Suspects in Taylor Case Disposed Of Weapon

By Amy Shipley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 21, 2007

MIAMI, Dec. 20 -- The gun used to mortally wound Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor in a bungled burglary attempt Nov. 26 was stuffed in a white sock and pitched out the window of a moving car hours after the shooting, the attorney for one of the four defendants in the case said Thursday.

Not long after disposing of the gun, three of the four defendants burned the clothes and masks they had worn in a wooded section of suburban Fort Myers, Fla., known as Lehigh Acres, the defendant, Venjah K. Hunte, 20, also told his attorney Michael Hornung, according to Hornung.

Hunte also can describe a 14-year-old boy who participated in the attempted burglary that led to Taylor's Nov. 27 death, Hornung said. Though police have said they were investigating other possible suspects in the case, only four men have been formally charged. Hunte said the boy was a cousin of defendant Charles Kendrick Lee Wardlow, 18, and apparently panicked during the break-in, Hornung said.

"The juvenile was running around, it appears inside [Taylor's house], like a chicken with its head cut off," Hunte said, according to Hornung.

Hunte; Wardlow; Eric Rivera Jr., 17; and Jason Scott Mitchell, 19, face first-degree felony murder and armed burglary charges in connection with Taylor's death. All will be arraigned Friday morning in Miami-Dade state court.

Hornung said Hunte disclosed the previously unreported details about the case in an hour-long interview, during which Hunte reiterated his interest in a possible plea deal. Hornung said Hunte hopes to avoid the death penalty by being the first defendant to offer full cooperation to prosecutors. There was no meeting, however, between the two parties Thursday as Hornung had hoped.

Hunte "has taken responsibility for being at the residence," Hornung said. "He had no idea there was a gun, no idea there would be any violence, no idea . . . it would turn into the tragedy it did. He told me he is willing to assist in any way possible and be truthful."

Hunte said the weapon used to shoot Taylor in the upper thigh was a black automatic gun with silver on top, Hornung said. According to Hunte, the gun was discarded along a highway known as "Alligator Alley" that connects Miami with Florida's west coast.

A Miami-Dade County grand jury alleged that Rivera shot Taylor, who police said surprised the burglars.

Rivera flung the gun about 15 or 20 feet off the road about two miles west of an exit to a Miccosukee Indian Reservation, Hunte said, according to Hornung. The defendants also discarded a crowbar that was used to pry open a bathroom door to gain entry into the house, Hornung said. Hunte said the others burned their clothing later, but he did not, because he had not been in the house at the time Taylor was shot.

Hunte also confirmed that the defendants nearly called off the attempted burglary after Mitchell heard noises in the house and warned the others, as Taylor's attorney Richard Sharpstein had alleged.

Hunte, who had been on the property but not in the house, scaled a wall to return to the car, Hornung said, but the others continued inside after Rivera assured them that he was the source of the noise.

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