4 Suspects Charged in Taylor Slaying

The Associated Press
Sunday, December 2, 2007; 1:34 AM

MIAMI -- Four young men charged with unpremeditated murder in the shooting death of Washington Redskins star Sean Taylor have not been strangers to police. Still, nothing came close to what they faced Saturday.

Eric Rivera, 17; Charles Wardlow, 18; Jason Mitchell, 19; and Venjah Hunte, 20, were charged with Taylor's slaying, home invasion with a firearm or another deadly weapon and armed burglary. Police said the suspects were looking for a simple burglary, but it turned bloody when they were startled to find Taylor home.

"They're terrified," said Sawyer Smith, who along with his father, Wilbur, represent Rivera and Mitchell. "These are young boys who are absolutely terrified about the position in which they find themselves."

Police and attorneys for two suspects have said some of the young men confessed, though they wouldn't elaborate. All were arrested Friday in southwest Florida, about 100 miles from here, and all but Mitchell had their first court appearance Saturday and were denied bond. Mitchell was expected to have a hearing at 8:30 a.m. Sunday.

Taylor, the 24-year-old Pro Bowl safety, died Tuesday, one day after being shot at his home in an affluent Miami suburb.

"It's more than greed. Greed is one thing," said Richard Sharpstein, Taylor's former attorney. "They're looking for a quick hit, a couple of thousand bucks here, a couple of thousand there. And for what?"

John Evans, the attorney representing Wardlow, said it's likely all four suspects will be transported to Miami on Sunday. He said his client was reflecting on the gravity of the charges he faces.

"My client has not, I don't think, come to terms with what is being alleged," Evans said. "He's in a position, dressed in the orange jumpsuit over there in the county jail, thinking about his life and thinking about his future. You can only imagine the things going through his mind now."

Wilbur Smith told The News-Press of Fort Myers that because of the confessions, he expects the case to be resolved quickly.

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.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2007 The Associated Press