2 Men Charged With Hate Crime In Florida Slaying

Bearden & Brown
FLORIDA – The two men charged in the fatal stabbing of a gay Winter Haven man that has been called a hate crime were ordered held without bail at their first appearance in a Bartow courtroom Sunday morning.
The men remained in the Bartow jail, and their first appearance was broadcast on a video screen in the Bartow courthouse.
Both men, clad in orange jumpsuits, stood silently as Circuit Judge John F. Laurent appointed a public defender for William David Brown Jr., 20, and Joseph Bearden, 21.
However, assistant public defender Deborah Goins asked the judge to schedule a status conference for Joseph Bearden on Tuesday at 8:30 a.m. so she can withdraw from his case. The Public Defenders Office generally assigns a private lawyer when there are co-defendants in a case to avoid a potential conflict of interest.
Brown and Bearden are charged with first-degree murder and armed robbery in the death of Ryan Keith Skipper, 25. Skipper’s body was found on the side of Morgan Road near 19th Street West in Wahneta early Wednesday. He had been stabbed about 20 times.
Police said Skipper was driving through Eloise on Tuesday night looking to pick someone up, which was how he met Bearden.
However, longtime friends of his said Sunday night that Skipper was popular, never having to go out of his way to meet people and did not pick up hitchhikers.
After meeting, according to investigators, the two returned to Skipper’s home and smoked marijuana while discussing using Skipper’s laptop for check fraud.
Skipper’s roommate said he did not own a laptop, and that he has stayed away from drugs since his arrests for marijuana possession in 1999 and 2001.
The two then drove to a home owned by Brown’s uncle. In his statement to investigators, Bearden said it was then that Brown and another man decided to rob Skipper. Brown and the man asked Skipper for a ride, and he eventually agreed, according to Bearden’s arrest report.
Brown and the man returned about 15 minutes later without Skipper and “covered in blood,” Bearden told police.
However, after conducting several interviews with the suspects and witnesses, the Sheriff’s Office charged Brown and Bearden in Skipper’s death Friday.
Skipper’s car, a 2007 Chevrolet Aveo, and a laptop were stolen, according to the Sheriff’s Office. Bearden and Brown tried to clean out the car, which was bloody from the attack, and sell it but they later abandoned it on a dock at Lake Pansy in Winter Haven on Wednesday and tried to set it on fire, the report stated.
The fire only did minor damage, and detectives recovered fingerprints from the vehicle from both suspects.
The case was being investigated as a robbery homicide until a witness told investigators Friday that Brown said Skipper had made advances toward him, and that is why he was killed.
Both men are scheduled to be arraigned April 17.
from The Ledger

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