Continued from page 1

“The cumulative effect of the media coverage and statements made by various persons if allowed to continue would deprive the defendants of their right to a fair trial,” the order said.

The order’s four pages are why Taylor’s father, Pedro, hasn’t said much in recent years. Interview requests are politely declined until the trials finish. His most extensive public comments in recent years came during a brief conversation last fall with reporters on the sideline at FedEx Field.

“There’s never going to be any closure,” said Pedro, who is police chief in Florida City, Fla. “It’s hard to lose a child. It’s hard to even fathom me burying a kid. I respect the fact that God makes no mistakes. But at the same time, there won’t ever be closure because it’s so big and my heart’s too big. When you lose something that big, it really leaves a pit inside you. It’s hard. Very hard. But he’ll always live long in my life. He’ll always live forever in my life.”

Could the trial, any trial, really, be a relief?

“It will,” he said. “It will.”

• • •

So, lives push forward without Taylor. A 15-minute drive from the cemetery where he’s buried, if traffic is smooth, sits his former home on Old Cutler Road. Taylor bought the four-bedroom property surrounded by a white wall in 2005. Owed $820,132.91 from the remaining principal by 2010, in addition to interest, taxes and fees, Wachovia Mortgage Co. foreclosed. The property became overgrown, drawing a warning letter from Palmetto Bay’s code compliance officer to clean up within five days or face a $250 sanction and other penalties.

Eventually the home sold in 2011 for $460,000, just over half of what Taylor paid. The real estate listing, complete with pictures of the empty, spotless home, didn’t hint at the horror that swept through on that November night.

“Paved patio, excellent for entertainment,” the listing read. “Shade trees. Beautiful grounds. Foyer entrance. Fireplace in living room. Open floor plan.”

That’s where the five men arrived at 1:40 a.m. The break-in seems as distant to Hunte as freedom. Taylor’s bedroom door was kicked down. Two gunshots. One bullet plunged into Taylor’s right thigh, cut the femoral artery and, 27 hours later, ended his life at age 24.

Hunte has insisted he never ventured inside. The night isn’t something he thinks about much. In one letter to The Times, he apologized to Taylor’s family, admitted the words were inadequate, but sought forgiveness anyway. The consequences, though, stalk him day after isolated day.

“I wish I would’ve had better judgement of the people I surrounded myself with that night,” he wrote. “Last, I just wish [Taylor] hadn’t passed away. It was an unfortunate situation, but there was no malice on my behalf.”

He writes about change, big and small. Not cursing as much. Doing life the right way. Not ending up back in jail. Thinking through decisions before he makes them, like the three drug-related charges he faced in Lee County, Fla., in the months before the drive across the state to Taylor’s home. Not chasing money. Not living the fast life.

There’s a book he wants to write to make sense of what happened and, in his mind, honor Taylor’s family.

“Most of all,” he wrote, “to give young men all across the country an alternative to the things there [sic] going through, no matter the race or bringing up. … I can’t change the world, but that one person can go a long way.”

Story Continues →