4 arrested in slaying of Redskins star
MIAMI ” Police said the four people arrested Friday in the shooting death of Washington Redskins star Sean Taylor went to his home intent on stealing, not killing.
The suspects didn’t expect Taylor to be there, said Miami-Dade County police Director Robert Parker, but Taylor was recuperating from a knee injury and had returned home from Washington. When Taylor surprised them, he was shot.
“They were certainly not looking to go there and kill anyone,” Parker said. “They were expecting a residence that was not occupied. So murder or shooting someone was not their initial motive.”
Police spokeswoman Linda O’Brien identified the four suspects as: Venjah K. Hunte, 20; Eric Rivera Jr., 17; Jason Scott Mitchell, 19; and Charles Kendrick Lee Wardlow, 18. O’Brien said the charges for each had not yet been determined, but “we are talking murder and burglary.”
Authorities said they had more than one confession, but Parker would not elaborate.
The four were arrested Friday in southwest Florida, about 100 miles from Miami. They will be booked into the Lee County Jail and eventually will be returned to Miami, O’Brien said. She did not have any information on when they would appear in court, their hometowns or if they had attorneys.
Janelle Hall, a spokeswoman for Miami-Dade County jail, said security reasons prevented her from releasing information regarding when the suspects would be transferred to Miami.
The 24-year-old Pro Bowl safety died Tuesday, one day after being shot at his home in an affluent Miami suburb during what officials said appeared to be an attempted burglary.
Police have been investigating a possible link to a Nov. 17 break-in at Taylor’s home, during which they said someone pried open a front window, rifled through drawers and left a kitchen knife on a bed.
“We’re looking into whether or not one or more of the individuals had been at the residence before,” Parker said.
Family friend Richard Sharpstein said at least one of the suspects was at Taylor’s house when his sister recently had a party, but that Taylor did not know the men.
“It’s a burglary, and they targeted him for his wealth,” said Sharpstein, who’s Taylor’s former attorney. “It makes his death even more pathetic, unnecessary and just actually disgusting.”
Sharpstein had not spoken with Taylor’s family regarding the arrests, but said he doubted it provided any comfort.
“I know they are just saddened and appalled. The fact that they arrested his killer is no comfort to them,” he said. “It probably inflames them more, because it tells them people were trying to steal from him.”
The Miami Herald reported on its Web site that Mitchell and Wardlow had connections to Taylor. Mitchell cut Taylor’s lawn and did other chores at the house, Mitchell’s twin brother, Scottie, told the paper. Taylor’s sister, Sasha Johnson, dates Wardlow’s older cousin Christopher, and Scottie Mitchell told the paper the couple invited Jason Mitchell to Johnson’s birthday party within the past two months.
A woman who identified herself as Jason Mitchell’s mother told the Naples Daily News her son was at a birthday party at Sean Taylor’s home a couple months ago. She also said her son was at home all week and last weekend.
“I don’t know where he’s at, I don’t know why he’s being held,” she told the Naples paper. “No parent should see this happen to their child.”
O’Brien would not confirm the reports when contacted by The Associated Press.
Taylor and longtime girlfriend, Jackie Garcia, were awakened early Monday by loud noises at Taylor’s home in an affluent Miami suburb.
Taylor grabbed a machete he keeps in the bedroom for protection, Sharpstein said. Someone broke through the bedroom door and fired two shots, one missing and 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. Taylor never regained consciousness and died a little more than 24 hours later.
The Redskins also announced that fans attending Sunday’s game will receive a towel with Taylor’s No.21 jersey on it, and his name will be displayed prominently in one end zone.
Redskins owner Dan Snyder said the team will contribute a minimum of $500,000 to a fund to benefit Taylor’s daughter, and he released a statement late Friday acknowledging the arrests.
Associated Press Writer Brian Skoloff in West Palm Beach, Damian Grass in Miami, and AP Sports Writer Joseph White in Ashburn, Va., contributed to this report.