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Police make 4 arrests

Robbery motive in Taylor slaying

Email|Print| Text size + By Lisa Orkin Emmanuel
Associated Press / December 1, 2007

MIAMI - Police said two men and two juveniles arrested yesterday 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, 17; 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 in southwest Florida. They will be booked into the Lee County Jail and eventually will be returned to Miami, O'Brien said.

The 24-year-old Pro Bowl safety died Tuesday, one day after being shot at his home in an affluent Miami suburb.

Police have been investigating a possible link to a Nov. 17 break-in at Taylor's home, during which 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, Taylor's former attorney.

The Miami Herald website reported that Mitchell and Wardlow had connections to Taylor. Mitchell cut Taylor's lawn, Mitchell's twin brother, Scottie, told the paper. Taylor's sister, Sasha Johnson, dates Wardlow's older cousin Christopher, and Scottie Mitchell said the couple invited Jason Mitchell to Johnson's birthday party within the past two months.

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 kept 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 died a little more than 24 hours later.

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