HAMPSTEAD Md. (WJZ) — On any one day, somewhere in the United States, four women are murdered by their intimate partners.

On October 13, a Carroll County woman became a part of that statistic.

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Nicole Cash’s boyfriend is accused of fatally shooting her in the face while she was holding her infant son.

Nicole, who went by Nikki, was 26 at the time of her death. She was loved, needed, and she did not deserve to die.

Joshua Wertz pleaded not guilty at a hearing last week in Nicole’s death.

“I told her to leave him. I told her that one day, he’s gonna hurt you real bad or kill you,” Sandy, Nicole’s mother, said.

Denise Koch: She didn’t listen?

“No.” Sandy said.

Nikki was Sandy’s youngest daughter. They lived together in an apartment in McSherrystown, Pennsylvania after recently moving from Hampstead in Carroll County.

It was there, in the early hours of a Sunday morning, Sandy got the knock she’d feared.

“I’m sorry to tell you but your daughter’s deceased. And I’m like, what do you mean my daughter’s deceased?” Sandy remembered.

Shot dead. That’s all the police would tell her. Then they handed her Nikki and Josh’s 9-month-old baby, Javion.

“He had blood all over the back of his diaper,” said Sandy. “Blood in his ear and some pieces of brain matter in his hair.”

Denise Koch: “How do you wash your own daughter’s blood off your grandson?”

“It was hard. It was really hard because I didn’t want to believe she was gone,” Sandy said. “And it’s just like a bad nightmare. I just want to wake up but, nope.”

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According to court documents, a police officer said he found Nikki’s body on a futon in 30-year-old Wertz’s basement apartment. In charging documents, Wertz’s stepfather said he was asleep upstairs when Josh woke him up saying, “Get up Dad, I shot her in the face. I shot her, she reached for the gun and I shot her.”

Josh told the 911 operator he ‘had an AR-15 in his possession and when Nicole went to grab the rifle it went off through her head.’

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“There’s no way Nikki could’ve grabbed that gun. Not with him in her hands,” Sandy said, referencing Javion.

Instead, Sandy believes Nikki was protecting her baby.

“I think he had the gun pointed at him and she went to bat it and when she did he shot her,” Sandy said.

Shot in the face with an AR-15, one of a number of weapons police said they found when they searched the home where Josh, a military veteran, was staying.

According to charging documents, the officer said he smelled alcohol on Wertz’s breath.

Sandy never saw her daughter again. She was advised not to view the body.

“When the coroner called they asked what color eyes does your daughter have and I was like ‘blue’,” she said.

Blue like her baby boy, who won’t remember what happened, but may very well have hearing loss from the explosion. He’s extremely frightened of loud noises.

Two years ago, Nikki’s jaw was broken. Her mouth was wired shut. Nikki told her mother that Wertz held her down and used his elbow to break her jaw. Nikki broke up with him, but as often happens in domestic abuse cases, she returned, got pregnant and stayed.

“She wanted everything to make this family work — for him, for this baby,” Vivian, Nikki’s best friend and Javion’s godmother, said.

“I never thought he would kill her. I mean, I didn’t literally think he would do it,” said Sandy. “I think there are other mothers who have said those very same words.”

Experts say this pattern of abuse in an intimate relationship rarely just stops. In fact, it often escalates, even to murder.

“Get out, don’t stay in it. I don’t care if they beg you and say I’m sorry,” said Sandy. “I will never do it again. Don’t believe it, cause you could wind up like my daughter.”

“At the funeral home they gave me a candle that has her picture on it and they gave me a lock of her hair and I do have that and her fingerprints but that’s all I have left of her, and him.” Sandy added.

WJZ reached out to Joshua Wertz’s attorney but did not get a response.

Need Help? Call The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Individuals who are Deaf or hard of hearing may use TTY 1-800-787-3224.  Additionally, advocates who are Deaf are available 24/7 through the National Deaf Hotline by video phone at 1-855-812-1001, Instant Messenger (DeafHotline) or email (nationaldeafhotline@adwas.org).

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