Lewis Goes From Murder Suspect to Super Bowl
Ray Lewis Redefines Self After Murder Trial; Families Still
By Tracy L. Ziemer
January 24, 2001
A year ago, Ray Lewis was defending himself in court in
the case of a fatal stabbing at a post-Super Bowl party. On
Sunday, the Baltimore linebacker will lead the Ravens’
defense in Super Bowl XXXV.
"It's like a fairy tale, or a movie, where there's a
bad start and a beautiful ending," Lewis said. "But
it's real life."
Winning the Super Bowl on Sunday would be the final notch
in an unexpected upward trajectory that began at abysmal depths
for Lewis when he was charged with murder in a double homicide
outside an Atlanta-area nightclub on Jan. 31. After a plea
bargain assured his freedom, Lewis soared this season—earning
Defensive Player of the Year honors, getting a vote for league
MVP and now playing in the Super Bowl.
But the families of the victims say their lives are still
at a standstill as they wait for answers to their questions
and for justice to be served.
"[The killers] took the best one of our family,"
says Cindy Lollar-Owens, who says she is still "hurt,
in pain, disgusted and sad" over the stabbing death of
her nephew, Richard Lollar, last year.
"We didn't pick out Ray Lewis" as a suspect, she
said. "The witnesses did."
No Convictions in Case
A year ago, Lewis was with friends at an upscale Atlanta
nightclub following the Super Bowl. A fight broke out outside
the club around 3:30 a.m., police said, and Jacinth Baker
and Lollar were fatally stabbed. A report from the medical
examiner's office indicates as many as 10 people might have
jumped the victims during the fight, and no fingerprints were
found on a knife at the scene.
Lewis and his entourage left the scene via his limousine
which was hit by gunshots as it drove away, authorities said.
Lewis maintained from the beginning that he was only trying
to break up the fight, although some witnesses testified they
saw Lewis punching and kicking the victims.
Lewis later admitted to giving a false statement to police
when he said he didn't know the other two accused men, Joseph
Sweeting and Reginald Oakley. Midway through the trial last
summer, Lewis pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of obstruction
of justice in exchange for testifying against his codefendents
Sweeting and Oakley.
Sweeting, a longtime friend of Lewis', and Oakley, an acquaintance
of the football player, were acquitted of murder and aggravated
A representative for the Fulton County (Ga.) District Attorney's
office says the DA's office currently doesn't have any staff
actively investigating any new charges in the case but that
the case has not been officially closed.
Spotlight Now on Talent
Following the trial and a $250,000 fine by the NFL—the
largest ever levied against a player—Lewis set out to
become one of the greatest defensive players in the league.
The Baltimore defense led the NFL with 49 turnovers in the
regular season, allowed a record-low 165 points in a 16-game
season and is being called one of the best of all time. Lewis
was the anchor in that effort, leading the Ravens in tackles
for the fifth consecutive year, notching 184 in the regular
He's continued that brilliance in the playoffs, adding 26
tackles in three postseason games. The three-time Pro Bowl
linebacker recovered a fumble in the AFC Championship game
and was part of a sterling defensive effort that held the
No. 1 Oakland Raiders' running attack to just 24 total yards.
Against Tennessee, his best effort in the playoffs, Lewis
amassed 12 tackles and ran an interception back 50 yards for
Denver Broncos coach Mike Shanahan has called Lewis "one
of the best to ever play the game."
Victim’s Aunt: “We Wanted Justice”
Owens has watched Lewis' progress. She drove from Akron,
Ohio, to Atlanta for the trial, then went to Cleveland on
Oct. 1 to stage a protest when the Ravens were in town playing
the Browns. She and Lollar's grandmother stood outside the
stadium with a collage of pictures of Lollar, handing out
flyers about the case. She hopes to raise enough money to
go to Tampa, too, to stage a protest at Super Bowl XXXV.
"We wanted justice, we wanted to talk to Ray Lewis or
the [NFL] commissioner or [Ravens owner] Art Modell,"
says Owens, who helped raise her nephew. "No one wants
to talk to us now."
Ray Lewis, for one, is tired of talking about a case in which
he was absolved of the charges against him. At Super Bowl
Media Day on Tuesday, he asked reporters to put this story
in the past.
"It's a chapter that's closed," he said. "Yeah
I got money, yeah I'm black, and yeah I'm blessed, but at
the same time let's find the real truth. The real truth is
this was never about the two kids dead in the street. It's
about Ray Lewis & and that's not right."
He also criticized the city of Atlanta for pursuing him in
the case instead of looking for other suspects.
Lewis, who says he's a better player now than ever, shifts
his attention to playing in the annual NFL championship he
watched a year ago in Atlanta, before going to a nightclub
and then going to jail.
And Owens, who says she can't understand how the fatal fight
that night could have produced so many witnesses and no convictions,
vows to find some answers.
"He's [Lewis] gotten on with his life," she said,
"But we haven't gotten over losing Richard."
ABC Radio contributed to this report.
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