Valerie Ward's 19-year-old son wanted help when he called her in mid-August.
But Daniel "Dean" Way refused to tell his mother where he was, though he said he was sick. He was bipolar and off his medications, Ward said.
"I think he was trying to protect me," Ward said Wednesday of the last time she spoke with her son.
"He was very protective of his family and friends," she added from her northeast valley home.
A few days after that phone call, Ward learned her son had no one to protect him.
Las Vegas police discovered Way's body Aug. 17 on Los Feliz Street, north of Bonanza Road. He was wearing only boxer shorts. His hands were cut away at the wrist and have not been found.
Neither police nor Ward know the motive behind the killing.
Was it gang-related? A drug cartel? Some kind of satanic ritual?
Ward can only speculate.
"This was done out of sheer evil," she said. "They are savages as far as I can tell."
Homicide Lt. Ray Steiber said Thursday that detectives have little to work with.
"It's a mystery to us why this happened," Steiber said. "It's an oddity. ... This was a 19-year-old kid."
He said investigators have no suspects in the slaying. He also declined to detail how Way was killed, saying only that he died from blunt-force trauma.
The Clark County coroner's office hasn't released Way's official cause and manner of death.
The coroner's office gave Ward only a photo of her son's face for purposes of identification to spare her the pain of seeing his mutilated arms.
What police do know is that a silver or gray, late-model Chevrolet or GMC extended cab truck was seen near the crime scene at 4 a.m. the day the body was found.
Police said the four-wheel-drive pickup had a raised suspension system and a loud exhaust.
Ward acknowledges that her son had issues. She said he has been troubled since he was 12. Before he died, he was not living at home.
She said her son had addiction problems, although she didn't want to specify.
A spokeswoman with the Clark County School District said records show Way attended local schools until his junior year. She said she could not release the name of the school he last attended.
Ward said her son earned a GED diploma and also had a welding certificate.
She said Way, who had two younger half brothers, was at the Caliente Youth Center for about a year beginning in 2011 for truancy and drug issues. It was in Caliente that Way was diagnosed as being bipolar, Ward said.
But many people have problems in their youth, she said.
"No mother deserves to lose her son to viciousness like this," Ward said.
When asked whether she spoke with a detective about the killing, she said she had.
She began crying as she spoke of how little she knew.
"Nobody tells me much," she said. "I don't even know where he died. I know where he was found."
Ward said her son stopped taking his bipolar medication in February, and has been on a downward spiral.
According to Las Vegas police, Way had been arrested several times since March.
The most serious offenses included possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell and a warrant for battery, domestic violence.
Despite his problems, Ward said his big heart might have ultimately cost him his life.
Her son had a great sense of humor, she said. He enjoyed skateboarding and was a fan of rap. Way also wrote poetry and became a Christian a few years ago.
Ward recalled a story her son's former probation officer told her. The probation officer said Way stood up to some bullies who were harassing a boy with special needs.
The probation officer told her that Way told the bullies that if they wanted to beat up the special-needs boy, they would have to go through him first.
She theorized that maybe he stood up to gang members, or maybe he owed a drug debt.
"Even though he wasn't an angel, he had a big heart and a sense of ethics," Ward said. "I believe he's in heaven. That helps me."
Anyone who might have information about Way or his death is urged to call the Metropolitan Police Department Homicide Section at 828-3521 or Crime Stoppers at 385-5555.
Contact reporter Antonio Planas at aplanas@review journal.com or 702-383-4638.