Killer of Florida Gay Man Ryan Skipper Found Guilty on All Counts
Joseph Bearden, the first of two men accused in the hate crime murder of Ryan Keith Skipper, has been found guilty on all counts. A jury found Bearden guilty of second-degree murder, theft of a motor vehicle, accessory after the fact to robbery with a weapon, tampering with evidence, and dealing in stolen property.
UPDATE: Bearden sentenced to life in prison. "Prosecutors charged him with first degree murder, but jurors could not find him guilty on that count, or a lesser charge of 2nd degree murder with a weapon."
In March 2007, Skipper's body was found by the side of a rural road in central Florida 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.
Bearden, 21, and William David Brown Jr., 20, were later arrested and indicted for the killing. A witness brought in by authorities at the time told police that Brown had killed Skipper because he was gay.
Brown is to be tried at a later date on charges of first-degree murder and robbery.
Skipper's parents, Lynn and Pat Mulder, and brother Damien, have become active since his death in pushing for hate crimes legislation. In November 2007, the Mulders created a PSA for Equality Florida. They also submitted a question during the YouTube presidential debates.
Watch as the verdict is read, AFTER THE JUMP...