Two Years After Sean Taylor's Death, His Mother Faces a Wall of Hardship

Donna Junor fears she will lose her home.
Donna Junor fears she will lose her home. "I don't feel I should be left out in the cold like this," she said. (By Joshua Prezant For The Washington Post)
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Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 30, 2009

HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- Donna Junor sported a flowing print dress, bejeweled flip-flops and manicured orange nails when she answered the door last week at the three-bedroom townhouse she fears she will lose to foreclosure.

Her sporty but aging Mercedes-Benz, the one with the "Sean 21" tag, was parked just outside the door. The living room featured plush red furniture and a brightly colored area rug. In the dining room, just below the airbrushed portrait of her son -- the late Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor -- sat a neatly set dining table with cloth napkins.

When she could afford it, Junor, 49, lived a nice, comfortable life. Her son made sure of that, handing out massive checks, even gift bags filled with tens of thousands of dollars, to family members. Now, those days are long gone.

When Taylor died without a will on Nov. 27, 2007, the bulk of his $5.8 million estate went to his daughter, Jackie Taylor, now 3, who lives with her mother, Taylor's high school sweetheart, Jackie Garcia, in Coral Gables, Fla. Taylor's mother did not get a penny. Nor did his grandmother, great-grandmother, two of his half-siblings or any of the cousins or relatives who had grown accustomed to his largesse.

In Junor's case, she was left with possessions that carry costs and fees that she says exceed her income as a substitute teacher. She could not pay the real-estate taxes last year on the townhouse she bought in 2005 with $222,000 her son had given her. Another tax bill is due at the end of November. She hasn't paid her homeowners association dues in months. The lawyers have begun chasing.

"I'm not looking for a handout, but I just don't think when you have a son in the NFL who was so progressive, his mother should end up this way," Junor said. "I don't feel I should be left out in the cold like this."

Taylor died a day after suffering a gunshot wound while confronting burglars in his south Miami home. After his estate was settled, Taylor's father Pedro "Pete" Taylor, who shared a bank account with his son, received the $328,000 remaining in the joint account. Pete Taylor has long been estranged from Junor.

An additional $650,000 from a life insurance policy went to Taylor's eldest sister, Monika Martin, 29, one of Junor's four children.

Though the money represented just a small portion of Taylor's estate, it provided a significant financial cushion to two members of his extended family, neither of whom, at least formally, has spread the wealth. Anything short of the generosity Taylor showed during his life likely would have been met with resentment from the family members left out of the settlement. Indeed, a family divided long before Sean Taylor's birth -- Pete Taylor and Donna Junor did not raise their son together -- seems to have grown further apart since he died.

"People do change, even though she's my daughter," Junor said about Martin, who has two small children. But "what about Pete? . . . Sean's daughter was supposed to get what she got, but the injustice is Pete. Whatever he got of Sean's savings, he should share."

Pete Taylor declined to comment. Reached by phone, Monika Martin said she did not know the extent of her mother's financial woes, but she said she had previously taken some of the insurance money "and helped my mom with it." A significant cut of the insurance money, she said, went to pay taxes.

Four months after her brother's death, Martin, a schoolteacher, purchased a $300,000 home.

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