The Never-Ending Quest To Find Closure In Sean Taylor's Death


Nearly six years following Sean Taylor's death, Eric Rivera — the man accused of the fateful shot — was convicted of second-degree murder. Maybe now closure can truly begin.

Being a fan of the enemy is weird. In the history of the Dallas Cowboys, Washington Redskins and their respective fans, compliments resemble four-leaf clovers. It's how you're brought up. You don't ask any questions. You just accept hatred and learn to embrace it over time. Yet, every now and then a certain player comes along so talented the opposite fan base has no choice but to respect him.

Perhaps that's why most Skins fans I've come across in previous years have rarely, if ever, had anything demeaning to say about DeMarcus Ware, Jason Witten or Dez Bryant (with Sean Lee soon to enter that weird middle ground of acceptance). Most of the ridicule falls in the laps of Tony Romo, Jason Garrett and Jerry Jones. Coincidentally, Jordan Reed finds himself quickly rising through the ranks of the completely mythical — because it was made up just now — Cowboys Fans Cool Redskins Players Power Rankings. London Fletcher and Ryan Kerrigan, too.


The spirit of Sean Taylor is still alive and well in FedEx. I felt it last December attending the Week 17 Redskins/Cowboys game, otherwise known as "the night that ran Kenny Masenda away from Twitter for nine months." No. 21 jerseys littered the stadium. Maybe they were too cheap to buy a jersey of a current player. Maybe it was their way to pay respects to one of the franchise's most popular entities ever (saying something for as historic a franchise as Washington). And then it hit me like a sack of bricks. Maybe it was just Skins fans' way of never letting go.

Death is impossible to cope with regardless whether it arrives suddenly or gradually. Both pack different punches with identical impacts. Having written about Sean Taylor before, I'll avoid rehashing several of the same points.

Eric Rivera was found guilty of second-degree murder and other charges yesterday, November 4, 2013. He now says he was coerced by police to admit to pulling the trigger on the former Big East Defensive Player of the Year after confessing such following his arrest. The date stems nearly six years to the day Taylor defended his girlfriend, Jackie Garcia Haley, and their year-and-a-half old daughter from intruders. This was the result of a botched robbery attempt — because the five men who orchestrated the hit were unaware Sean remained at home that week due to a knee injury. A bullet destroyed Taylor's femoral artery. Sean bled to death. The gun used on him was never found and believed to have been eternally lost in the Everglades.

"Closure" is such a foreign topic, one difficult to grasp and accept. Rivera's guilty verdict could place him in jail for the rest of his natural born life, a daunting task for a young man still only 23 (a year younger than Taylor was in 2007). Jason Mitchell, Charles Wardlow and Timothy Brown still await their day in court. Mitchell was inspired to hit the lick at Taylor's house after attending the birthday party of Sean's half-sister, Sasha Johnson, only weeks before the murder. He saw firsthand Taylor present her with a purse containing $10,000. The fifth suspect, Venjah Hunte, also pleaded guilty to second-degree murder to go along with burglary charges. He's looking at 29 years in the can.

Some sense of retribution is beginning to take shape for the people who loved Sean Taylor the most. No guilty verdict or football numbers in prison years will be enough to resurrect their boyfriend, their father, their son or, yes, their safety. Because despite what a now infamous 2007 Washington Post article cared to paint only hours after his passing, Taylor's "checkered past" was not a green light to die. The article's author, Leonard Shapiro, soon admitted his deadline and rush of information following Taylor's murder jaded his column and that he desperately wished he had toned the message down. The fact people were claiming his words implied Taylor deserved to die bothered him deeply.

Six years later, we find ourselves with some ounce of clarity. Questions are now beginning to be outweighed by answers, despite them not being the most appealing to our ears. We know the men responsible will now pay the price. They'll eat, sleep, shower and use the bathroom under the direction of prison guards (and other inmates) until they're old enough to be considered the elder statesmen of their penitentiary. We know the image of Taylor at the time of his death was somewhat fair (his early transgressions are quite common), misinformed and biased because of his legendary resistance to speak with media. We know the birth of his daughter was the reality check that turned his life around according to family, Joe Gibbs and college teammate Antrel Rolle.

We know the earliest one of the men will be released from prison likely coincides with the time Taylor's baby girl starts her own family. She'll tell her kids about their grandfather, a man she'll have no living memory of aside from miscellaneous family footage and unreal YouTube videos, or whatever the equivalent is then. She'll know her father was performing the exact duty a man is required to do once bringing another life in the world.  She can rest her hat knowing her father sacrificed his life to preserve hers. She can smile knowing as long as she's alive, Sean Taylor is, too.


I see the pain in Redskins fans' eyes whenever the name "Sean Taylor" is mentioned. I can only hope to never imagine the pain his family experiences. Everyone was cheated out of Taylor's presence in some regard. Hopefully now, life can truly begin its healing process.

A process that stings longer than any loss to the Dallas Cowboys ever could.

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