Eileen Mohan wanted Raphael Baldini alive so he could one day testify in court about the events in 2007 in which her son, Chris, was slain along with five other men in the apartment across the hall from the Mohan family unit.
Mr. Baldini, 21, was renting that apartment. He was the affable neighbour who would politely nod to Ms. Mohan whenever she ran into him.
"He always looked like a very decent young guy. Very decent. He didn't wear bling-bling. He didn't wear gangster clothes; always with a nice black pants and shoes and a shirt tucked in," she recalled yesterday.
"He always kept to himself but he was very polite. He would nod to say 'hi.' That was the extent of our relationship."
On Tuesday, Mr. Baldini was fatally shot while in the parking lot of Surrey's Guildford Town Centre as he sat in his Range Rover SUV at about 5:30 p.m.
"I am very, very disappointed with his death," Ms. Mohan said. "I was hoping that eventually when his case came to trial, he would have a day in court, and I would get to know what happened that day - Oct. 19, what transpired."
On Oct. 19, 2007, Ms. Mohan's 22-year-old son ended up in the apartment across the hall, where he was gunned down along with fireplace repairman Ed Schellenberg of Abbotsford. Four men linked to gangs and crime were also killed. Mr. Mohan and Mr. Schellenberg were innocent bystanders in one of Canada's worst incidents of gang violence.
No arrests have been made. Police would not say whether they had spoken to Mr. Baldini as part of their investigation.
Mr. Baldini was not in the apartment when the six men were slain, and it remains unclear whether he ever co-operated with the team of about 20 investigators from the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team who are working full time on the case.
"How come [Mr. Baldini was]still alive and everybody else is dead, including my son who was leaving the apartment for his basketball game? What happened, what transpired and where was he when it happened? Now he's taken it to his grave and I will never know."
RCMP Corporal Dale Carr, speaking for IHIT, said yesterday investigators have yet to link the death of Mr. Baldini to the so-called Surrey Six homicide.
"The fact and evidence aren't suggesting there's any link to the Surrey Six homicide other than what I've described, which is the fact that Mr. Baldini was the renter of the apartment in which the murder took place," Cpl. Carr said midway through a briefing on the case yesterday.
He said he did not know whether Mr. Baldini, who had a criminal record and was known to police, had been co-operating with investigators. He also said he would not talk about it if he did know, because discussion of such issues, as a principle, would put witnesses at risk of retaliation.
"We still have tons of work ahead of us to figure out why Mr. Baldini was murdered," he said.
Cpl. Carr said the investigation won't be rushed because police want to take a solid case to the Crown that will lead to convictions. "It's going to take the time it takes, whether it's another month, or whether it's another 18 months," he told reporters.
Ms. Mohan, who has been regularly briefed on the investigation and still lives across the hall from the site of the slayings, said that philosophy is fine with her.
"The last thing I want is to have this case in court, and then everything being thrown out," she said. "That would kill my family all over again."
She said that the circumstances of Mr. Baldini's death, with bullets flying at a popular mall she herself regularly visits, shows the public remains at risk from gang violence.
"Very easily innocent people could have been dead yesterday with six to eight shots fired. One could have killed somebody. With a gun in their hands, [gang members]think they are God-like. That's what empowers them. They think they are beyond the law."
It was a busy day yesterday for investigators.
Over the past two days, a 21-year-old woman was found shot to death in Coquitlam in an apparent targeted hit, and a Surrey man was found dead in an apartment in what Cpl. Carr described as a street-level drug dispute turned lethal.
But Cpl. Carr said the deaths do not mean gang violence is escalating.
"If [they]were all created by the same agency or the same individuals, that would be an escalation of gang violence, but these are all individual, distinct investigations."
In Port Moody, there was an unusual sign of the times on the gang front. Police this week announced that someone is planning to kill three brothers, members of the Bacon family, who have been accused of gang links.
"[The brothers]appear to be unconcerned for their safety or that of their friends, associates and particularly the public," a statement from Port Moody police said.