Skip to comments.Ohio's Mr. Football jailed in slaying
Posted on 04/27/2004 10:26:40 AM PDT by Deadeye Division
Ohio's Mr. Football jailed in slaying
Lila J. Mills
Plain Dealer Reporter
Ohio's reigning Mr. Football, Raymond Williams, and a teammate were jailed Monday, accused of taking part in a robbery that led to the shooting death of their friend.
Cleveland police took Williams and fellow Benedictine High School football player Jon Huddles ton, both 18, to City Jail, but neither was charged, a police spokeswoman said.
Williams, committed to attend West Virginia University this fall, was held on suspicion of murder. Huddleston, a key defensive player on the state champion Benedictine team, was held on suspicion of aggravated murder.
Prosecutors are expected to consider charges against the teens today.
Police do not believe Williams or Huddleston fired the gun that killed teammate Lorenzo Hunter; rather, they say that the two took part in the holdup with Lorenzo and that the robbery led to his death.
Lorenzo, 16, was shot and killed about 2 a.m. April 16 near East 124th Street and Craven Avenue in Cleveland. Authorities said Lorenzo was hanging out with friends during his spring break when he tried to rob a neighborhood man with a phony gun.
The 20-year-old man, Rodney Roberts, opened fire with a real one. Roberts lived just a few doors from the shooting scene. He was charged last week with aggravated murder. At a court hearing, his lawyers said Roberts was being robbed when he shot Lorenzo in self-defense.
On Monday, police picked up Williams and Huddleston while they were at the self-proclaimed "Home of Champions" all-boys school on Martin Luther King Drive.
The school's principal, the Rev. Gerald Gonda, said in a statement that in compliance with school policy, Williams and Huddleston were suspended indefinitely and barred from all school activities.
"The sad events of the past week have been difficult for our school community to understand," Gonda said in the statement. "On a day-to-day basis, these students did not have disciplinary problems in school. As stated in a letter sent home last week to parents of current students, only God knows the minds and hearts of those who make choices that may seem senseless to us. As a school family and in keeping with our faith, we continue to pray for all those impacted by this tragedy."
Police took Williams and Huddleston away quietly. Their teammates were stunned by the news. They said Williams, Huddleston and Hunter were best friends.
"I'm extremely shocked because friends don't do that to friends, and they were more than just friends," placekicker Sam Koyl said. "Those three were like brothers."
Senior linebacker Joe Schaefer doesn't believe the accusations are true.
"There's no way this is true," Schaefer said. "Ray and Jon have always been good friends, and when Lorenzo came in as a freshman, they immediately took him in like family."
No one at the Huddleston home or the home of Williams' mother returned phone calls.
Both teens are top athletes, although Williams is better known. Huddleston lives with his brother and mother a block from the shooting scene. Coaches had credited the 6-foot-2, 170-pound cornerback for his positive attitude.
He broke his femur while making a tackle during a scrimmage in 2002 but followed a rigid rehabilitation program and was back on the field last fall. In October, head football coach Art Bortnick marveled at Huddleston's recovery. Huddleston said at the time that he hoped to play for a Division I college and dreamed of becoming a physical therapist.
Williams, a 5-foot-11, 185-pound running back, led Benedictine to a state title last season. He holds the school's all- time records for rushing yards (7,045), touchdowns (89) and points (538).
Besides winning the Mr. Football award as Ohio's best high school player, he was one of nine running backs selected to Parade Magazine's All-America High School Football Team. He also was The Plain Dealer's Offensive Player of the Year and a two-time Ohio Division III Offensive Player of the Year.
But his home life has been less than ideal. He lived with his uncle but also has lived with his mother, Carolyn Williams, in Cleveland. Williams' father deserted him and Carolyn before Williams was 3 years old. Williams has said his grandfather, Raymond Stephon Williams, stepped in and became like a father to him.
"He did a lot for me," Williams said last summer. "I try to help the other guys like he helped me and my friends."
Plain Dealer reporters Bob Fortuna and John P. Coyne contributed to this story.
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Since when is self defense aggravated murder?
Do not bring a phony gun to a gun fight.
Rodney Roberts pulled out a real gun and shot Lorenzo Hunter.
I ask, why is Rodney Roberts being charged with aggravated murder?
Maybe you should re-read the article.
Perps are protected species...
Plain Dealer Reporter
Two Benedictine High School football stars have confessed to taking part in a botched robbery that left a teammate dead and will beg for the state's mercy, a lawyer for one of them says.
City prosecutors filed murder and aggravated-robbery charges Wednesday against Raymond Williams, who won Ohio's Mr. Football honor last year as the state's outstanding prep star, and Jon Huddleston, a defensive back on the state-champion team. If convicted, the Cleveland teens would face at least 15 years to life in prison.
Police say the two and 16-year-old Lorenzo Hunter tried to rob a 20-year-old man with a fake gun around 2 a.m. April 16, only to see the intended victim pull a gun, fire and kill Lorenzo as Huddleston and Williams ran.
Pat D'Angelo, Huddleston's lawyer, said both youths spoke with Benedictine counselors, then agreed to give police oral and written statements without attorneys present.
"They made statements to investigators that expose themselves to liability," D'Angelo said Wednesday. "We're contrite, remorseful and saddened that someone died."
D'Angelo said he reviewed statements from both defendants and understands that Williams brandished the phony gun during the stickup of Rodney Roberts near East 124th Street and Craven Avenue.
Roberts is in jail on a murder charge, but claims self-defense. The city is expected to forward the cases to Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason. His office will present the results to a grand jury, which will decide what felony charges, if any, the defendants will face.
"The interest of justice would be promoted by an agreed-upon resolution between the state and the two young men," D'Angelo said. "A call for compassion, reason and good judgment is warranted. They didn't go out with the intention to kill anyone. They're 18-year-old men with good records. . . . You just hope their entire lives aren't destroyed by this."
Wednesday, police Cmdr. Ed Tomba said the murder charges are warranted even though neither Huddleston nor Williams fired the fatal shots. Under state law, they are responsible for Lorenzo's death because they evidently took willful part in criminal conduct that led to it, Tomba said.
D'Angelo and Case Western Reserve University law professor Joseph Rutigliano will represent Huddleston as the two youths appear in Cleveland Municipal Court this morning to enter perfunctory not-guilty pleas and have bonds set.
Williams still had no attorney Wednesday, D'Angelo said, but the court would assign him one if he still had none today.
Tomba said detectives were investigating an account of the events that several of the players' acquaintances have volunteered: that the three teens believed Roberts would be flush with drug money and an easy mark who wouldn't resist. Tomba wouldn't discuss who wielded the fake gun, which he said "looked real."
He added he is "not at liberty to discuss" whether Williams, Huddleston or Lorenzo had juvenile records. Neither of the two defendants has been convicted in adult court since turning 18.
D'Angelo describes Huddleston as "a nice young man who got caught up in tragic circumstances."
The Rev. Gerard Gonda, Benedictine's principal, said the allegations didn't jibe with the positive experiences the 440-student boys' school had with Williams and Huddleston.
"As a faith community, we are called to hate the alleged sin and love the alleged sinner, so we continue to offer prayerful support to the students and their families in the weeks ahead," he said.
Williams, a 5-foot-11, 185-pound running back, holds records at the venerable athletic powerhouse with 7,045 rushing yards, 89 touchdowns and 538 points. He was The Plain Dealer's Offensive Player of the Year and a Parade All-American. He had accepted a scholarship to West Virginia University.
Wednesday, the university withdrew its scholarship offer, said West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez.
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Lila J. Mills
Plain Dealer Reporter
They were a band of brothers on the football field, but that night for some fathomless reason they played a different game on the streets.
About 2 a.m. on April 16, the trio of Benedictine High School athletes drove to brick-paved Craven Avenue at East 124th Street, about two miles from school and a block from the home of one of the teens.
They targeted two men who had just pulled to the curb in an older-model Cutlass Oldsmobile. They thought the driver, 20-year-old Rodney Roberts, might have money and drugs. They also thought Roberts, who had a reputation in the neighborhood as laid-back and quiet, would be an easy target.
"They were cocky," one law enforcement source said. "They were on a rush. You can bet they didn't think it would turn into a shooting."
What happened next, according to law-enforcement sources, happened fast:
Roberts had just returned from his girlfriend's house and was parking his car outside his home. Within seconds, sophomore Lorenzo Hunter was at Roberts' side while 18-year-old Raymond Williams went around to the passenger side.
Both aimed phony guns, believed to be replicas of 9mm weapons. Jon Huddleston was nearby. One of them demanded cash.
The passenger reached into his pocket and threw loose cash out the window.
At that moment, the teen football standouts might have walked away untouched, with untarnished reputations and unlimited potential.
But Lorenzo went a step further.
He ordered Roberts out of the car, authorities said. He may have intended to pat down Roberts and search the car for cash, but that never happened. As Roberts got out, he pulled a handgun and fired.
Williams and Huddleston took off running, Roberts and his friend left, and Lorenzo lay in the street bleeding, soon to be dead from three gunshot wounds.
Police said the trio did not drink or take drugs that night but were just hanging out during their spring break from school.
Some suspect the older teens came up with the plan on a whim and Lorenzo got involved because he idolized them.
"It's ironic," Burke said. "His love for football and his friends might have caused him to make a decision like that."
Within four days, Roberts turned himself in to homicide detectives Denise Kovach and James Gajowski and is in jail on an aggravated-murder charge, claiming self-defense.
Williams and Huddleston were arrested last Monday while in classes at Benedictine. The two now are out on bond facing murder and aggravated robbery charges that could bring life sentences. The school has suspended both indefinitely.
Since the robbery ended in the shooting death, the two students face more serious charges, prosecutors say.
Last week, Huddleston and Williams gave statements admitting culpability. Pat D'Angelo, Huddleston's lawyer, said he hopes for a fair resolution.
Williams' lawyer, William Dawson, said they had no intention to rob anyone. It was just a joke that had snowballed. "A lot of work has to be done before anyone throws themselves on the mercy of the court," he said.
In the aftermath, mentors and friends of the Benedictine teens are shaken and grief-stricken: How could the three, who had so much going for them, end up taken down by the streets they'd been counseled to avoid?
Glenville football and track coach Ted Ginn Sr., who met Williams through his son, mourned. "What we try to do with the children is keep them away from these kinds of situations," he said. "This is a sad day for me."
All of the teens had seemed headed in the right direction. Williams, Ohio's Mr. Football, and Huddleston were to graduate May 24. And Lorenzo, 16, was a rising star on the school's championship football team and a solid student.
They had been tight since Lorenzo entered the small school on a 20-acre wooded campus in 2002. One classmate said they were like brothers.
None had a juvenile record or disciplinary problems, although Williams had academic trouble and had received tutoring.
Still, Williams was to attend West Virginia University in Morgantown, where his grandfather was raised. One source said Williams had been looking for landscaping jobs, but had no luck because of the weather.
Williams' old friend, Donte Whitner, who plays football at Ohio State, was stunned to hear of the arrest. The two had played on the same municipal youth league team for three years.
"I'd give him the ball [back then] and with somebody in his face, Ray would cut right, cut left, then cut it back right and he was gone 80 yards for a touchdown," Whitner remembered.
Whitner said Williams, who then attended Kirk Middle School in East Cleveland, was a leader, generous and serious about football. He was known to develop his own conditioning regimen: instead of using high-tech machinery, he'd go to the beach to run on sand.
"He was just a kid trying to make it," Ginn said. "The sky was the limit for Ray."
Others said the same of Huddleston. The quietest of three brothers, Huddleston attended elementary school at St. Wenceslas in Maple Heights and played CYO football back then.
St. Wenceslas Principal Sharon Vejdovec said the Huddleston brothers are "soft-spoken, polite and respectful," raised properly by their parents.
"I saw Jon a few weeks ago," she said, "and it was still Yes ma'am, yes sir.' "
One neighbor, who refused to give his name, said the brothers sometimes kept company with loud and rowdy kids, but seemed like typical teens. Coaches marveled at his comeback after an injury sidelined him during his junior year. He stuck to a tough rehabilitation program and was back on the field last fall.
"It was like he never lost a step," one source said.
Lorenzo also was dedicated. He dreamed of going to college, winning the Heisman Trophy and playing in the NFL.
Melvin Burke, director of the Lonnie Burten Recreation Center on East 46th Street near Quincy Avenue, saw Lorenzo compete on the center's team in elementary school. Back then Lorenzo lived in public housing off East 55th Street near Quincy Avenue with his mom and siblings and attended St. Adalbert Elementary School on East 83rd Street. His mom was a strong role model, Burke said, and always volunteered at the center.
"Lorenzo had it all going," he said. "He was so focused for his age. When we get a guy like that at Lonnie Burten, we get overly protective."
Mike Powers, who works in the Youth Services Department at the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority, said he put Lorenzo on a weight-training program before his freshman year in hopes the boy wouldn't be behind some of the other kids, who were better off financially and able to hire weight trainers.
Lorenzo never missed a day of training that summer.
That fall, "he ended up being ahead of some of the other freshman football players," Powers said proudly. "His dream became my dream for him."
Now that dream is over. Powers and Burke were pallbearers at Lorenzo's funeral, and the question lingers: How did the lives of these focused teens take such a senseless turn?
Bob Fortuna contributed to this story.
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When Patrick DiPietro and other alumni from Benedictine High School heard about Lorenzo Hunter's death, they decided to help the family.
So they paid for his funeral. It's just the Benedictine way.
"Lorenzo was a great kid," says DiPietro, a 1985 alumnus and owner of a Twinsburg-based accounting firm. "I never saw a negative side to him."
As Lorenzo's family struggles to make sense of what has happened, the Benedictine school community deals with a tragedy and an uncomfortable spotlight. Supporters say Benedictine is known for its alumni base and that it is not surprising that former students would step in to help a family.
For the Hodakievics, Benedictine is a significant part of who they are, and what they have become.
Jim, Kerry, Al and Ron graduated from the 77-year-old Catholic school on the southeast side. The all-boys school, operated by monks from the Benedictine Order of Cleveland, serves about 400 students. Enrollment draws from the inner city and suburbs.
The Hodakievic brothers, who pursued coaching careers, competed for legendary coach Augie Bossu. In 1976, Ron was selected as "Mr. Benedictine."
"Nothing is going to bring back Lorenzo," says Al Hodakievic, who coached the football Bengals for four seasons, leading them to a 40-7 record and Division III state title in 1996. He's now varsity football coach at Twinsburg High School. "But for the other guys, you just hope the scenario doesn't turn out for the worse."
Ohio's Mr. Football, Raymond Williams, and all-district defensive back Jon Huddleston were charged Wednesday with murder and aggravated robbery. Another man, Rodney Roberts, claims self-defense after being charged with shooting Lorenzo, who police say was trying to rob the 20-year-old with a toy gun.
The recent events have stunned many, leaving them to make sense any way they can.
"But you know," said Bob Patton, Bengals basketball coach, "today's society is scary. There are so many things kids can get into. Heck, when we were growing up we had curfews and went home to three television channels. Today, kids have 300 channels they can watch and they all have cell phones."
Lorenzo's death has touched people beyond Benedictine. At Cleveland Central Catholic, Ron Hodakievic coaches kids who grew up in the same area as the three teammates. He has an assistant who is Williams' cousin.
"People are not infallible," Ron says. "But, hey, as coaches, adults and parents, we have to sit down with the kids and make them see what is out there. We have to take care of each other."
Many, like Jim Hodakievic and Glenn Novak, hang on to faith - a faith taught within Benedictine's walls and echoed through its alumni.
Jim Hodakievic, football coach at Bedford High School, holds a deep passion for Benedictine but says he realizes there is a chance Lorenzo's death and its circumstances could have a ripple effect on his alma mater. But Novak, recently inducted into Benedictine's Athletic Hall of Fame, believes the school can endure.
Benedictine football coach Art Bortnick "does a great job with the kids," Novak said. "But he can't be with them 24 hours a day. This is a terrible setback. But I am confident the school will rebound from it. . . . There are great people at Benedictine, and they will survive this."
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It takes one hell of a lawyer to say this with a straight face. Kerry should hire this man for his reelection campaign. At the very least he should find a great job with a wonderful pension working for the government.
Teens get probation for death
Benedictine ex-players regret robbery that got friend killed, judge says
Tuesday, November 23, 2004
John F. Hagan
Plain Dealer Reporter
Two promising high school athletes got a break Monday from a sentencing judge who placed them on five years' probation for their part in the shooting death of one of their buddies.
Raymond Williams and Jon Huddleston, both 18 and teammates on the 2003 Benedictine High School football team, faced stiff prison terms for causing the death of their friend and fellow classmate, Lorenzo Hunter, 16.
Prosecutors said the trio was trying to rob a drug dealer at East 124th Street and Craven Avenue on April 16. Lorenzo Hunter was shot four times by Rodney Roberts, 21, who was cleared by a grand jury in the shooting.
One of the boys was using a fake, but realistic-looking, handgun. The other may have had a real gun, prosecutors said at the sentencing, but it has never been located.
Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Shirley Strickland Saffold said Williams and Huddleston were "extremely remorseful" and placed them on probation, providing they attend college within six months and maintain a C-average. If they violate probation, they could be sentenced to three years in prison.
Williams has completed his high school course in Cleveland public schools but his graduation status is being reviewed by the school district. Huddleston's high school status is unclear.
"I don't believe these young men acted as adults," said Saffold at the end of a three-hour sentencing hearing. "They acted as children."
Saffold rejected prosecutors' arguments that Williams and Huddleston should receive prison sentences.
Assistant County Prosecutor Thomas Cahill said the robbery of the drug dealer was well planned. "This was cold and this was calculated," said Cahill, who implored Saffold not to place the two on probation.
Added his fellow prosecutor, Frankie Goldberg: "This was not a random act of violence. This was not child's play. This was not kids being kids. This was thrill-seeking."
Saffold had little sympathy for Roberts, who was considered a victim of a robbery. She referred to him as a "quick-fingered" dope dealer. Prosecutors said he fired his gun nine times in all.
Hunter's mother, Cheryl Tucker, listened to a parade of witnesses, including family and friends who described Williams and Huddleston as good kids who made a terrible mistake one night. She told the judge she wanted justice in her son's death.
"I'm just mad," she said softly through tears. "I miss my son."
She was also angry, she said, that after her son was shot, Williams and Huddleston left him on the street. "They're not as innocent as they're being made out to be," she said.
Prosecutors said the shooting occurred after Hunter approached Roberts' car indicating he wanted to buy marijuana, according to prosecutors. But Roberts spurned the request.
Huddleston was about 100 feet away, when Williams and Hunter drew guns, one of which was a replica weapon and the other of which has never been found.
Roberts threw money at them and when Hunter ordered him out of the car, Roberts shot nine times, striking Hunter four times. The others ran.
Williams pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and aggravated robbery charges on Oct. 12. He could have received a maximum 20 years in prison.
Huddleston pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter on Nov. 4 and faced a possible 10-year prison term. However, the judge had the option of placing them on probation.
Prosecutors said Hunter, Williams and Huddleston were part of a group in three cars who set out to beat and rob people the night of April 16. Williams was portrayed by prosecutors as the leader.
Earlier in the evening, before the robbery that led to the shooting death, Williams slammed a teenage boy to the ground, prosecutors said. Then he and Hunter robbed him of $20 and a cell phone.
But defense lawyers and family members said their actions that night were aberrations and that they had not been in legal trouble previously. A long line of friends and family heaped praise on Williams and Huddleston.
"I don't find a mean spirit in these kids," Saffold said.
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