Skinhead was Looking for a Black Man to Kill in Philly

Associate Content/February 2007
By Jeannie Kearns

Philadelphia -- A skinhead accused in a racially motivated murder nearly two decades ago had been cruising around looking for a black man to kill before he fatally shot a man headed for a night on the town, his friend testified.

Thomas Gibison, 35, of Newark, Del., was arrested in November and charged with murder and ethnic intimidation in the April 16, 1989, shooting death of Aaron Wood. Common Pleas Judge David Shutter on Wednesday ordered Gibison to stand trial on the charges.

Gibison, then 17, and Craig Peterson, 19 at the time, were driving around Philadelphia, looking to kill a black man, an act they viewed as a rite of passage among white supremacists, Peterson testified at the preliminary hearing.

Peterson said he borrowed his mother's car and the two drove to Wilmington, Del., but they "didn't see anybody." They then headed to Philadelphia.

"Our target was the black man," he told Assistant District Attorney Roger King during Gibison's preliminary hearing Wednesday.

When the duo got near Girard College in North Philadelphia, Gibison spotted Wood, 35, walking under a streetlight. "There's one right there!" Peterson recalled Gibison saying.

Peterson said he pulled up and Gibison rolled down the passenger-side window, fatally shooting Wood in the head with a handgun. The two then sped back to Delaware, he said.

Gibison's former girlfriend, Jennifer Kaczmarczyk, testified that he had told her he shot a black man in Philadelphia. He was initially a nonracist "blue-collar" skinhead, with patriotic views, but later became involved in the Nationalist Nazi movement, she said.

Asked what Peterson's role in the slaying had been, Kaczmarczyk said, "He just drove."

Michael Farrell, Gibison's attorney, has said his client has tattoos associated with the white supremacist ideology, but was not a member of any such group himself.

Peterson testified that the men were hoping the killing would earn them each a spider-web tattoo, a badge of status among white supremacists.

Gibison was arrested in November at his home in Delaware in what had been a cold case.

Philadelphia homicide detective Leon Lubiejewski testified that FBI agents working on a firearms case in Delaware contacted him last year to check on unsolved murders between January and May 1989. He said he narrowed down the cases to Wood's killing.

Ballistics tests later found that the markings on a pistol seized from Peterson's home were similar to those on the bullet taken from Wood's head, Lubiejewski said.

Peterson was granted immunity in exchange for his testimony and has not been charged in the killing, King said.

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