Teen Testifies

In two different attacks, Thomas Daugherty quietly sneaked up on a sleeping target, pulled out a baseball bat and swung at his victims’ heads, an eye witness told a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., jury Wednesday during the murder trial of two Broward teens.
Daugherty and his accused accomplice, Brian Hooks, were “acting kinda pumped up” after attacking their first victim on Jan. 12, 2006, said Joey Griffith, one of four teenagers prowling downtown Fort Lauderdale for homeless people to “beat up” that night.
Hooks, now 21, and Daugherty, 19, face first-degree murder charges for one of the attacks, which took the life of 45-year-old Norris Gaynor. They also face two counts of attempted murder. If convicted, they could be sentenced to life in prison.
Griffith, who was never charged in the attacks, is expected to continue his testimony Thursday.
The group of teens originally set out to take a ride on Fort Lauderdale beach and smoke marijuana when Hooks and Daugherty came up with the idea to “go beat down some bums,” Griffith said.
“I didn’t think anything of it,” said Griffith, who told jurors he brushed off the idea.
His view soon changed after he saw Daugherty pull a bat from under his clothes and take a swing at the head of an unsuspecting Jacques Pierre, who was on a bench at Florida Atlantic University’s downtown Fort Lauderdale campus.
Griffith said he didn’t see the bat connect with Pierre, but a surveillance camera caught the attack. The first swing was enough to send Griffith running in the opposite direction.
“I just started running” back to the car, he said, after describing the two-handed swing he saw Daugherty take. He said he never saw Hooks swing the bat hidden underneath his clothing.
Griffith’s detailed testimony came after another homeless victim, Raymond Perez, told jurors he, too, was attacked while he was sleeping outside of Church by the Sea just off the 17th Street Causeway in Fort Lauderdale.
Perez said he did not hear his attackers approach, much like the other victims, but felt the heavy wood from bats as they struck him all over the body. He also heard the teens laughing.
Perez needed 18 staples to close a gash in his head and also suffered a broken arm and deep lacerations.
At the end of the attack, one of the boys pulled out a knife, slashing Perez on his right wrist, he said.
Then Hooks, Daugherty and a third teen, William Ammons, walked away, side by side, Perez testified.
“I yelled something at them and they stopped. Then Daugherty stared right at me and he was smiling,” he said. “They were enjoying and laughing and hitting me a lot of times.”
Another former friend of Daugherty’s, Kaitlyn Brown, testified that he told her about the attacks before it was broadcast on the local news.
Daugherty was packing his bags just hours after the attacks, with Hooks and Ammons, present, she said.
The three seemed “very scared” and kept saying they were going to stop taking drugs, Brown said.
“Tom told me he was in trouble for beating down a bum and that they were going to try and pin a murder on him,” she said. “He told me to go home and watch the 12 o’clock news.”
Brown later went to police and identified both Daugherty and Hooks on the surveillance video, which headlined national and international news.
On Wednesday, jurors were left with the image of Griffith demonstrating Daugherty’s initial blows against Gaynor. Griffith reached up in the air with both hands as if he was holding a baseball bat, and brought them straight down in the same way he saw the blow rain down on Gaynor’s head.
“Thomas was standing behind the bench right behind the man’s head,” Griffith said.
Gaynor died from severe skull and face fractures that left his head swollen to three times its normal size, prosecutors have said. One doctor who testified described Gaynor’s face as similar to a smashed pumpkin.
After seeing the first swing, Griffith said he again ran away from the scene.
As he ran, Griffith said he heard five rapid shots from a paintball gun that Ammons was carrying.
In May, Ammons pleaded guilty to lesser charges in the case to get a lighter sentence. He has agreed to testify against Hooks and Daugherty.