"If only for once in his life, he did the right thing," Lloyd said.

In that interview, Walker shrugged when Lloyd asked him why his own friends would want to kill him.

They "probably got a tip that they think we had something to do with the little dude getting murdered," Walker told the detective.

Detectives pushed forward, charging Taylor in the killing of Burks and with the shooting of Walker. The motive, authorities said, was retribution for the stabbing of Tywonde'. Taylor didn't say a word when police took him in for questioning. A tattoo on his hand of his gang leader's name indicates his allegiance. He would be the only one charged.

"Young people, they live by a code, whether it's gangs or drug organizations. It's an allegiance to one another, that you and I will never comprehend," Lloyd said. "Kenny Taylor was given a task to fulfill — killing Tavon Burks, and he fulfilled that task. In a sad sense of things, he's wearing a badge of honor."

Detectives also presented reports to prosecutors saying definitively that Burks was the person who stabbed Tywonde' Jones — they had recovered his DNA from one of the cups of alcohol found at the scene, and his alibi was a mess. Perhaps no evidence made a more compelling case, however, than the admission from his mother, Maureen Gray, as well as an older sister, that Burks had told them his role in the killing.

According to police records, the daughter told police that Burks "confessed to her that he was the one that 'brutally stabbed' the victim in this incident" and "went on to state, 'All I can do is pray for his soul for what he did."

On Sept. 23, 2008, police closed the investigation into Tywonde' Jones' murder, marking in the record, "abated by death." Walker was never charged in the stabbing. In April last year, he was sentenced to 18 months in prison for an attempted armed robbery in Baltimore County.

Taylor went to trial in March on the charges that he killed Burks.

Assistant State's Attorney Charles Blomquist deliberately avoided mentioning Tywonde's killing. All jurors needed to know was that Walker had identified Taylor as one of the people who shot Burks, and that that was good enough for a murder conviction.

The jurors agreed, finding Taylor guilty of first-degree murder. The judge sentenced Taylor to life plus 50 years, and he is appealing the verdict. By Baltimore courtroom standards, the sentence was as stiff as they come.

"Justice served," Lloyd said outside the courthouse.

The sadness of mothers

And now, two mothers are left.

Their sons are dead, and justice came in different forms. Neither has soothed their pain.

In a Dunkin' Donuts near the downtown courthouses with her family, Maureen Gray confided that Burks was her favorite of her five children. "You can have 15 kids, but out of them 15 you got one child that you love a little more," she said, "and he was the one."

Gray raised her children by herself, first in a one-bedroom apartment where she worked and took classes to become a nurse. For the past seven years she's worked at an area hospital in the cancer unit.

"I've always worked in a hospital, as a life-saver," she said. "I couldn't save my son's life."

Her goodbye to her favorite son came at the morgue, where two days after Burks' death they let her see the chilled body, which she recalls dripping with water. Three years later, she remains angry, withdrawn and lost. She said she tried to kill herself twice. She said she became an alcoholic and abused her surviving children.

For a time, she visited her son's grave every day, and once tried to dig up his body.