Victims said to be talented, nonviolent

Barber Lollar, artist Baker in Atlanta `for better life'

February 02, 2000|By ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

ATLANTA -- In 1996, an Ohio friend of Richard Lollar and Jacinth "Shorty" Baker was gunned down a half-mile from the Georgia Capitol. But the slaying of Akron resident Donnie Cantrell, 24, didn't stop Lollar and Baker from leaving Akron for Atlanta a year later seeking better jobs, a better education and a better life, said friends who knew the two men.

Some of Lollar's friends told him, "Oh, you can really live in Atlanta," remembered Lollar's grandmother, Joyce Lollar.

"He had friends down there who told him how much better he could do there," his grandmother said yesterday. "A lot of times, young people want to venture out."

But before dawn Monday, Baker, 21, and Lollar, 24 -- like their Akron friend -- were slain on an Atlanta city street. The two men were stabbed to death in Buckhead.

"Rich was a good person," said John "Silk" Wilkerson, who co-owns a Decatur, Ga., barbershop and hired Lollar as a barber when he first arrived in town.

"He was humble. He wasn't a troublemaker. He will be missed by a lot of people here."

Lollar often worked 12-hour days, said his colleagues and friends. He was engaged to Kellye Smith, who is expecting the couple's first child. He talked about going to college to study engineering. But he also dreamed of opening his own barbershop.

"We used to club a lot," said Anthony Jones, a shop customer who often had drinks at the Club Mirage with Lollar after work. "He was a lovable person. Nobody hated him."

But as Lollar anticipated the birth of his first child, Wilkerson said, he didn't go out as much. "He was pretty much concentrating on his profession here, cutting hair, and being the best father he could be for his expected child."

The beauticians who brought their small sons to the barber shop said Lollar was good with children and kept lollipops to occupy them while he cut their hair.

"He wasn't the type to have a conflict with anybody," Darden said.

Life in Atlanta was so good that Lollar told a friend he never wanted to return to Akron.

"He wanted to get away from the small city life," said Tommy House, owner of House Effects in West Akron where Lollar cut hair for three years.

House first met Lollar when he was 13. "He was a master barber from the start," he said. "There wasn't much I could teach him."

Before he left Ohio, said Lollar's cousin, Charita Hill, Lollar was named Akron's Barber of the Year.

Lollar and Baker had been friends since they were children in west Akron. Both attended Buchtel High School, but neither graduated, said principal Rob McKinnie.

When Lollar came to Atlanta, Baker, three years younger, followed.

Gregory Wilson, Baker's uncle, said his nephew moved to Atlanta hoping it would eventually lead to admission in a California art school. Baker liked to draw cartoons and fashion designs and dreamed of a future as a sketch artist, Wilson said.

"He was a real nice person. Real caring and funny," he said. "He loved to joke all the time. He would give away the clothes off his body if he had to."

Both parents were ill when Baker left Akron. On Feb. 3 last year, his mother, Susan Ann Wilson, died of a brain tumor.

His father, Ralph Baker Jr., had died just two months earlier of a heart attack.

In Decatur, Baker -- who was 5 feet 1 and nicknamed "Shorty" -- was befriended by Paul Stroud and his wife, Shirley. Baker used the older couple's address when he acquired a Georgia identification card and occasionally stayed at the couple's Decatur apartment, Stroud said.

"He was like a little son to us," he said. "My wife was real attached to him. He was just so short and cute."

Baker, Stroud said, was killed on his wife's birthday.

Baker didn't have a job, but was taking classes to complete his G.E.D., Stroud said.

"He was a good sketch artist," Stroud said. "He had that talent where he could look at you and sketch you right off."

Both Baker and Lollar loved the atmosphere that permeated Buckhead's nightclub scene, Stroud said. They were young men and good-looking, he said.

Relatives and acquaintances of the two victims insist that neither were violent, although Lollar, according to his aunt, Thomasina Threatt, once spent several months in an Ohio juvenile correctional facility for "fighting."

"Richard didn't have a temper at all," she said. "I guess he was at the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong person."

Stroud said he can't fathom how Baker ever became involved in a brawl.

"What's Shorty going to do with six or seven guys?" he said. "I always told them, `You got to be careful in those streets, man.' "

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