One day in March 2006, Carl Stanley Lackl Jr. called his mother with some alarming news - as he was passing through a city alley on his lunch break, he had seen one man shoot another.
He said that he tried to reassure the dying victim while waiting for paramedics to arrive. And he added that he had described everything he saw to police and that he planned to testify in court.
"I said, 'Oh, God, Carl, why did you do that?'" Marge Shipley recalled. "Right after he said that, I felt this overwhelming sense of fear."
A little more than a year later, Lackl was dead, gunned down in front of his Rosedale home on a July evening as two children watched. Baltimore County police say that the man he was to testify against had sent a text message from city jail, offering $1,000 for Lackl's killing.
That man, Patrick Byers, 22, had been scheduled to stand trial today for the March 2006 killing of Larry Haynes, the case in which Lackl was to be the key witness, but the trial has been postponed until January.
Prosecutors plan to ask the judge to allow a recording of Lackl's statement to be played for the jury. If the judge consents, it will be the first time that the testimony of a slain witness is allowed under provisions set by a 2005 law intended to prevent witness intimidation.
But to Lackl's mother, who spoke publicly this week for the first time after her son's death, the chance that his testimony can be used in court is small consolation. Shipley, 59, said that she constantly thinks about the events of the night her son died - how, according to police, he walked outside to meet people who had supposedly come to look at a used car he was selling.
"Every day, I think about my son's eyes when he saw that gun," Shipley said. "He didn't even have a chance to run."
And she says it sickens her that police accuse two of the suspects in her son's death of watching the shooting from a parking lot across the street.
"How do I feel about a guy and a girl sitting across the street watching my son die to make sure he's dead?" Shipley said, sobbing. "Sometimes I just want to scream. I can't believe my entire family is stuck in this mess. I can't comprehend the fact that my granddaughter doesn't have a father for a thousand dollars."
Family members are overwhelmed by grief and afraid to leave their homes for fear that something similar could happen to them, she says. Lackl's longtime girlfriend is struggling to provide for their 18-month-old daughter, Shipley says.
Lackl's mother blames city prosecutors for not warning her son that he was in danger and the city court system for not doling out lengthier sentences for prior convictions for some of the six people who are accused of conspiring to kill him.
Margaret T. Burns, a spokeswoman for the city's state's attorney's office, said, "We have nothing but the highest degree of respect and concern for the Carl Lackl family," adding that Lackl showed "exemplary citizenship."
She said prosecutors had met with Lackl numerous times and followed standard protocol in advising him about the potential dangers, including sending him a letter informing him that his name would be made public. Shipley said that her son never received the letter.
Lackl believed that to testify against Byers was the right thing to do, his mother said, adding that he wanted the victim's family to have closure.
At 38, Lackl was a dozen years older than any of the six people who have been accused of his slaying.
According to police, Byers sent a text message calling for Lackl's murder to a BlackBerry in the possession of Frank Goodman, 21, described by court documents as a friend of Byers' who had visited him more than 20 times in jail. Prosecutors say that Goodman apparently had been accused of witness intimidation in the past but was not convicted because the key witness in that case changed his story in court.
According to court documents, Goodman enlisted Marcus Antwan Pearson, 26, Ronald Wendell Williams, 21, Tammy Sherie Graham, 24, and Johnathan Ryan Cornish, who was 15 at the time, to kill Lackl. Police say Cornish was the gunman.
On July 2, Lackl received several phone calls about the beige Cadillac he was selling for $1,800. The callers offered him an additional $200 for the car and said that they wanted to see it that night, Shipley said. County police have traced the calls to some of the people accused in Lackl's killing.
"Carl lived from paycheck to paycheck," Shipley said, adding that her son, who left high school after 11th grade, had worked for a fencing company for 20 years. "He was just so excited to be able to sell the car for $2,000."
About 8:45, a caller told Lackl, who was standing outside with two little girls, that he couldn't find his home and that he should walk out toward the street, Shipley said. As Lackl approached, Williams drove up in a dark-colored car and Cornish shot him three times, according to documents.
According to the documents, Pearson - who has an extensive record of arrests for violent and drug-related offenses - and Graham sat in a car in a parking lot across the street and watched as police and paramedics arrived.
Shipley said that a motorcycle roundup - scheduled for Sept. 22 - and a bull roast have been planned to raise money for Lackl's girlfriend and baby daughter. Donations also may be made to an account at 1st Mariner Bank, she said.
Family members are trying to heal as best they can for the sake of Lackl's daughter, but there are frequent reminders of his death.
One arrived in the mail in late August. It was a court summons, addressed to the dead man, asking him to appear at Byers' trial in September, Shipley said.