FORMER GEORGETOWN coach John Thompson once prominently displayed a deflated basketball in his office to remind the young men who came to see him that the dream of becoming a professional athlete usually falls flat, so they should plan accordingly and not let their hopes outstrip reality. If authorities in Centre County, Pa., are correct, that same lesson has now been driven home, tragically, by LaVon Chisley, a former Penn State defensive lineman who made dangerous assumptions about a pro career, spent thousands of dollars he had not earned and now stands accused of murder.
On Jan. 16, Chisley, 23, was arrested and charged with killing Langston Carraway, a 26-year-old Penn State student and a friend of Chisley's, last June. It was a particularly grisly crime: Carraway's mutilated body was found on a couch in his State College apartment, riddled with 93 stab wounds. Carraway was last seen alive two days earlier by one of his brothers, who also happened to be Chisley's housemate.
According to Centre County district attorney Michael Madeira, Chisley, who could face the death penalty, was in deep debt to sports agents who lent him cash with the expectation that they would be repaid when he was drafted. (Chisley, who was booted off the Penn State team before the 2005 season for academic reasons, worked out for NFL scouts last March but was never drafted.) One unidentified agent told investigators that Chisley owed him $10,000; another said he paid a $5,000 bill Chisley owed for a damaged rental car and a $6,000 tab he ran up with a veterinarian. According to police interviews, Chisley owes thousands to various creditors: $2,200 to a breeder from whom Chisley bought two dogs, $3,000 to a tattoo artist and $20,000 to an unidentified doctor.
Madeira said that robbery in an effort to pay those debts "is a motive being investigated." According to a police affidavit, a rubber glove with Carraway's blood on the outside and Chisley's DNA on the inside was found at the crime scene. (On the day Carraway was last seen he was reportedly wearing an expensive watch and carrying a large wad of cash; both were missing from his apartment when he was discovered.) Police also say a bloody print that matches the size of Chisley's shoes was found. Chisley's lawyer, however, disputes the charges. "He can't reconcile why it is he is being charged," said Karen Muir, who cited his voluntary surrender to police last week as a sign that he is innocent. "He is saddened at ... the loss of a friend."