Four Charged in Taylor Slaying, 3 Denied Bond
Saturday, December 1, 2007; 5:17 PM
MIAMI, Nov. 30 -- Bond was denied for three of the four men arrested in the murder of Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor in initial hearings on Saturday. The four were arrested last night and charged with felony murder and armed robbery and will face formal charges from the Miami Dade State Attorney's Office in the coming days or weeks.
Police said the men broke into Taylor's home early Monday in a targeted attempt to burglarize the professional football player's residence. They did not expect Taylor to be home, police said, and fled in a waiting vehicle after the shooting.
"They were certainly not looking to go there and kill anyone," Miami-Dade police director Robert Parker said Friday.
Venjah K. Hunte, 20; Eric Rivera Jr., 17, and Charles Kendrick Lee Wardlow, 18, made a videoconferenced court appearance and were denied bond. Jason Scott Mitchell, 19, had not made a court appearance yet. Police said Friday that more than one of the men had confessed.
All of the men resided in or around Fort Myers, Fla., which is about 160 miles from Miami.
Police on Friday did not say why the men decided to target Taylor's home but said they might have visited the house before the burglary. People close to the family indicated there was a link between the men and Taylor's stepsister, Sasha Johnson, who often stayed in Taylor's house when he was out of town. Wardlow's uncle, Christopher Devon Wardlow, 21, was dating Johnson, a neighbor of Wardlow's said.
A family friend said Johnson, 21, and her brother Jamal Johnson, 18, were looking after Taylor's house over Thanksgiving weekend and were the house's "primary residents" along with their mother, Donna Junor.
The family friend, Donald Walker, said he suspected a party might have been held at Taylor's house that weekend, as he, Junor, and Taylor's girlfriend and infant daughter spent Thanksgiving with Taylor in the Washington area.
"While the cat is away the mice will play," Walker said. "They were trying to figure out where we were, and when we would get back, so they could clean up."
The Miami Herald reported Friday that Mitchell attended a birthday party for Sasha Johnson at the house on Thanksgiving. The newspaper also reported that Mitchell mowed the home's lawn. Taylor's attorney and longtime friend, Richard Sharpstein, could not confirm those details but described the four as "hangers-on and wannabes of people related to Sean, not even Sean himself."
Sasha Johnson declined to confirm in a telephone interview whether a party was held at the house in the days before the fatal shooting. "I don't mean to be rude, but people are twisting everything around," Johnson said. She said she could not talk further because she had to "give a statement." She did not elaborate before hanging up. Junor said she did not know whether a party had been held.
Police also said they were looking into possible connections between the break-in Monday and an attempted burglary at Taylor's home eight days before. In that incident, the intruder or intruders rifled through drawers, looked through a safe and left a kitchen knife on a bed, but appeared to take little.