Friday, February 27, 2009


BARTOW, FL FEB 27 2009 3:30 P.M.

Sentencing was swift by Judge J. Michael Hunter in the Murder trial of Joseph Eli (Smiley) Bearden, 23. He imposed the maximum sentences allowable under the law as punishment for his involvement in the brutal slaying of a Florida gay man, Ryan Skipper, who at the time of his death was 25.

At 3:30 PM,unmoved by the pleas of Bearden's mother, Pastor, and the defendant himself, Judge Hunter sentenced Bearden to LIFE in a Florida State Prison for 2nd deg Murder, 5 yrs for Theft of a Motor Vehicle, 15 yrs for Accessory After the Fact / Robbery, 5 yrs for Tampering with Evidence, and 15 yrs for Dealing in Stolen Property. All sentences are to be served concurrently.

When asked if he wanted to make a statement before sentence was pronounced, Bearden apologized to the Skipper family, yet maintained that he was nowhere near where the murder took place, took no part in the slaying of Ryan Skipper and asserted that the man who did the crime was "still walking the street". Though he didn't, in his statement, mention any particular individual, based upon previous testimony and statements of witnesses, he was obviously referring to Ray Allen Brown, a cousin to William David Brown, Jr., the co-defendant in this case, whose trial will begin later this year.

In handing down his sentence, Judge Hunter stated to Bearden that he believed that this was a crime motivated by robbery and hate, due to Skippers homosexuality, and that Bearden had much more involvement in the crime than he admitted to.


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.

Skipper 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.



This verdict makes no logical LEGAL sense. By failing to convict on the underlying Robbery charge, the predicate for FELONY MURDER, how this jury can vote to convict for 2nd deg Murder is beyond reason. Further, due to the underlying charge of Robbery being a predicate for a charge of FELONY MURDER, there needn't have been any lessers uncluded in the Murder indictment. By convicting on Theft of a Motor Vehicle, there should have been a NOT GUILTY verdict on the 1st DEG or FELONY MURDER charge. There should have been no option for lesser included offenses on the top charge. Hopefully the Appeals Court will reverse the 2nd Deg Murder charge and direct the court to re-try this case on that basis, and other appealable issues.
The jury felt sympathy for the Defendant and spared his life, when they should have applied the law to the evidence. This is an illogical and erroneous decision on their part.