Suspects In Sean Taylor's Killing Denied Bond
Tuesday, December 4th 2007, 10:30 am
By: News On 6
MIAMI - Three men charged with murdering Sean Taylor were denied bail Tuesday, a day after thousands of mourners attended the funeral for the Washington Redskins safety. Charles Wardlow, 18; Jason Mitchell, 19; and Venjah Hunte, 20, all made brief court appearances via a videoconference from Miami-Dade County jail, where they will remain after Judge John Thornton Jr.'s ruling. The three stood silently during the hearing.
Taylor, 24, died Nov. 27, barely 24 hours after he was shot in the bedroom of his home near where he grew up. Police say he was a victim of a botched burglary. The three suspects and a fourth one, Eric Rivera, 17, all face charges of unpremeditated murder, home invasion with a firearm or another deadly weapon and armed burglary. Rivera is being processed at a juvenile detention centre in Miami-Dade, jail officials said.
"I think he's in disbelief over what occurred," said Rivera's lawyer, Wilbur Smith. "His expression to me was that 'I can't believe this kind of thing happened."'
Landon Miller, Mitchell's lawyer, said his client was distraught and on suicide watch. Hunte's lawyer, Michael Hornung, said his client did not have a gun.
"My client had no knowledge whatsoever where they were going," he said.
Another lawyer has said there is a fifth suspect that police are seeking.
Probable cause affidavits for Mitchell and Rivera said the two confessed to participating in armed burglary. According to the reports, Mitchell and Rivera admitted entering the home and said someone had a gun and shot Taylor, but they didn't identify who. Police and lawyers also have said some of the young men confessed, though they wouldn't elaborate.
Keith Leonardo, president of Florida Christian Institute in Fort Myers, said Rivera and Wardlow are both seniors at the school, which has 190 learning-disabled students from kindergarten through Grade 12. Both played on the school's flag football team, Leonardo said.
Some 3,000 mourners attended Taylor's funeral Monday seeking closure through prayers, tributes and gospel music. One singer expended so much emotion she collapsed in a chair and was carried away in it as the service continued.
"Many times God must have looked down and said, 'Man, I made a great football player,"' Redskins coach Joe Gibbs said.
There were plenty of tears during the three-hour service, but also ripples of laughter and words of inspiration.
"Let me hear you scream!" shouted the Rev. Jesse Jackson, urging the audience to cheer Taylor's memory. "One more time! This is a celebration!"
"It's times like this that all of us struggle to find meaning in life," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell told mourners.
Taylor helped the Miami Hurricanes win the 2001 national championship, became a first-round NFL draft pick by the Redskins in 2004 and led the NFC in interceptions this season when a knee injury sidelined him last month.
"Today my heart is broken," said LaVar Arrington, wiping away tears as he recalled his two years as Taylor's teammate with the Redskins. "I'll get through it. We'll all get through it."
About 300 members of the Redskins organization attended, with even their mascot present. The Redskins flew down in a charter one day after an emotional 17-16 loss to Buffalo, and they play again Thursday against Chicago.
"I think the guys feel better after going to the funeral," linebacker London Fletcher said after the team returned to Washington. "It was a little bit of closure in a sense. It was something that we needed as a team. We're going to still carry his memory with us, so it's still a healing process we're going to go through, but this part was a necessary part of it."
Gibbs' eulogy focused on faith. He told the mourners Taylor became more spiritual as he matured after joining the team.
"His life began to change," Gibbs said. "You saw the way he loved Jackie and Jackie."
Others also spoke of Taylor's transformation following the birth of his daughter. They addressed only indirectly his earlier brushes with the law, which started with a 2001 fistfight and included most recently a 2005 confrontation involving guns.
There was pointed criticism for the way the media portrayed Taylor's past in the wake of his violent death.
"One of the things that I hope comes out of this tragedy is that the media get a small lesson in grace and humility," said Florida City mayor Otis Wallace, a friend of the Taylor family. "For those who took the liberty of recklessly speculating that this young man's death was caused by the way he lived, all I can say is they should be ashamed."
The audience responded with a standing ovation.