Sexual orientation said to be motive in brutal Florida murder

On March 14, 2007 Ryan Skipper was brutally stabbed to death. His accused murderer is currently on trial in Florida and the jury is expected to rule on the case later today.
During his closing arguments, Assistant State Attorney Cass Castillo told jurors that Joseph Eli Bearden and William David Brown Jr. Brown picked Skipper as an easy target because he was gay. The Lakeland Ledger reports that the jury panel listened as Castillo wrapped up his case against Bearden.

Bearden faces charges of first-degree robbery, accessory after-the-fact, tampering with evidence and dealing in stolen property and first-degree murder in the Skipper case. William David Brown Jr.’s case is still awaiting his trial. Both men are facing a capital punishment sentence.

As the Lakeland Ledger reports:

“His life was less precious, less important, less significant than those of a heterosexual person,” Castillo said. “No one was going to come to his rescue,” Castillo said. “This place was selected as the place where Ryan Skipper would take his final breath.”

The jury is expected to have reached a verdict by today’s end.

Skipper, 25, was found on Morgan Road in Wahneta. The man bled to death after being stabbed 19 times.

Castillo said that the wounds to Skipper’s body showed that the crime was premeditated. He went on to state that the attack showed that Skipper’s murderers showed “hatred, contempt and utter disregard for another human being because he is gay.”

Skipper’s car was found abandoned on a boat ramp at Lake Pansy Road with the interior slightly burnt. Brown is said to have tried to burn the vehicle when he and Bearden could not find a buyer.

Bearden said he only helped to sell Skipper’s car and didn’t kill the man. He said that Ray Brown, cousin of William Brown, Jr., was the actual murderer.

Bearden and William Brown’s fingerprints were found in Sipper’s car while Ray Brown’s were not.

Castillo has dismissed the claims that Ray Brown was involved:

“It’s actually a despicable attempt at manipulation by blaming somebody that is innocent of murder,” Castillo said.

Bearden’s Defense Attorney Byron Hileman has questioned the credibility of state witnesses. The Orlando Sentinel reports:

“Virtually all civilian witnesses are folks who have lived in a world where drugs are the most important things,” Hileman said in his closing arguments. “The credibility of a great many witnesses is in question.”

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