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SEE, IF you're the Baltimore Ravens, the key to the Super Bowl is making sure your unblockable star linebacker, Ray Lewis, doesn't have any distractions that might affect his play. You'd hate to have distractions.
You'd hate to have anybody bring up the two men he and his pals left bleeding on a street corner in Atlanta after last year's Super Bowl. You'd hate to have anybody mention the two men—one a hairstylist whose fiancée had a baby on the way, the other an artist who sent money to help out his grandma—who were left dying from knife wounds as Lewis and his pals sped away in his rented 40-foot Lincoln Navigator limo. Because on Sunday, while the media are making Lewis into a god, it would be really unfair to bring up Richard Lollar and Shorty Baker, right?
You don't remember Richard and Shorty? They're the two guys nobody killed, according to a Fulton County jury. Lewis, who was charged with murder and aggravated assault, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of obstructing justice and walked away. The other two defendants, Lewis's friends Reginald Oakley and Joseph Sweeting, were acquitted of murder and aggravated assault charges. There have been no more arrests, and no detectives are looking to make any.
Let's hope the two dead men won't cross Lewis's mind on Sunday, but there's a woman in Decatur, Ga., who won't be able to help but think of them. Her name is Kellye Smith, and she was Lollar's fiancée. Every time she looks at her 10-month-old daughter, India, she thinks of Lollar, because India looks just like him. India was born five weeks after her father was murdered. "I still don't understand it," said Smith, 31, last week. "I believe Ray Lewis played a definite part in Richard's death."
It had been such a great Super Sunday, too. Smith and Lollar had spent the day together, going to Lamaze class and then to dinner at an Outback Steakhouse. But being eight months pregnant, Smith was too tired to go party with Loilar's pals visiting from Akron. No problem. He'd kiss her when he got in and then make her his special cheese, egg and biscuit breakfast in the morning.
So Lollar, 24, once Akron's Barber of the Year, went to pick up his 5' 2" buddy Jacinth (Shorty) Baker, 21, for a night on the town. Baker was a stitch, loved to wear sweet clothes, liked to draw cartoons, but he needed a little cheering up. Both his parents had died within the past year and a half.
Nobody seems to be sure what happened at four the next morning at Buckhead's $100 cover Cobalt Lounge, but we know Lewis's group and the Akron group crossed paths, and a fight ensued out on the street. Next thing you knew Baker was stabbed three times and Lollar five, twice in the heart, Lollar was dead within 90 seconds; Baker died on the way to the hospital.
Atlanta police found Baker's, Oakley's and Sweeting's blood in Lewis's limo and Oakley's and Sweeting's blood in the lobby rest room of a nearby Holiday Inn, where the fleeing limo stopped immediately after the stabbings. Police never found the clothes that Lewis wore that night. And wasn't it a coincidence that Sweeting had bought three knives the day before the Super Bowl at a sporting goods store while Lewis was making an appearance there? Lewis even testified that Sweeting told him in the Holiday Inn lobby, "Every time they hit me, I hit them," and that Sweeting held a knife in his hand as he said that.
None of it meant a thing in court. Lewis copped to the misdemeanor, testified for the prosecution and walked straight into the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award. The families of Lollar and Baker walked straight into a hole in their lives that sure doesn't feel misdemeanor. "To tell you the truth," Lollar's aunt Thomasaina Threatt, said between sobs last week, "I wish Ray Lewis were dead."
"Ray Lewis can sit there and smile, the big comeback kid," says Lollar's cousin Charita Hale, who says she will take candles to that Buckhead street corner on Jan. 31 to mark the first anniversary of the murders. "His family will always see him, but we'll never be able to see Richard again."