Richard was talented, a singer and dancer and artist who one day asked for as many coat hangers as the family could find, and when they delivered a pile to him, he sat and bent the wire into a sculpture of a monkey. It still hangs in a corner of Joyce’s living room.
If another of Priscilla’s children called her a name or referenced her addiction, Richard would defend her. He had been arrested himself a handful of times on minor drug charges, and so when he proposed to his mother a move south, he also said that when he was settled, he’d return to pick her up.
The night before Richard was stabbed, Priscilla says, he called and talked about the future. He said he wanted to visit to Akron soon, and when it was time to drive back to Atlanta, he wanted Priscilla in the car with him.
‘It was just blocked out’
“This is it right here,” she says, pointing at the entrance sign at Glendale Cemetery. She sits in the passenger seat as the car turns in.
For years, Priscilla refused to discuss her son in the past tense. She told herself that he was still alive. Still in Atlanta, trying to make it as a barber. When relatives put birthday announcements in the newspaper, Priscilla would see them and feel nothing, because without acknowledgement of her son’s death, there was nothing to feel.
“It was just blocked out,” she says. “I’m still thinking he’s in Atlanta, and that’s where I want him to stay.”
Other family members endured their emotions’ cruel spectrum. Joyce, Richard’s grandmother, loathed the men she believed to be involved in her grandson’s death. Master Lollar, one of Richard’s younger brothers, was angry and introspective; he still wants to look Ray Lewis in the eye and ask him what he knows and how he feels. Faye found herself rattled by the mention of Richard’s name; when a bank employee asked about Richard’s death as she was filling out a job application, she looked at her handwriting and saw a nervous and unfamiliar scrawl.
“I just had to ask God to take the animosity out of me,” Faye says.
Priscilla, though, says she felt none of these things. When relatives refused to watch a television with Lewis pictured on it, Priscilla went about her business.
“I don’t think nothing of him,” she says. “I didn’t hate him. I didn’t do none of that.”
About a year ago, Priscilla was talking about Richard when a friend stopped her. Did Priscilla realize that she had just referred to her son in the past tense? Did she know that she had, moments earlier, acknowledged that Richard had passed away?
Later, Priscilla considered visiting the grave. She was getting older, and she didn’t want her life to end, whenever it might happen, with this debt to herself outstanding. But there’s a deep valley between considering this and taking the steps toward knowing where Richard is buried.
“I never did know where it was at,” she says. “I never asked.”
The woman at the cemetery office says Priscilla’s son is buried somewhere in section 19A — on top of a hill, as Faye had remembered.
The car stops near a curb, still idling. Priscilla doesn’t know what this will be like for her. What will she feel? Perhaps worse, what if she still feels nothing?
“I’m thinking more and more, and I can handle it,” she says. “I can handle it now.”
She opens the door.
On Feb. 3, Lewis will be introduced in New Orleans and will play in his second Super Bowl. He said before the playoffs that he’ll retire after this season, and in five years, he will be eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, which is headquartered in Canton, Ohio, less than 25 miles from the home where Richard Lollar grew up.
In the years since Lollar’s death Lewis has become one of football’s most beloved figures. He speaks openly about his faith in God, and his No. 52 Ravens jersey is, according to NFLshop.com, one of its highest sellers. At the country’s most-viewed sporting event, most eyes will be on Lewis, who most assuredly will be compared with a warrior making his heroic last stand.
“I don’t want to hear that,” Faye Lollar says, “because he’s not no hero to me.”
Four years after the killings, Lewis settled two civil suits for undisclosed sums, although it is believed that Richard’s fiancee, KellyeSmith, who was pregnant with their daughter when Richard died, received at least $1 million. Baker’s late grandmother — he wasn’t married and had no children, and his parents had died before his own death — also is thought to have received about $1 million in a settlement. The settlements reportedly included a confidentiality clause.
Lewis has denied involvement in the murders, saying in the past that he’s being blamed because of his name and NFL career. Faye Lollar says she believes Lewis possesses that big name, at least in part, because of what happened outside Atlanta’s Cobalt Lounge and, later, in courthouses.