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Lewis faces murder charge

Ravens linebacker charged in stabbing deaths of two men in Atlanta hours after Super Bowl.

Police charged Pro Bowl linebacker Ray Lewis with murder late Monday in the slayings of two people outside a nightclub hours after the Super Bowl.

Lewis, a middle linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens and the NFL's leading tackler this season, was arrested after a day of investigation into the killings outside the Cobalt lounge in the Buckhead neighborhood about 4 a.m. Monday.

Lewis was taken into custody and was expected to appear in court this morning.

Lewis is from Bartow and played at Lakeland Kathleen High and the University of Miami.

Police spokesman John Quigley would not say where Lewis was being held, whether he was charged with more than one count of murder and whether anyone else was charged.

Before the arrest, Lewis and his agents denied wrongdoing on Lewis' part.

Two men were stabbed during a fight that broke after a party at the club. Witnesses said six men had fought and argued with the victims. The men fled in a black Lincoln Navigator stretch limousine, firing at least five gunshots as they drove away.

Police found the vehicle, with New York license plates, in a parking lot behind a hotel near the shooting scene, Quigley said.

Quigley and Georgia Bureau of Investigation spokesman John Bankhead said they could not release details of the investigation.

Charles Cook, operating partner of the Cobalt Lounge, said the club closed about half an hour before the slayings and that no altercation occurred on the premises.

Earlier, Lewis said police questioned him and let him go. "I cooperated fully," he said. "As far as the situation, I have no comment."

One man died at the scene, and the other died at Grady Memorial Hospital. The Fulton County Medical Examiner's office identified the victims as Jacinta Baker, 21, and Richard Lollar, 24, both of Decatur.

Lewis became the second NFL player charged with murder in January. Carolina Panthers wide receiver Rae Carruth was charged with first-degree murder Jan. 4 in the shooting death of Cherica Adams, who was pregnant with their son. The Panthers released Carruth after he was charged.

Lewis is scheduled to stand trial in Baltimore (Md.) County next month on charges that he assaulted a woman in a Baltimore bar Nov. 30. The Ravens are concerned about the crowd Lewis associates with, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported. Management had expected to meet with Lewis when he returned from the Pro Bowl, the paper said.

When asked if he was concerned about his friends and his relationship with the Ravens, Lewis said: "It is something I will discuss with them, but not something I can talk about now."

When asked before being charged in Atlanta about the killings and the charges in Maryland, Lewis said: "The devil is busy, always after God's children. He is always trying to get you one way or another."

Baltimore drafted Lewis in the first round of the 1996 draft after leaving Miami following his junior season. He was the Ravens' MVP this season and in 1997.

"We're trying to gather as much information as we can," team spokesman Kevin Byrne said. "Frankly, most of the information we have received has been through the media. We have not spoken to Ray Lewis yet or his representative. We're waiting until we get more information until we comment."

Lewis had been scheduled to leave Atlanta on Monday morning for the Pro Bowl, to be played Sunday in Honolulu, but he had changed his flight to today when he found he was wanted for questioning, Byrne said.

Lewis was an All-American for the Hurricanes and finished second in the voting for the Butkus Award, given to the nation's top linebacker.

He has led the Ravens in tackles in each of the past four seasons and was tops in the league with 210 in 1997 and 167 this season.