Friends and family of the men killed outside an Atlanta nightclub --including one victim's fiance, who gave birth Friday to his child -- reacted harshly to allegations that the stabbings resulted from a botched robbery attempt.
The allegations were made Saturday to investigators by a companion of Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis. Lewis has been indicted on charges of murder and assault in the deaths of Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar.
"He wouldn't do that," said Kellye Smith, who was engaged to Lollar. "That is not in him." Smith has named their daughter, born 33 days after his death, India.
"I just leave it in the Lord's hands. Everything will come out," Smith said yesterday.
Lollar, 24, and Baker, 21, of Decatur, Ga., died of stab wounds to the heart suffered in an early morning melee after a Super Bowl celebration on Jan. 31. In addition to Lewis, two companions -- Reginald Oakley, 31, of Baltimore, and Joseph Sweeting, 34, of Miami -- have been charged with assault and murder in connection with the case.
A woman who was with the three on the morning of the murders told investigators that they overheard people in Lollar's and Baker's group plotting the armed robbery of some of Lewis' companions, who had separated from Lewis' main group and were walking down the street.
Court documents filed earlier by attorneys for Sweeting suggested that Lollar had been carrying a gun and that he and Baker were "aggressors" in the incident.
"That's a bunch of garbage," said James "Silk" Wilkerson, a man who worked with Lollar for two years.
Wilkerson is a co-owner of the Decatur Barber and Braid shop, where Lollar worked full-time as a barber and had a loyal clientele.
"Does he have a history of robbery? No. Nobody can say they were robbed by him. He wasn't that type of person. That's another defense attempt to make Richard out to be a bad guy," Wilkerson said.
"How is it that two people would rob six to 10 people in a crowded, lighted area? That's absurd," he said.
Wilkerson said he never knew Lollar to own a gun, and doubts he had one that morning. "If he had a gun, why did he end up getting stabbed?" Wilkerson asked.
"I'm not going to say he was perfect. Nobody is. But he was an honest guy trying to make a living. He was dedicated to what he did," Wilkerson said.
He also knew Baker, an art student, who he said was peaceful. "They were in no way hostile people," he said.
Both victims had scrapes with the law in their native Ohio. Lollar had twice been convicted of misdemeanor marijuana possession. Baker pleaded guilty in 1997 to improperly handling a firearm. He received probation, which he apparently violated the next year when he was indicted on charges of possession of cocaine and driving with an open container of alcohol. He failed to appear at his arraignment and a warrant was outstanding at the time of his death.
Meanwhile, lawyers for Lewis have been maneuvering in Baltimore County and Atlanta courts ahead of his scheduled May 15 trial.
One lawyer, concerned about the nature of evidence collected by police in a search of Lewis' Worthington Valley home, went to court seeking a detailed inventory and the return of any privileged material such as communications between the football player and his attorneys.
In a motion filed Feb. 11 in Baltimore County Circuit and District courts, Lewis demanded "a more definite statement of the property seized," the right to inspect the seized goods, identification of privileged material seen but not taken and the return of any improperly taken items.
The case, filed prior to his Feb. 14 bail hearing, was dropped after Lewis was released and the dispute over the seized goods was left to his Atlanta-based legal team to pursue through the regular pretrial exchange of evidence with prosecutors.
Among the items taken from his home during the search by Atlanta and Baltimore County police were a computer and bags of paperwork and other items. Lewis' attorneys worried that legal correspondence pertaining to an unrelated Baltimore County incident on Nov. 30 in which Lewis has been charged with assault may have been among the material viewed or taken.
Lewis attorney, C. Carey Deeley Jr. of Towson, said he dismissed the motion, while retaining the right to file it again, "so that the matter might be taken up by the lawyers in Atlanta."
Howard B. Gersh, a Baltimore County Police lawyer, said the case was dropped before he had time to consider whether any items were improperly seized or if the inventory left behind was insufficient.
Lewis' Baltimore County case is scheduled for trial on June 1, although the prosecutor in that case has said he is considering dropping the charges for insufficient evidence. In that case, a woman has accused Lewis of hitting her in a restaurant.
Lewis has been free on $1 million bond since Feb. 15, confined to Maryland except for trips to Atlanta related to his legal case, and subject to a 9 p.m. curfew.
LaMont W. Flanagan, the state commissioner of pretrial detention and services, said, "We've had no problems. He's complied with all aspects of his supervision plan."