In March 2007, 25-year-old Ryan Keith Skipper was murdered in central Florida, his body discovered with 20 stab wounds. Two men were arrested — William Brown Jr. and Joseph Bearden — and after telling police they murdered Skipper because of unwanted sexual advances, their charges were elevated to hate crime. They face the death penalty. And yesterday, the prosecution began its trial against Bearden, hoping jurors will sentence him to it.
Investigators have said Bearden made derogatory remarks to others about Skipper’s being gay. But in opening statements, prosecutors focused on the robbery of Skipper as the motive for the killing.
Wearing a black suit, Bearden conferred quietly with his two lawyers. During opening statements, defense lawyers hinted Bearden would take the witness stand.
Since his arrest, Bearden has gotten numerous tattoos. A teardrop appeared to drip from his right eye. Large markings decorate the areas above and below his left eye. Others peeked out from the collar and cuffs of his gray dress shirt.
Assistant State Attorney Cass Castillo told jurors Skipper was killed on a dark, secluded stretch of rural roadway. The prosecutor noted some of Skipper’s blood was left behind inside his car. But the largest amount was on the roadway, showing the most severe injuries were inflicted outside the vehicle, Castillo said. [Ledger]