Family and friends wait and pray

Lewis' mother keeps watch near Atlanta jail

February 06, 2000|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

ATLANTA -- As Baltimore Ravens star linebacker Ray Lewis eats bologna sandwiches while locked away on murder charges in the city's 11-story jail, family members who have gathered here anxiously await word on whether he will be released on bail.

The 24-year-old's mother, Sunseria Keith, flew to Atlanta, only to find out that she can visit her son just twice a week -- on Wednesdays and Sundays -- and then only for 20 minutes at a time.

Keith spends most of her time 15 blocks from the Atlanta City Detention Center, gathered with other relatives in the towering Peachtree Center Marriott Marquis in the heart of downtown.

"He's pulling through this," said Keith. She was allowed to visit her son on Thursday because she is from out of state and missed regular midweek visiting hours. "He knows he's innocent. But jail is a cold place to be if you know you haven't done anything."

Lewis has been jailed without bail since Monday night, when police charged him with two counts of murder in the stabbing deaths of two men after the Super Bowl. Richard Lollar and Jacinth Demarus Baker, both of Decatur, Ga., were killed during a fight outside a nightclub in Buckhead, one of Atlanta's priciest entertainment districts.

The Ravens have hired a private investigator who is in Atlanta and has interviewed Lewis, according to a source close to the team.

Lawyers hired by the multi-millionaire player, who was supposed to have made his third Pro Bowl appearance today in Hawaii, have strongly denied that their client was involved in a fight or stabbing.

His lawyers failed to negotiate a release agreement on Friday during their first meeting with the district attorney. A bail hearing is scheduled for Feb. 14.

Atlanta homicide detectives are in Baltimore County trying to find people who may have joined Lewis in the limousine on his road trip from his Owings Mills home to Atlanta.

Lewis is getting unwavering support from his family. Along with Keith, his grandmother, Elease McKinney, and his fiancee, Tatyana McCall, flew to Atlanta from Florida. His uncle, the Rev. Clinton Stancil, came from Kansas City, Mo.

Support in Baltimore also remains strong for the player, a fan favorite for his aggressive and stylish play that has made him the highest paid linebacker in football.

"Free Ray Lewis" T-shirts are being sold for $10 in area bars. And yesterday, Larry Young, the former state senator turned radio talk-show host, and about 50 others gathered at dawn to hold a prayer service on behalf of Lewis at New Shiloh Baptist Church in West Baltimore.

Young organized the event and arranged for speakers to give brief reflections on Lewis after the 6 a.m. service.

"We wanted Ray to know that his Baltimore family is with him," Young said.

The most moving tribute came from Wenda Royster of WOLB-AM radio, who relayed a story involving Lewis, teammate Bennie Thompson and former teammate Michael Jackson speaking in 1998 to a 14-year-old girl who was paralyzed from a gunshot wound.

"Ray Lewis talked to her and her brother about violence," Royster said. "I know a different Ray Lewis. I know a God-fearing Ray Lewis. I know a Ray Lewis that opens up his heart and pocketbook to help a family. I see a man that got caught up in a lot of things that can happen to any of us. There is one judge, and he sits up high."

The "one judge" sentiment was the general theme among the six other speakers, including Bob Wade, athletic director for Baltimore city schools.

"I thank them for all their support," Lewis' mother said in Atlanta of Baltimore fans. "I ask them that they keep us in their prayers."

Sun staff writer Brent Jones contributed to this article.

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