|Fourth suspect appears in court in death of Redskins star Sean Taylor|
|Written by Admin|
|Sunday, 02 December 2007 12:37|
Those coming to pay their respects at Taylor's viewing began arriving at Second Baptist Church more than an hour before doors to the public memorial opened.
One man erected a display in the parking lot in the athlete's honor with dozens of balloons, including those representing his jersey numbers in high school, college and professionally.
``I just wanted to do something,'' said James Lovett of Fort Lauderdale, who said he met Taylor when he was displaced from his home after Hurricane Andrew. ``I just loved the kid, truly loved him.''
The service Sunday came only hours after a fourth man charged in the shooting death of the 24-year-old Taylor appeared briefly in court and, like his co-defendants, was denied bond.
Jason Mitchell, 19, appeared briefly via videoconference in a Fort Myers courtroom, about 100 miles from here. Dressed in an orange jumpsuit, he responded quietly when asked if he understood the charges.
``He looks like he's in shock,'' said Sawyer Smith, one of his attorneys.
Three others - Eric Rivera, 17; Charles Wardlow, 18; and Venjah Hunte, 20 - made their first court appearance Saturday.
All four have been charged with unpremeditated murder, home invasion with a firearm or another deadly weapon and armed burglary. They will be transported to Miami, though authorities haven't said when.
Probable cause affidavits for Mitchell and Rivera obtained by the Associated Press 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 attorneys also have said some of the young men confessed, though they wouldn't elaborate.
Taylor died Tuesday, one day after being shot at his home in an affluent Miami suburb. Police said the suspects were looking for a simple burglary, but it turned bloody when they were startled to find Taylor home.
The suspects all have prior arrests, according to Lee County Sheriff's Office records.
Wardlow was arrested twice for selling marijuana and once for grand theft of a vehicle, and Hunte was arrested previously this year on drug and trespassing charges.
Mitchell has been arrested twice, most recently in October on charges of driving with a suspended license and violation of probation. Rivera was arrested in October for trafficking cocaine and methamphetamine, and he previously was behind bars for altering the identification number on a firearm.
Those who know the young suspects attempted to defend them.
Cordaveous Brown, 16, who said he was a close friend of Rivera, described the suspect as calm and quiet. ``He's not the type of guy to do something like this,'' he said. A woman who identified herself as Wardlow's grandmother called him ``a sweet young man,'' and Jose Ortiz, a 36-year-old neighbor of Hunte, said he'd never heard of any problems or trouble surrounding the accused.
Smith, who represents Mitchell and Rivera, simply said the suspects were terrified.
Police remain tightlipped about how the suspects wound up at Taylor's home. The Miami Herald reported Mitchell cut the player's lawn and did other chores at the house and that Taylor's sister Sasha dates Wardlow's cousin. The Naples Daily News quoted a woman who identified herself as Jason Mitchell's mother as saying her son was at a birthday party at Taylor's home within the past two months.
Taylor's former attorney Richard Sharpstein said Taylor's sister had a 21st birthday party at her brother's home on Thanksgiving weekend. Bennie Williams, a neighbor to Wardlow's cousin, said he had seen Taylor's sister Sasha in the area recently. ``She was here all last week for the holidays,'' he said.
Miami-Dade police wouldn't confirm any of the possible links.
Police have said the four suspects were intent on stealing, not killing.
``Murder or shooting someone was not their initial motive,'' Miami-Dade County police Director Robert Parker said.
Early Monday, Taylor and his longtime girlfriend, Jackie Garcia, were awakened by loud noises at his home. He grabbed a machete for protection, but within moments, someone broke through the bedroom door and fired two shots, one hitting Taylor in the upper leg.
Neither the couple's 18-month-old daughter, also named Jackie, nor Garcia were injured.
The bullet damaged the femoral artery in Taylor's leg, causing significant blood loss. He never regained consciousness and died early Tuesday.
Authorities haven't said whether they've linked the suspects to a break-in at Taylor's home eight days before the shooting. In that incident, someone pried open a front window, rifled through drawers and left a kitchen knife on a bed.
Sharpstein said he had spoken with Taylor's father since the arrests. Though the family was appreciative police had worked so effectively, Sharpstein said the news provided little relief.
``The arrest of Sean's killer provides no comfort or solace to Sean's family,'' Sharpstein said. ``They are grieving and haven't buried their son, boyfriend and father yet.''
The mourning was set to continue Monday with a massive funeral at a Florida International University arena.
Associated Press writer Rasha Madkour contributed to this report.