Crime | Florida | News | Ryan Keith Skipper

Florida Men Indicted for Murder of Gay Man

Skipper_2Joseph Eli Bearden, 21, and William David Brown Jr., 20, the two men held in connection with the killing of Ryan Skipper, 25, which I posted about last week, were indicted yesterday on charges of first degree murder and robbery with a deadly weapon. If convicted, both could face the death penalty.

Skipper's body was found by the side of the road with more than 20 stab wounds. His car and laptop had been stolen. The car was abandoned and recovered by authorites, who reported that the assailants had attempted to set it on fire but did not succeed. They had also cut out a seat belt because it was so bloody they couldn't clean it.

Lakeland, Florida's The Ledger published a profile on Ryan Skipper today, along with a detailed timeline of the events which allegedly lead up to the young man's murder.

BeardenAccording to police reports, a witness brought in by authorities told them that Brown had killed Skipper because he was gay.

According to The Ledger, "Though the Sheriff's Office is investigating Skipper's murder as a hate crime, that fact will not weigh on the prosecution of Brown and Bearden. Designating a crime as hate-motivated is a 'sentencing enhancement,' not a separate charge, which means it makes the punishment more severe for the crime committed, Chip Thullbery, spokesman for the State Attorney's Office, said Wednesday. In Florida, the designation doesn't apply to life or capital felonies because the punishments for those charges - either life in prison or execution - are the most severe, and therefore can not be enchanced. 'There is no such thing as a hate crime first-degree murder, by the law,' he said."

Many of the details offered by the defendants in the case have been disputed by those who knew Skipper well — that he was out looking to pick someone up, and that he had smoked marijuana and laid out a plan to commit check fraud with Skipper's laptop computer.

BrownThe Ledger: "[Skipper's best friend Stephanie] Strickland disputes this account, saying that Skipper did not use illegal drugs and did not own a laptop computer. It is a portrayal that has deeply hurt Strickland, who said her friend was simply too trusting and naive. Instead of Skipper picking up Bearden, a more likely scenario, she said, is that Brown was waiting for Skipper when he arrived home. She said Brown knew a previous tenant at the house, and had come looking for him soon after Skipper moved in. Strickland said Skipper's roommates told her that Brown, who lives two blocks away from Skipper's home, had since come around several times on a bicycle in the weeks before Skipper's death, asking about him, what he was doing, when he would come home. 'The only thing I can understand about it is that he trusted these people enough to give them a ride somewhere," she said.'"

A co-worker and friend, Karl von Hahmann, told The Ledger that Skipper had entered a particularly solid period in his life: "He...mentioned to me that he was the happiest he had ever been. Things were just starting to go right for him. He had just come into a comfort zone that was unbelievable."

An arraignment date has not yet been set for the two killers.

2 Men Indicted in Wahneta Man's Death [the ledger]
Sheriff Calls His Stabbing Death a Hate Crime [the ledger]

Two Held in Brutal Murder of Gay Florida Man [tr]

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  1. This absolutely breaks my heart. Like Skipper, I grew up in Winter Haven, graduated from Winter Haven High. But I got out as soon as I could, too provincial, too backwards for me. It's a beautiful community, but I couldn't live there anymore. My heart goes out to Skipper's friends and family.

    Posted by: Joseph | Mar 30, 2007 10:18:24 AM

  2. It's still one hot, sick shame that these alleged heterosexual boobs with small penises think that every gay man wants them. The hatred of gay men started at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, and is out of control. gay men and women have got to be careful at all times, sadly in 2007, your life depends on it no matter who you are dealing with, especially if you are the type who picks up trade. Your life isn't worth 2 minutes of sex.

    I wonder if Florida which will usually send a person of color to the chair for murder, will do so in this case? This is a hate crime, but, I bet they will not have a jury that will see it that way.

    Posted by: Luke | Mar 30, 2007 10:35:11 AM

  3. Just a stylistic/legal note: the accused have not yet been convicted, so Andy you should probably wait until the verdict is handed down before referring to them as "the two killers".

    Posted by: Donald | Mar 30, 2007 11:03:27 AM

  4. SCOTUS, by 8-1 (I think) threw out sentencing enhancements unless the jury makes a ruling on the circumstances, and this would apply to death penalty cases too. Does anyone know if FL hate crimes include sexual orientation?

    Now the motivation for this crime seems a bit vague at this point. Were they high? Was it some sort of gay panic? Were they all involved in drug dealing? It's not adding up. The details of the lives of the defendants somes into play now.

    Posted by: anon | Mar 30, 2007 12:31:20 PM

  5. i am stephanie strickland ... my heart hurts for Ryan i cannot stop thinking about what they put him through .... Ryan was the most beautiful person to ever come into my life ... he was loved by friends and family very much .... my own family loved him like he was their own son... i wish that there were harsher punishments for hate crimes .... an innocent person was killed simply for being who he was ... my life will never be the same without him and when i say that i speak for everyone who knew and loved Ryan....we will never forget what a great person he was ... my concern now is that these guys who did this to Ryan to get the death penalty ... it wont bring Ryan back but it will prove that people can't just kill someone because of their sexuality... the message that this has to stop has got to get out there ... i am doing all that i can to get the media involved in this and get it out there that Ryan was a wonderful person and he was taken from us for something so stupid... i never knew that hate for someone could be so strong simply because of sexuality and i truly feel that gays and lesbians should be able to be who they are and not have to worry about being hated for it ... i wish the world could see that gay people are not just gay ..they are real people with real feelings, friends, families, and goals... Ryan had big dreams and he was following his dreams and his life was stolen from him just because of some ignorant f*cks who had no life themselves ... they were young men with long arrest records ...why were they not in prison already...

    Posted by: stephanie | Mar 30, 2007 12:50:36 PM

  6. I have to agree with ANON.
    This isn't adding up.Theres something to this situation that has'nt come out.
    Could we specualate a sex triangle here....
    or perhaps a sex affair between one of the defendants and the victim?
    After all it would'nt be the first time a supposed "straight" guy.Got caught playing on the downlow and used violence to try and "clear" himself.
    Now before I get attacked.I'm not saying anything accusatory.
    It just isn't adding up the way it is.
    A murder is a terrible loss regardless of the reason.
    And at such a young age...very sad.

    Posted by: griffin1573 | Mar 30, 2007 1:03:35 PM

  7. Thanks Stephanie. So sorry for the loss of your friend...

    Posted by: andy | Mar 30, 2007 2:15:17 PM

  8. As an activist friend mentioned to me, this case has so many sad, enraging echoes of Matthew Shepards murder. Two White Trash assailants of dubious intelligence. Homophobia mixed with robbery. "Overkill"—around 20 stab wounds on Skipper; at least 18 separate crushing blows to Matthew's skull plus kicks to his groin strong enough to leave bruise marks [pantomime 18 or 20 blows and you'll get the anger required to go that far]; rivers of blood—Matthew's face was caked with it, except for streaks left by his tears.

    Did Matthew make an unwanted pass at his killers? First they said he did, then they said they made it up, yet Elizacunt Vargas, on that heinous 2004 ABC special, shamelessly insisted Matthew offered to trade drugs for sex.

    Did Skipper make an unwanted pass at his killers? Doesn't matter. If every woman killed every man who made an unwanted pass at her, their would be few straight men left alive.

    The "gay panic defense" is less successful than it once was but it NEVER should be. It has been effectively outlawed in California with the Gwen Araujo Justice for Victims Act named after the transgender teenager who brutally murdered by three men who claimed it was in response to discovering she was biologically he with whom two had had sex.

    Posted by: Leland | Mar 30, 2007 3:48:15 PM


    He was killed because he was gay.
    He was killed because he was gay.
    He was killed because he was gay.
    He was killed because he was gay.
    He was killed because he was gay.
    He was killed because he was gay.

    How many times do I have to say it? He was killed because he was gay. Time and time again the police say murders of gay people are motivated by robbery. NO, NO, NO!!! They are motivated by hate. The robberies occur after the murder. Robbery is an afterthought.

    These two didn't steal anything from Skipper. They used his car to dispose of the body then tried to torch it. If they were trying to rob him they would have taken stuff. They didn't.

    Posted by: Jack! | Mar 30, 2007 4:41:57 PM

  10. If these two crackers even come close to the death penalty.....I will win the Mega-Millions jackpot and regain all the hair I have lost on the back of my head.

    Posted by: Mattelboy | Mar 30, 2007 5:27:50 PM

  11. We all sympathize with you, Stephanie.

    The parallels to M. Shepard are pretty clear, though this isn't getting national attention.

    Gay panic can certainly be a motive, but should not be an excuse. I read the whole article, and it's either bad reporting or something more needs uncovering. I don't think the police are covering up anything--they are already seeking the death penalty! Hopefully a clear motive will come to light.

    Now, the Vargas interview uncovered that MS's killer were craving meth that night, and so very prone to violence. She also uncovered some unsavory aspects of Matt's past and that he knew the killers. It's also implied that one of the killers might have been bi. Thus, robbery and self-hatred could easily have been motives, tipped off by drugs. They were captured when they got into yet another brawl a few hours later. That, and MS was the second "potential" victim that night--the first target was a drug dealer who didn't show up. Matt hung out with the wrong crowd and was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I doubt anyone envied him, but his self-acceptance (from what we can tell) may have angered his hopped-up self-loathing bi killer. Where is the best reporting on this topic? If not Vargas, then who?

    Posted by: anon | Mar 30, 2007 9:52:49 PM

  12. Um, to be clear, Vargas didn't "uncover" nearly as many things as you claim Anon. "Made up" would be more accurate. Her report absolutely contradicts the murderers' own sworn testimony, is not consistant with the in depth police investigation that was done and simply do not match up with known facts. Additionally, the investigators directly involved in the case COMPLETELY dispute MANY of Vargas' "findings" and called her report poorly and sloppily investigated with many easily discredited theories presented as fact, and a shameful rewriting of the events, after the fact, to get a person out of jail who has YET to show any real remorse (short of his Vargas interview performance) for his actions.

    Posted by: Zeke | Mar 30, 2007 10:23:01 PM

  13. "Where is the best reporting on this topic? If not Vargas, then who?"

    Try "Losing Matt Shepard" by Beth Loffreda, whose book is largely an attempt to place his killing in it's social context. Vargas' story (and I have to believe Stossel too since the ABC piece fairly reeks of him even though his name isn't officially on it), such as it is, is a tale largely woven out of thin air, and the killer's latest version of events, and nothing more. It is so thoroughly contradicted by the record, the evidence, and the investigators themselves, that you have to figure the only people who are buying into it, are the ones who have some need to see that poor kid smeared, and his killers excused for some pathetic internal reason. Whether it's something like Andrew Sullivan's knee jerk contempt for the activist community that rallied against hate crimes in the wake of Shepard's killing, or outright homophobia matters barely, if at all. The point is the ABC/Vargas' tale is so spectacularly false on its face you have to want to buy it, in order to buy it.

    ABC and Vargas' have succeeded in one thing though, and you can see it in the case of Ryan Skipper with sickening clarity. The meme that gay victims of violent crime always, somehow, bring it on themselves, were idiots who should have seen it coming, went cruising for guys who have "I Kill Faggots" tattooed on their foreheads, fell prey to a kind of crime that the rest of us need not worry about, because We're Smart And We Don't Do Things Like That, will probably live on for quite some time to come. Hate crime laws are unnecessary, because the victims of these kinds of crimes are always stupid. There is no epidemic of violence against gay people, just an epidemic of stupidity. You are now free to look the other way. Pay no attention to that blood on the doesn't concern you...

    Posted by: Bruce Garrett | Apr 6, 2007 8:20:59 AM

  14. Thats one less fag we have to worry abought. I say those two guys should be let go for helping out their community.

    Posted by: Greg | Sep 4, 2009 2:47:11 PM

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