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Witness cites defendant’s reference to slain couple

MAYVILLE – While leaving the Skinner home in the Town of Carroll in April 2013, murder defendant Davide Coggins told his three accomplices that he “gave them amnesia,” according to one of his accomplices.

The statement was a reference to Gordon and Joyce Skinner, 66 and 59, respectively, who were brutally stabbed to death in a rampage blamed on Coggins, 35, who is on trial in Chautauqua County Court, charged with first-degree murder.

Testifying on Wednesday, accomplice Ricky Knickerbocker, 19, said he and the others instantly assumed that by the statement, Coggins had killed the couple. He added that the statement showed Coggins had “no remorse – except that he was related,” a cousin of Gordon Skinner.

Public Defender Nathaniel L. Barone, introduced a letter Knickerbocker wrote to Coggins while both were incarcerated in Chautauqua County Jail. In the letter, Knickerbocker told Coggins that he “knew you didn’t do anything.” Barone asked Knickerbocker if anything in the letter was a lie and Knickerbocker acknowledged that the statement was false.

He said he has had little contact and no conversations with the others. Knickerbocker and Steven Todd were both moved from Chautauqua County Jail to Cattaraugus County Jail in May after giving statements to District Attorney David W. Foley. He said he has talked on the phone to his mother, Debra Knickerbocker, who was in the Mayville courtroom on both Tuesday and Wednesday, when her son took the stand.

Thus far in the trial, Knickerbocker, 19, and Joshua McCormick, 22, have testified against Coggins. Todd, 19, is expected to testify this week. All have accepted plea deals to lesser charges than Coggins’ in exchange for their testimony. The trial began with jury selection Sept. 16.

Knickerbocker is expected to receive 32½ years in prison, with five years of post-release supervision, when sentenced.

Also on Wednesday, Knickerbocker recalled seeing Gordon Skinner before he left the basement of the Wheeler Hill Road home. Knickerbocker said he saw the back of the victim’s head and that he was tied to a chair. He also said he had been asked to start a fire on the floor but his lighter didn’t work, and left the home as Coggins returned to the basement.

Coggins, according to testimony, set the fire that incinerated Gordon Skinner.

Also on Wednesday, the jury heard from State Police Officer Kevin P. O’Toole, who said he recovered car floor mats from a dumpster near the Elmira home where Todd and Coggins lived.

O’Toole also testified to several photos of jewelry allegedly stolen from the Skinners home: the victims’ high school class rings and a wedding ring set, including a diamond engagement ring and wedding band.

The day’s proceedings were cut short because of a personal matter of a legal team member. Testimony is scheduled to resume at 9 a.m. today before Judge John T. Ward.