Waiting for justice in slaying of Redskins Sean Taylor

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The gag order prevents Mr. Sharpstein from speaking about the trial.

Years ago, Ralph Ortega asked Mr. Sharpstein to represent Taylor. Mr. Ortega, a mortgage broker, was an assistant football coach and mentor to Taylor at Gulliver Preparatory School.

“He was not quite like a son,” Mr. Ortega said, “but something close.”

Taylor and Mr. Ortega’s son, Buck, both started at Gulliver Preparatory midway through their sophomore years. They were about the same height and weight. Both were quiet. They loved fishing. A fast friendship developed.

The first sailfish Buck Ortega caught came with Taylor off Key Largo, Fla., when they were sophomores. A few days ago, Buck Ortega pulled out a photo of the 80-pound sailfish. Taylor smiled back at him from the photo.

“Look how little we were,” Buck Ortega told his wife, Emily.

He laughed.

‘Scary how good’

Today, Buck Ortega runs a chain of health clubs near Fayetteville, Ark., after stints with four NFL teams at tight end. He doesn’t follow the legal gymnastics in Miami much, but Taylor comes to mind often. Big hits or big returns in football games on television spur those memories.

“Watching him play was like artwork,” Buck Ortega said. “Sean had a one-upper for everything [on the field]. It was the truth. He was that good. It was scary how good he was.”

Buck Ortega tries not to think about the murder. But that day lurks, like a photo he can’t erase.

Each April 1, Buck Ortega calls Pedro Taylor for Sean’s birthday.

“I’m thinking about you,” Buck Ortega tells him.

Those thoughts are difficult for Ralph Ortega to escape. Every two weeks, he eats lunch at Walter’s Coffee Shop in Palmetto Bay. Taylor’s jersey and picture hang on the wall. So does the jersey of Derrick Thomas, the Kansas City Chiefs linebacker from Miami who died after a car accident in 2000.

Taylor’s old house sits six miles away, an 11-minute drive if traffic is right.

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