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.

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