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Fatal Distractions

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 fiancee 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
fiancee. 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 Lollar'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."

"I keep wishing," says Smith, "that Richard would've been able to
see India once. Just once."

When Lewis left the courtroom last June, a free man, his attorney
Ed Garland said his client wanted to talk to the families of the
dead men. But according to Hale, Smith and Threatt, he never has.

Good thing. It'd be an awful distraction.


The two dead men may not cross Ray Lewis's mind on Super Sunday,
but there's a woman in Decatur, Ga., who'll be thinking of them.