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Teenager pleads guilty to manslaughter counts in Chautauqua County home invasion slayings

One of four suspects in the fatal stabbings of a Chautauqua County couple during a home invasion has pleaded guilty to reduced charges and will testify against his three co-defendants at their separate trials, District Attorney David W. Foley confirmed today.

Steven Todd, 19, pleaded guilty last month to two counts of first-degree manslaughter for the April 17, 2013, slayings of Gordon Skinner, 66, and his wife Joyce Skinner, 59. Their bodies were found in their burning home on Wheeler Hill Road in the Town of Carroll.

All four suspects are from Elmira and have been held on high bail in the Chautauqua County jail in Mayville since their arrests in Elmira the day after the fatal home invasion.

David Coggins, 34, one of the suspects, was a relative of the Skinners, Foley said. He declined to comment on the defendants’ motive.

Foley said Gordon Skinner died of multiple stab wounds, while his wife died of multiple stab wounds and smoke inhalation.

The district attorney said no sentencing date has been set for Todd.

The plea deal is contingent on Todd’s cooperation in the prosecution of his co-defendants. Foley said Todd will be sentenced after he testifies at their trials and after the trials are completed.

Todd faces a maximum prison term of 25 years on each manslaughter count rather than the maximum of 25 years to life if he had been convicted of second-degree murder.

Foley said Todd, who was 18 at the time of the crimes, will be sentenced as an adult and will not be given youthful offender status. Defendants who are granted youthful offender status face reduced maximum prison sentences, and their criminal records are sealed.

Todd will first testify at Coggins’ trial in mid-September, Foley said, and then at the later trials of Joshua McCormick, 21, and Ricky Knickerbocker, 19.

Authorities charged Coggins and McCormick with first-degree murder, two counts of second-degree murder and two counts of second-degree felony murder.

Knickerbocker and Todd were charged with two counts of second-degree murder and two counts of second-degree felony murder, because they were under 19 at the time of the crimes and could not be charged with first-degree murder.

All four suspects also face two counts of first-degree burglary and single counts of first-degree and second-degree arson, second-degree burglary and fourth-degree conspiracy.

Lyle Hajdu, Todd’s attorney, said his client pleaded guilty to the two counts of first-degree manslaughter in full satisfaction of the indictment.

Chautauqua County Judge John Ward ordered Todd to remain held on bail.