witness is murdered himself -- and now authorities insist they offered him protection and he turned it down.
Gunmen slaughtered Nicoh Mayhew Wednesday, injuring his toddler, and potentially blasting a hole in another murder prosecution.
The hunt continues for his killers.But even if they catch them, residents here fear his death will reinforce the code of silence and terrify even more witnesses into keeping quiet.
"They knew, they knew somebody was out there. They knew somebody was out there," Mayhew's mother sobbed at a candlelight vigil.
Cynthia Dinkins Mayhew says investigators were well aware Nicoh Mayhew had put himself in danger by agreeing to testify against his nephew in a particularly brutal murder last year.
She says investigators should have tried harder to get Nicoh into witness protection. "I think they should have did a better job....You all can go home and hug your kids tonight and I can't."
Prince George's State's Attorney Angela Alsobrooks says her heart goes out to the mother. "I can assure her that it's our intention to protect not only her son, but every mother's son in this county."
But Alsobrooks insists investigators DID offer to relocate Mayhew and his family -- and she says Mayhew decided to stay right where he was. "We can't ... require that our witnesses accept the protection that we offer."
Mayhew was set to testify against his nephew, Brian Mayhew, and another man in a double murder on Memorial Day weekend in 2011.
Brian Mayhew and Kenan Myers allegedly abducted two men for their bag of cash, and then shot them in their car, poured bleach, and prepared to set it on fire.
But on Wednesday, two months before he was slated to testify, gunmen shot Mayhew at his own front door while he held tight to his two year old, Masai.
His mother was left to clean her son's dying blood, but she still maintains some faith in the system. "Whoever shot him, they going to get you all. The police are going to get you all. They going to find you. And I want to know why, why y'all took my child from me. Why?"
Alsobrooks insists the message that should go out is that we need more witnesses to come forward to get the bad guys off the street.
She's not sure if Mayhew's murder will hurt the other case. But she says she can add another 20 years to the sentence of his killers if they murdered him to silence him.
Written and Reported by Bruce Leshan
9News Now & wusa9.com