Shaneeva Yassin, Web Journalist & Producer
FORT LAUDERDALE (CBS4)- A Ft. Lauderdale homeless man facing second degree murder charges after he was accused of setting another homeless man on fire before he died of his injuries pleaded not guilty at a preliminary hearing Thursday morning.
John Gibbons, 58, appeared at the Broward Country Courthouse at 9 a.m. He showed no emotion as his public defender spoke on his behalf, CBS 4’s Joan Murray reported.
Gibbons was held on $200,000 bond in the death of 51-year-old William Stouffer and was charged with second degree murder.
Stouffer’s family, including his parents and sister, crowded the Broward courtroom where Gibbons was arraigned.
Speaking for the family, the victim’s sister, Kathy Stouffer-Gordon said “he pleaded not guilty but we’re confident he’ll get a life sentence, so everything was good.”
She said the family plans to show up at the court appearances.
“We’ll be here every time John Gibbons comes before the court,” she said.
Investigators said Gibbons attacked Stouffer on February 18th behind a Burger King in the 2900 block of W. Commercial Blvd. At some point during the fight Stouffer was soaked in an accelerant and set on fire.
According to his family he suffered third degree burns from his head to his knees.
“It’s hard to imagine that anyone can do this to someone,” said Stouffer-Gordon in an earlier interview with CBS4, “setting a person on fire. It is unbelievable and the cruelest act for a human being. Fifty percent of my brother’s body had 3rd degree burns from his head to his knees.”
According to witnesses, Stouffer and Gibbons had argued prior to the attack.
Stouffer was treated at the Ryder Trauma Center until his death on March 23rd.
Stouffer-Gordon credited the work of Fort Lauderdale Police and Chuck Morrow, a veteran detective from the department’s fugitive unit, with Gibbon’s capture.
Morrow spent more than three weeks on the case in a search that took police to Fort Lauderdale, Dave, North Lauderdale and Tamarac as well as Lauderhill.
“When we found him, he was wearing glasses, a visor, a hoodie sweatshirt,” said Morrow. “He admitted he knew that he was wanted.”
Stouffer was at Forest Lawn Memorial Gardens in Pompano Beach.
The family is still grieving over Stouffer’s death.
“He’s my brother, you’d do the same for your brother,” said Stouffer-Gordon.