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Four indicted in murders of Chautauqua County couple

MAYVILLE – Charges of first-degree murder have been filed against two of the four men arrested in the deaths of Gordon and Joyce Skinner, whose bodies were found earlier this month in their burning Town of Carroll home.

During an appearance Friday in Chautauqua County Court, District Attorney David W. Foley said first-degree murder and 10 additional charges have been brought against Davide Coggins, 34, and Joshua McCormick, 21, both of Elmira.

Two other suspects, Ricky Knickerbocker and Steven Todd, both 18, face two counts of second-degree murder. All four are charged with two counts of second-degree felony murder, one count of first-degree arson, two counts of burglary in the first degree, arson in the second degree, burglary in the second degree and conspiracy in the fourth degree.

Knickerbocker and Todd could not be charged with first-degree murder because they are not 19.

All four appeared separately before Judge John Ward in Chautauqua County Court.

Coggins’ bail was set at $2.5 million cash or $5 million property bond. Foley had requested that bail be $5 million cash or $10 million bond because of Coggins’ long criminal record.

Coggins is being represented by Nathaniel L. Barone Jr., who heads the county’s Public Defender’s Office. Barone said he will file a motion to reduce the bail but said that he did not believe his client would have the resources to post any large amount.

Barone entered a plea of not guilty on all 11 counts for Coggins.

Each of the other defendants has a lawyer assigned from outside the Chautauqua County Public Defenders Office.

“Our time starts ticking now,” said Barone, who said he was not surprised at the rapid progress of the case. The Skinners were found in their home after a call went out for a house fire April 17. A funeral for the couple was held Friday.

At a news conference Friday, Foley and Chautauqua County Sheriff Joseph Gerace said they thought this was an isolated incident of violence in the community.

Barone confirmed that Coggins had connections to the Skinner family and that he had lived in the Frewsburg area and may have had legal issues during that time.

Coggins did not give an address to police when he and his co-defendants were picked up near Elmira within 24 hours after the Skinners’ bodies were found.

“A pre-trial appearance can give us an opportunity to get early information on the case,” said Barone, who said he was just learning of the details of the indictment.

Foley said he questioned 40 witnesses in order to bring testimony to the grand jury. Barone said that may have included statements from some of the defendants or others who knew them, as well as information from the community.

Barone said he will ask that Coggins be tried separately from the other three defendants.

A pretrial conference has been scheduled for June 10.