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Prosecution near close in racial-murder trial

The prosecution is expected to rest today in the trial of a white-supremacist skinhead accused of a racial killing near Girard College almost two decades ago to earn a webbed tattoo.

Yesterday, Assistant District Attorney Roger King presented more testimony that is the foundation of the case against Tom Gibison, 35, of Newark, Del.: that the onetime skinhead killed Aaron Wood, a 35-year-old African American, on April 16, 1985, simply because of the victim's race. According to King, a veteran prosecutor on his last case, Gibison shot Wood point-blank to demonstrate his commitment to skinhead-racist beliefs. To prove that point, he presented for the Common Pleas Court jury images of various tattoos Gibison has on his body that point to the defendant's association with supremacist-skinhead culture.

One of the witnesses yesterday, Philadelphia Police Homicide Detective David Baker, read a transcript of a secretly recorded conversation between Gibison and Robert Paolo, a part-time police officer from Berks County.

"About the white-supremacy thing, it's done," Gibison allegedly tells Paolo at one point. "They're real interested in skinheads. They don't understand it's dead. I feel like saying, 'You are three years late. . . . People have moved away or got killed. It's over. There's nothing left.' "

- Dwight Ott