Thursday, September 18, 2008

Witness: I watched as homeless man was beaten to death


A key eyewitness testified Monday he watched in horror as his friend repeatedly swung a wooden baseball bat at the head of a homeless man, smashing the man's face in during a brutal unprovoked attack.

William Ammons, 21, told jurors he stood about 10 feet away on Jan. 12, 2006, and saw blood splatter as Thomas Daugherty took at least two full swings at the face of Norris Gaynor, who later died from severe skull fractures.

Daugherty, 19, and Brian Hooks, 21, are charged with first-degree murder and attempted murder for their roles in the beatings of three homeless men that night. If convicted, they could be sentenced to life in prison.

''I saw the blood and it freaked me out. I was surprised he hit him so hard,'' said Ammons, who was also charged in the crimes but took a plea deal just before the trial started. ``Tom was acting like nothing really happened.''

On Jan. 12, 2006, Ammons, Daugherty, Hooks and Joey Griffith made a ''mutual agreement to go mess with some homeless people,'' Ammons testified.

After each attack, the teens returned to Ammons' Fort Lauderdale home and smoked marijuana and consumed vodka before leaving the house again to select a new target, Ammons said.

Ammons participated in two of the attacks, using a paintball gun in the attack on Gaynor and a plastic sword to beat Raymond Perez.

He pleaded guilty to third-degree murder and is expected to be sentenced to between 10 and 20 years in prison. In return, he agreed to testify against Hooks and Daugherty.

Ammons is scheduled for sentencing Sept. 24.

Daugherty used a baseball bat in all three attacks and Hooks used a bat, rake and golf club, Ammons said.

Ammons said he was pressured into participating in the attacks after the first attack on Jacques Pierre at Florida Atlantic University's downtown Fort Lauderdale campus, which was caught by a surveillance camera.

''They wanted to go out and beat up another dude, but I really didn't want to go,'' Ammons said. ``They called me a party pooper.''

Defense attorneys are set to cross examine Ammons after a lunch break.

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