Broken heart, busted wallet: Slain football player's mom faces bankruptcy

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While the economic downturn has offered plenty of sad stories, Donna Junor's tale is particularly painful. It begins with the death of her son, Sean Taylor.

In 2007, Taylor was still in the early stages of what promised to be a long and glorious football career. A first-round pick in the 2004 draft, he signed a seven-year $18 million contract with the Washington Redskins, and became the team's starting free safety after the third game of the season. He quickly gained a reputation as an outstanding athlete, and in 2006 was named to the 2007 Pro Bowl. For Donna Junor, these were good times, as her son was quick to share his good fortune, giving large checks and bags of money to family members.
Everything changed on November 26, 2007. At 1:45 AM, an armed intruder broke into Taylor's Florida home and shot the football player in his leg. The bullet struck his femoral artery and, despite several hours of surgery, Taylor died at the hospital on November 27. He never regained consciousness.

Taylor died without a will, and most of his estate went to his daughter. His father took possession of the contents of a $328,000 joint account that he shared with the football player, and Taylor's sister received the proceeds of a $650,000 life insurance policy. His mother, however, received nothing.

In a preview of the tragedies that would later strike millions of beleaguered homeowners, Donna Junor found herself unable to afford the trappings of luxury that she had purchased in better times. Her $220,000 townhouse, which she bought in 2005 with money that Taylor gave her, requires her to pay dues to a homeowners' association. Since his death, she has struggled to make the payments; Junor currently owes them more than $1,400, and they have threatened to take her to court.

The taxes on Junor's home are even more devastating. She is $3,000 in arrears, and another $3,000 is coming due soon. While she is currently working as a substitute teacher, she has not been able to find a full-time teaching job, and her salary isn't large enough to cover the costs of her townhouse. Talking about her money woes, Junor said "I'm not looking for a handout, but I just don't think when you have a son in the NFL who was so progressive, his mother should end up this way. I don't feel I should be left out in the cold like this."

All of this points to a painful conclusion: like many victims of the recession, Junor is going to have to change her lifestyle to make ends meet. What makes her pain different, however, is that Junor's reduced options will carry the memory of a son who loved her well, but was cut down too soon.

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