Just after 2 a.m. April 17, Charlie Price realized that David Bayard, his close friend, had left the D.C. nightclub where they'd been partying for a friend's birthday.
Where did he go? Price wondered, dialing Bayard's cell. Would he be able to get home? he thought, dialing again. The night was muddled by drinking, and Price can't remember whether they connected.
Hours later, a detective told Price his friend had been killed.
The 24-year-old University of Maryland graduate student was found dead about 7:30 a.m. in his car, which was parked near a McDonald's in Prince George's County, just a few miles from the club. Law enforcement sources said he had been shot in the head.
"I was just [in] utter shock. Just complete and utter shock," Price said. "He's not the kind of guy who would get involved in anything with a gun. I have no idea how something like that could have happened to him."
Neither do police.
Bayard wasn't involved in any fights at the nightclub, so far as Prince George's police and Price know. His wallet was found on him with credit cards but no cash — making robbery a possibility, but not a certainty, said family members briefed by detectives. He had no violence in his past, was pursuing an MBA and worked four days a week at a Bethesda law firm, relatives said.
"It's wide open at this point," said Capt. Misty Mints, a Prince George's police spokeswoman. "They are looking at any and all possibilities."
Judith Rinard, 63, Bayard's mother, said detectives told family members that surveillance footage showed her son leaving the club alone and that the car was found in a high-crime area. She cannot comprehend how someone could kill "such a decent person."
"I tried to think to myself whether he got confrontational with someone," Rinard said. "He was just ... gentle and kind and sweet. I don't know."
For Bayard, the trip to the club began as a guys' night out, a chance to celebrate a co-worker's birthday and relieve stress from his 10-hour workdays and college classes, family and friends said.
Bayard, Price and a few others went to the Stadium gentlemen's club, Price said. About 10 p.m., Bayard called his girlfriend, Pam Jabonete, to firm up their plans.
"I was debating on whether or not I was going to go with him," said Jabonete, who lived with Bayard in Silver Spring. "I decided not to, only because it was his boys, I didn't want to cramp his style. I wanted to show him I was completely content in giving him space."
The night was like any other at the club — the group of guys drank and mingled with others at the bar, Price said. He said that he did not keep close tabs on Bayard but that sometime after 2 a.m. Sunday, he realized his friend had left.
"Honestly, I don't know where he was going," he said. "We had gotten separated inside the club, and I went around looking for him. I guess I didn't realize that he was gone."
Price, 23, who lives in York, Pa., and was visiting Maryland for the weekend, said he began calling Bayard's cellphone — worried that he might not have been sober enough to drive — and does not remember whether he reached him. He said he took a cab to another friend's house, and a detective contacted him that afternoon to ask about what had happened.
Steven Bayard, 67, Bayard's father, said his son was a graduate of Montgomery Blair High School and had received a degree in economics from University of Maryland in 2009. He worked at the Bierman, Geesing, Ward & Wood law firm in Bethesda, and on weekends, he took MBA classes at College Park.
"It's a good life rubbed out by an animal, and I don't mean any disrespect to animals," Steven Bayard said.
Jabonete said she and Bayard took high school Spanish together, although she did not realize at the time that he sat right behind her. They reconnected at UM when Jabonete saw on Facebook that Bayard had not invited her to a party. She said she playfully confronted him about it on campus.
"I just got so offended that he invited all his friends to a party at his apartment, and I wasn't invited," Jabonete said. "I was like, 'You know me. Why didn't you invite me?'"
Bayard told her that he didn't think she would come, she said. They exchanged phone numbers, and he called her later to tell her he was "having people over" before a basketball game, Jabonete said. She was the only one who showed up, and the game became their first date.
Years later, Jabonete said, the two began living together. They had talked of getting married. At a viewing this past week, she reached into the coffin and held her boyfriend's hand.
"I was trying to stay there with him as long as possible," she said. "I was able to kind of bid him goodbye."