Affidavit: Two suspects confessed to armed burglary

Updated: December 2, 2007, 8:33 PM ET
Associated Press

MIAMI -- Thousands of people paid their respects Sunday to Washington Redskins star Sean Taylor, as four young men sat in jail cells across the state charged with his killing.

At a wake in a small church here and at a vigil on the University of Miami campus where the athlete's skills made him an idol, Taylor was remembered by those who knew him since childhood and those who felt like they did.

Taylor's family gathered alone around his casket and left before the doors of Second Baptist Church opened to a line of hundreds of people stretching a block long. They departed in black limousines, SUVs and two buses.

Mourners filed through the church, pausing at the athlete's open casket, where he lay in a dark suit and white shirt with his arms by his side. Some made the sign of the cross, some sobbed, some walked silently as the choir sang. A police officer stood guard nearby.

Jason Scott Mitchell

Mitchell

Charles Kendrick Lee Wardlow

Wardlow

One man erected a display in the parking lot in the athlete's honor with dozens of balloons, including those representing his jersey numbers in high school, college and professionally.

"I just wanted to do something," said James Lovett of Fort Lauderdale, who said he met Taylor when he was displaced from his home after Hurricane Andrew. "I just loved the kid, truly loved him."

Dozens of flower arrangements filled the church, including an orange and green U symbolizing the University of Miami and one in the shape of a badge for the Florida City Police, where Taylor's father is chief.

People came for many reasons. Some had met Taylor, many had not.

Eric Rivera Jr.

Rivera

Venjah Hunte

Hunte

Dolores Brown mourned a man she called a son. Jeremiah Wedderburn spoke of Taylor's passion. And Josh Persad, a freshman at Miramar High School, came wearing a Taylor jersey.

"He's like my hero," Persad whispered.

Just southwest of here in Coral Gables, about 2,000 people gathered outside BankUnited Center at UM where Taylor's life was remembered in a somber ceremony. His No. 26 jersey from the school was framed, along with a photo of him in his Hurricanes uniform.

"Sean is with God now," his father, Pedro Taylor, said.

The mass of people held white candles toward the sky as a university band performed the alma mater. Some said they would emulate him, others said they would always remember him.

The remembrances Sunday came only hours after a fourth man charged in the shooting death of the 24-year-old Taylor appeared briefly in court and, like his co-defendants, was denied bond.

Jason Mitchell, 19, appeared via videoconference in a Fort Myers courtroom, about 100 miles from here. Dressed in an orange jumpsuit, he responded quietly when asked if he understood the charges. "He looks like he's in shock," said Sawyer Smith, one of his attorneys.

Three others -- Eric Rivera, 17; Charles Wardlow, 18; and Venjah Hunte, 20 -- made their first court appearance Saturday.

All four have been charged with unpremeditated murder, home invasion with a firearm or another deadly weapon and armed burglary. They will be transported to Miami, though authorities haven't said when.

Probable cause affidavits for Mitchell and Rivera obtained by the Associated Press said the two confessed to participating in armed burglary. According to the reports, Mitchell and Rivera admitted entering the home and said someone had a gun and shot Taylor, but they didn't identify who. Police and attorneys also have said some of the young men confessed, though they wouldn't elaborate.

Taylor died Tuesday, one day after being shot at his home in an affluent Miami suburb. Police said the suspects were looking for a simple burglary, but it turned bloody when they were startled to find Taylor home.

The suspects all have prior arrests, according to police, including drug, theft and gun charges, though friends and family have defended them.

Police remain tightlipped about how the suspects wound up at Taylor's home. But his former attorney Richard Sharpstein said Taylor's sister was dating a relative of Wardlow and that one or more people tied to the suspects may have attended her 21st birthday party at the athlete's home.

Miami-Dade police wouldn't confirm any of the possible links.

Early Monday, Taylor and his longtime girlfriend, Jackie Garcia, were awakened by loud noises at his home and within moments he was shot. Neither the couple's 18-month-old daughter, also named Jackie, nor Garcia were injured, but the bullet hit the femoral artery in Taylor's leg, causing significant blood loss.

He never regained consciousness and died early Tuesday.

Authorities haven't said whether they've linked the suspects to a break-in at Taylor's home eight days before the shooting. In that incident, someone pried open a front window, rifled through drawers and left a kitchen knife on a bed.

Sharpstein said Taylor's family was grateful for fast police work in the case, but that the arrests gave little comfort. Their mourning was set to continue Monday with a massive funeral at a Florida International University arena.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press