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Witness says gang planned to rob drug dealer’s home before killing Skinners

MAYVILLE – Two accomplices of murder suspect Davide Coggins testified Tuesday that the gang had plans to rob the home of a drug dealer before they massacred Gordon and Joyce Skinner in their Town of Carroll home in April 2013.

However, they were unable to find the residence – reportedly in Erie County – before they headed toward the Skinner home in Chautauqua County.

Coggins, 34, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the grisly deaths of Gordon, 66, and Joyce Skinner, 59, in their Wheeler Road home.

Jurors on Tuesday heard more testimony from Joshua McCormick, 21, then watched as Ricky Knickerbocker, 19, took the stand in leg shackles in the afternoon.

Because Knickerbocker was only 18 at the time of the crime, he could not be charged with first-degree murder. Though charged with second-degree murder, arson and burglary, he has accepted a tentative guilty plea to two counts of first-degree manslaughter and is expected to be sentenced to 32½ years in prison, authorities said.

The plea deals of McCormick, Knickerbocker and Steven Todd, 18, are predicated on their courtroom testimony.

“You didn’t do anything to cause the death of those people?” District Attorney David Foley asked Knickerbocker, who replied that he did not. During cross-examination, however, he said Coggins wanted him to start a fire in the basement but he was unable to get the lighter to work. He said that when he went upstairs to say he was unable to start the fire, Coggins went back to the basement.

Knickerbocker recounted the rampage of April 16-17, 2013, which culminated in the stabbing deaths of the couple – with Gordon Skinner burned in a chair in the basement.

With Coggins behind the wheel, the four had set out from Elmira to find the home of the drug dealer.

McCormick said he was unable to recall the location of the dealer. “We were all irritated because we went all that way for no reason,” said Knickerbocker.

They then embarked on Coggins’ plan, Knickerbocker said, and set out toward Frewsburg. But they got lost trying to find the Skinner home. Knickerbocker said they made several wrong turns on dirt roads before finding the Skinner home.

Knickerbocker said Coggins told him he knew of the home and had stayed there for a while. Early in the trial, public defender Nathaniel Barone confirmed that Coggins is related to Gordon Skinner through his mother.

Knickerbocker, who said Coggins knocked on the door of the Skinner home, added that he was unable to hear the conversation after the door was opened, as he, Todd and McCormick waited by the side of the home.

He confirmed McCormick’s story that Todd hit Gordon Skinner on the head with a crowbar and there was a struggle. He also confirmed the testimony that Gordon Skinner was restrained with zip ties and dragged back into the house.

“Coggins was saying, ‘If you cooperate you won’t get hurt,’” Knickerbocker said.

Knickerbocker also said Coggins dragged Gordon Skinner down the stairs and that Joyce Skinner was thrown part of the way down the staircase. Coggins dragged her the rest of the way, Knickerbocker testified.

Knickerbocker noted that he pulled the getaway car near the door of the house and helped the others load items into the car. He added that the three waited at least 10 minutes for Coggins to return.

Testimony resumes at 9 a.m. today.