The crime scene in Seat Pleasant, Md. on Wednesday, Dec.19, after 25-year-old Nicoh Mayhew was killed. (Mark Gail/For The Washington Post)

Police and prosecutors offered to move Nicoh Mayhew, a pivotal witness in a grisly double-murder case, out of his Seat Pleasant neighborhood to keep him safe. But the 25-year-old father declined, authorities said Thursday — a day after Mayhew was gunned down outside his apartment.

Authorities said they still did not know if Mayhew, whose
2-year-old son also was hit Wednesday but survived, was targeted because he was supposed to testify in a February trial. But they said that Mayhew himself feared for his life and that they offered to relocate him.

Mayhew opted to stay — at least part time — with his girlfriend, authorities and family members said.

“What I can say is his death is a horrific tragedy for us,” Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks said Thursday. “Mr. Mayhew’s death is not his fault. Whether he declined the protection or not, he deserved to be safe.”

Mayhew’s mother, in an interview outside the apartment she shared with him in the 6800 block of Seat Pleasant Drive, said he never told her that he was worried about testifying.

Nicoh Mayhew, the murder witness killed in Seat Pleasant Wednesday. (Family Photo)

On the day he was killed, Cynthia Dinkins-Mayhew said, the avid Washington Redskins and Wizards fan who enjoyed cooking followed his usual routine: He brought his son to his Seat Pleasant apartment while his girlfriend, the child’s mother, went to work.

Mayhew, who did not work, generally took care of the child during the day, Dinkins-Mayhew said.

“He was a good father and a good son,” she said. “I’m just really numb, shocked. Can’t believe my child is gone.”

Dinkins-Mayhew said that when she heard shots about 10 a.m., she assumed someone was banging on the door. Soon, though, another son told her to get to the back of the apartment, and she heard her grandson crying.

“That’s when I knew it was my son,” Dinkins-Mayhew said.

Mayhew was pronounced dead at the scene. His son was shot in the arm, police have said. They have also said that they are looking for two men who fled in a black BMW sedan and that Mayhew was targeted in an ambush.

Mayhew’s cooperation in the coming trial was complicated, and Dinkins-Mayhew said that when she and her son discussed it a few days before the shooting, she told him, “Just do what you feel is right.”

Law enforcement officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity to candidly discuss the ongoing investigation, said Mayhew was scheduled to testify against two men — one a friend, the other a relative — charged in a double slaying last year in Capitol Heights.

Two men were found dead in a car after what investigators believe was a drug robbery. The officials said detectives found evidence of bleach and gasoline, suggesting that someone tried to set fire to the car and cover up evidence.

Mayhew was believed to have played a role in the coverup, the officials said, but was not charged in the killings in exchange for his testimony. His name is not mentioned in court documents pertaining to the case. Police charging documents mention an unnamed witness, but it is not clear that refers to Mayhew.

Dinkins-Mayhew said detectives suggested a year ago that the whole family might be moved. While her son might have declined protection, detectives never followed up with her personally, she said. But she acknowledged that she was not sure her son’s slaying had anything to do with his being a witness.

And relocation, she said, might not have helped.

“No matter where you move, somebody, if they want you,” will get you, she said.

Alsobrooks said prosecutors cannot compel witnesses to relocate and do not generally offer armed guards. If police find evidence that Mayhew was killed because he was a witness, she said, prosecutors might be able to use his previous statements. Anyone convicted of tampering with the case, she said, could face additional penalties.