Suspects in NFL killing charged with murder source
(edited by IVBB)
FORT MYERS, Florida (CNN) -- Three men were charged on Saturday with felony first-degree murder in the shooting death of NFL player Sean Taylor, a death police say was unplanned.
Eric Rivera Jr., 17; Venjah K. Hunte, 20; and Charles Kendrick Lee Wardlow, 18, each faces charges of felony first-degree murder, burglary with a firearm and home invasion robbery while armed, according to court documents.
The charge of felony first degree murder can be applied if someone is killed, even accidentally, during certain violent felony crimes.
Rivera appeared in the courtroom in Fort Myers, Florida, while Hunte and Wardlow appeared via video phone from jail.
A fourth suspect, Jason Scott Mitchell, 19, was processed too late to appear in court, officials said. He is to be in court Sunday, and faces the same charges as the other three.
The four men were expecting to find an unoccupied home, "so murder or shooting someone was not their initial motive," Robert Parker, director of the Miami-Dade Police Department, said Friday night.
"They were certainly not looking to go there and kill anyone," he said. "Their obvious motive was to go there and steal the contents of the house."
Taylor, 24, died Tuesday, a day after he was shot during an apparent burglary at his Miami home.
Additional arrests are possible, Parker said.
"The key to solving this case was citizens' tips," he said.
The men knew Taylor lived at the house, Parker said.
A police official told CNN that officers are investigating whether one or more of the suspects knew members of Taylor's family.
At 1:45 a.m. Monday, Taylor's girlfriend, Jackie Garcia, called 911 and said someone had been shot.
Authorities have said she told police she was hiding under the bedding during the attack.
Garcia did not see what happened and could not provide a suspect description, Parker told reporters on Wednesday.
Police said Garcia and Taylor were awakened by noise in the living room, and that Taylor got up and locked the bedroom door. The door was kicked in and two shots were fired, one striking him in the leg.
Garcia tried to call 911, and failing that, used her cell phone instead, police said. There was no evidence the line had been cut, Parker said Wednesday.
A break-in was also reported eight days earlier, Miami-Dade police said.
A police report said someone forced a window open and left a kitchen knife on a bed. Several drawers and a bedroom safe were searched during the break-in, according to the report.
Taylor was home unexpectedly because of an injury, his former attorney, Richard Sharpstein, told reporters Tuesday. "I think he was surprised or they were surprised to find him there," he said.
Taylor spent four years with the Washington Redskins, but had been out with a sprained right knee. He did not play in Sunday's game against Tampa Bay.
Taylor was a first-round pick in the 2004 draft, according to his team's Web site.
He played at the University of Miami, where he was an All-American in 2003, and was also a high school standout in the city. Dubbing him "the prototype NFL free safety," the Redskins credited Taylor's team-leading tackling prowess.
He was regarded as one of the hardest-hitting players in the league. Taylor recorded 257 tackles (206 solo) during his brief career, two sacks and seven interception.