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Gay Forces Murdered In The U.S.A.
Ryan Keith Skipper, 25, Florida, Mar 15 2007

Ryan Keith Skipper
Ryan's Photo from his MySpace page

Ryan Keith Skipper, 25, of Polk County, Florida, was found stabbed to death by the side of Morgan Road near 19th Street West in Wahneta by a passing driver about 1:20 a.m. March 15, 2007. Deputies have arrested William David Brown Jr., 20, and Joseph Bearden, 21, charging them with first-degree murder and declaring the slaying a hate crime.

Though the Sheriff's Office is investigating Skipper's murder as a hate crime, that fact will not weigh on the prosecution of Brown and Bearden. Designating a crime as hate-motivated is a "sentencing enhancement," not a separate charge, which means it makes the punishment more severe for the crime committed, Chip Thullbery, spokesman for the State Attorney's Office, said Wednesday.

In Florida, the designation doesn't apply to life or capital felonies because the punishments for those charges - either life in prison or execution - are the most severe, and therefore can not be enchanced. "There is no such thing as a hate crime first-degree murder, by the law," Thullbery said.

From Brian Winfield
Equality Florida

Apr 03 2007

I am writing to tell you about a horrible tragedy and why we must respond together as a community.

Ryan Keith Skipper, a 25-year-old Polk County man was viciously murdered and his body left on the side of a road in what the Sheriff's office is classifying as an anti-gay hate crime.

Ryan was brutally stabbed at least 20 times and his car and a laptop computer were stolen. According to witnesses, two suspects drove Ryan's bloody car around and bragged to their friends about savagely killing him.

Joseph Eli Bearden, 21, and William David Brown Jr., 20, were indicted this past Friday and face charges of first-degree murder and robbery with a deadly weapon.

Ryan's murder was not an isolated incident, but rather the latest in an epidemic of anti-gay hate violence in Florida and around the nation. Anti-gay hate crimes are at their highest level ever in Florida, and second only to racist attacks in overall numbers.

According to the Florida Attorney General's office, hate crimes targeting LGBT Floridians have increased 33% in the most violent categories during the two most recently reported years. The silence of Florida's leadership in the face of this brutal murder cannot go unchallenged.

This past Saturday, Russell Patterson and I met with Ryan's family and close friends. During our meeting, we assured the family that Equality Florida would do everything in our power to ensure Ryan's story is told far and wide. Ryan's best friends, roommates and family made it clear that they want something good to come out of their incredible loss of such a beautiful young man.

As an initial step, Equality Florida is assisting with plans to hold vigils in Polk County, around the state, and perhaps in other parts of the nation on Saturday - April 14th. We will mourn Ryan's tragic death, join friends and family in celebrating his life and we will also spotlight the terrible impact of hate violence at the local, state and national level.

We will again call on state leadership to do more in the face of the rising tide of anti-LGBT violence in Florida and we will let you know how you can help ensure they respond.

Please Save-the-Date, April 14th, and plan to participate in an event near you. As soon as the details are finalized, we will send you all the information you need to participate.

In addition to Polk County, other areas currently being discussed for satellite vigils include Miami-Dade, Broward and Tallahassee. If you would like to volunteer to work on or create an event in your area, please contact Russell Patterson at or (813) 849-3919. Time is short so we need your help.  

A foundation is also being setup in Ryan's honor. Equality Florida will provide you with additional details about event times and locations, as well as how to contribute to the foundation, as soon as plans are finalized.


Brian Winfield

P.S. To read an in-depth article about the attack and what the loss of Ryan has meant to those who were closest to him, click here.

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