Former football player accused of murder set to testify in stand-your-ground hearing

South Florida Sun Sentinel

Mar 07, 2022 6:27 PM

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A former college and NFL football player accused of murder will take the witness stand Tuesday hoping to persuade a Palm Beach County judge that he was defending his life as well as his brother’s when he grabbed an AR-15 rifle and opened fire on four men that he had been brawling with in his yard.

One of the men died of multiple gunshot wounds.

Travis Rudolph, who attended Cardinal Newman High in West Palm Beach and Florida State University and briefly played in the NFL, maintains he was standing his ground when 21-year-old Sebastien Jean-Jacques was killed after being struck by a torrent of gunfire.

The state’s Stand Your Ground law says a person has no duty to retreat when threatened but rather has a right to stand his or her ground. It offers immunity from prosecution for individuals who resort to force within parameters of the law.

12/7/2013: Portrait of football player Travis Rudolph of Cardinal Newman High School.

12/7/2013: Portrait of football player Travis Rudolph of Cardinal Newman High School. (Mark Randall / Sun Sentinel)

Rudolph has been charged with one count of first-degree murder and three counts of attempted murder in the April 7, 2021, killing outside a Lake Park home.

The hearing reconvened Monday with the state calling on a lead detective, two crime scene experts from the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, and a doctor and a forensic investigator from the Palm Beach County Medical Examiner’s Office. Should Judge Gillen side with Rudolph, then there will be no trial and the case will be dismissed.

Sebastien Jean-Jacques, 21, was killed in Lake Park on April 7.

Sebastien Jean-Jacques, 21, was killed in Lake Park on April 7. (Dominique Jean-Jacques)

Marc Shiner, Rudolph’s defense attorney, said he and Rudolph are confident the state will fail to make a case that Rudolph was not standing his ground.

After the shooting, one of the men raced off on foot. Investigators followed a trail of blood that led to the discovery of a 9 mm gun.

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On Monday the judge was shown more than 10 photographs from the autopsy that reveal 10 distinct wounds on Jean-Jacques’ body. He was shot in the back of the neck, the back and side. He died inside a Cadillac on the way to St. Mary’s Hospital in West Palm Beach.

Court records allege Rudolph and his girlfriend had been arguing earlier and she contacted her brother and another man, asking them to come to Lake Park and “Shoot his [expletive deleted] up.”

Footage from a Ring camera shows Jean-Jacques and three other men approaching the Rudolph home. Rudolph, according to court records, maintains he saw one of the men pull a gun and point it at his brother. That’s when he went inside and grabbed the AR-15, court records say. A crime scene investigator on Monday said 39 shell casings from the same caliber rifle were found within 311 feet of the Rudolph home.

Rudolph’s brother and sister are also scheduled to testify tomorrow.

Eileen Kelley can be reached at 772-925-9193 or Follow on Twitter @reporterkell.

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