Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Ryan Skipper's Killer Found Guilty of First-Degree Murder

Facing television cameras shortly after her son's killer was convicted, Pat Mulder told reporters Tuesday her son didn't deserve to die, and she encouraged people to fight against hatred.

"You have to make a stand," she said.

Mulder's son, Ryan Keith Skipper, was stabbed to death in March 2007 in what has been described as a hate crime.

Jurors spent about two hours deliberating Tuesday before finding William "Bill-Bill" Brown Jr. guilty of first-degree murder and robbery.

Prosecutors have argued Skipper, a gay student at Traviss Career Center in Lakeland, was considered an easy robbery target by Brown and his co-defendant, Joseph "Smiley" Bearden of Wahneta, because of his sexuality.

During a separate trial, Bearden, 24, was found guilty in February of second-degree murder and related charges. He was sentenced to life in prison.

Brown, 23, of Wahneta also faces life imprisonment at his Dec. 1 sentencing hearing.

Skipper's family let prosecutors forgo seeking the death penalty against Brown so his trial could go forward as planned.

Skipper's stepfather, Lynn Mulder, said the public will be protected if Brown is behind bars for life. He said the jury's decision demonstrates Skipper's killing was a hate crime.

"I think the first-degree murder verdict does show there was forethought, malice and planning," he said. "It was a hate crime."

Brian Winfield, a spokesman for the advocacy group Equality Florida, said the "overkill" assault against Skipper went beyond what was necessary for a robbery or even to kill him.

"The violence Ryan suffered is the most extreme expression of an all too common sentiment that gay and transgender people are worth less," he said.

Skipper's body was found about 1 a.m. March 14, 2007, around Morgan Road in Wahneta.

The 25-year-old Winter Haven man bled to death on the isolated, dark, dirt road. Autopsy results showed he had been stabbed and cut 19 times.

During Tuesday's closing arguments, Assistant State Attorney Cass Castillo said Bearden was interested in robbing Skipper, but Brown pushed things to murder.

Castillo played a secretly recorded video of Brown talking to detectives. He described the more than 40 minutes of black-and-white footage as the "essence" of the case against Brown.

To read the entire article on Ryan Skipper's murder and trial, click here.

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