And in December, authorities in Prince George’s County said Nicoh Mayhew was fatally shot standing outside his Seat Pleasant apartment after declining to receive protective services from the county.
“We can’t force someone to take it,” said John Erzen, a spokesman for the Prince George’s County State’s Attorney’s Office. Mayhew, who was holding his 2-year-old son when he died, was scheduled to testify against his uncle in an upcoming murder trial. The boy was also hit but survived.
Erzen said witness intimidation remains unusual in Prince George’s. Out of the thousands of cases prosecutors have handled since 2011, for instance, they logged only six instances of witness intimidation — and rarely felt the need to offer relocation packages, he said. Last year, the office relocated eight individuals cooperating with authorities; the previous year, the number was 11.
In the District, the numbers are less clear. Miller said the U.S. attorney’s office does not keep track of that data. Miller said Persha, the mother of a young girl, was receiving help through the office’s Emergency Witness Assistance Program.
According to Persha’s sister, she was moved to another neighborhood and lived in a government-paid hotel room for about a month. But then she returned to the LeDroit Park neighborhood where she grew up, the sister, Debra Persha, said.
“She never thought anything would happen to her,” Debra Persha said.
Walker was in jail at the time of Delois Persha’s death, and according to prosecutors, he wrote to Donaldson to order her death. Prosecutors said the two men used sexual references in letters that were a code for shooting her.
On Sept. 13, Persha was sitting on a ledge smoking a cigarette near a school in the 300 block of V Street NW. According to the 80-count indictment, Donaldson, wearing a ski mask and carrying a .38-caliber revolver, tried to shoot her in the head — but the gun didn’t fire. Persha pleaded with Donaldson not to kill her, then jumped from the ledge and ran, according to the indictment. Donaldson pointed his gun again and fired, knocking her to the ground. As she tried to get up, Donaldson stood over her and shot her three more times, the indictment said.
Both men, through their attorneys, argued they had nothing to do with Persha’s killing.
The two men were initially facing at least 100 years in prison on charges of first-degree murder. But prosecutors offered plea deals reducing the charge to second-degree murder and agreed to recommend a sentence of 25 to 32 years.
That plea deal has angered Persha’s family. But the defendants refused to take it, according to their attorneys, Gladys Weatherspoon and Archie Nichols.
Now, with Little’s refusal to testify, it’s unclear when the trial will proceed. Weatherspoon said in court last week that, after more than four years, her client is ready to go to trial.
Little, meanwhile, sits in D.C. jail, where the judge sent him after ruling him in civil contempt for refusing to testify. Little has been in jail since he was convicted in a 2008 carjacking and sentenced to 11 years behind bars. The judge reminded Little that while he was in jail for refusing to testify, he would not earn time toward his carjacking conviction. Little, as he was escorted out, said he understood.
Magda Jean Louis contributed to this report.