GERMANTOWN, Md. - A week after two Northwest High School students were shot to death in Montgomery Village on the night before they were set to graduate, the parents of Artem Ziberov and Shadi Najjar are no closer to understanding why.
Artem Ziberov was born in Russia and grew up in Germany and the United States. He spoke fluent Russian and was looking forward to studying international relations at the University of Maryland in the fall. He had a job at a restaurant where he put his language skills to use.
"He was very adaptable to cultures,” said his stepfather, William Tewelow. “At the restaurant he worked at, they called him one of them because he adapted their mannerisms. The language was the same, the Russian language, so he didn't have to learn another language.”
Artem's academic, athletic and scouting accomplishments were on display in the family’s living room as we spoke to his stepfather. He was an eagle scout, an honor student and a member of the lacrosse team.
On the night he was killed, Tewelow said Artem and his friend Shadi told him they were going out to sell extra tickets to their high school graduation. Nothing seemed off at all.
"Upstairs, he’s got a very neat, clean, orderly room,” Artem’s stepfather said. “That's not the signs of somebody who is stressed out. He actually was a boy who did pretty much work – homework and school.”
Tewelow said the phone records he has seen show Artem did not answer phone calls from his mother in the hour or so before his death, and he made no calls between 9:30 p.m. and 10:43 p.m. when the shooting took place.
Those phone records have been turned over to the police.
With no suspects or motives, Montgomery County police are going through the boys' social media accounts to see who may have been in contact with them that night. The question now is – were they targeted? It's still unclear.
Shadi Najjar was in the driver’s seat of a Honda Civic with the interior light was on on June 5. The car was running and the headlights were on when as many as two gunman opened fire on the two teenagers. A security camera nearby captured the sound of the shots and a car driving away.
Tewelow knows someone has information who has so far not come forward.
"At some point in time, a person’s conscience will just – they may not have committed the crime, but if they know it and they don't come forward, they are going to live with the fact, especially if there is another victim later,” he said.
In what should have been the prime of his life, Artem's family is saying goodbye. His body is being sent back to Russia.
"He was born there and he came here, and here didn't take care of him right,” his stepfather said. “I would say his soul wouldn't sleep well here where this happened.”