Jury selection is expected to begin today in the 19- year-old-murder of a North Philadelphia black man in what has been labeled a "racial killing."

Charged with murder, ethnic intimidation and related offenses for the April 16, 1989 shooting death of Aaron Wood is Thomas Gibison, then 17.

At a preliminary hearing in February 2007 before Common Pleas Court Judge David Shutter, Thomas Gibison, 36, of Newark, Del., was charged with what prosecutors say was a racially motivated murder committed by Gibison and accomplice Craig Petersen to earn their stripes as committed skinheads - the lacy spider webs that both men subsequently got tattooed across their elbows.

Although a "spider-web tat" is not a definitive sign that a person committed murder, a spokesman for the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Project in Montgomery, Ala. has said that "Some people do believe that it represents the killing of a minority. "

The group, which tracks hate crimes, became aware of the tattoo's significance more than a decade ago in connection with the murder of a black couple by three white soldiers in North Carolina.

Wood was fatally shot in the head while walking between two parked cars in the 1300 block of North Stillman Street in North Philadelphia.

In testimony elicited in February 2007 by Assistant District Attorney Roger King, witnesses, including Petersen, 37, who was granted partial immunity, said Gibison had wanted to shoot a black man - any black man - and remarked, "There's one right there!" when they spotted Wood walking alone.

Gibison's lawyer, Michael Farrell, said that although his client's tattoos were associated with White Supremacy, Gibison did not subscribe to that ideology.

Aaron Wood's murder went into a cold-case file and was pursued by an FBI task force. Gibison was arrested in 2007.

Contact staff writer Dwight Ott at 215-854-2797 or dott@phillynews.com