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Video tracked movements of Chautauqua murder suspects

MAYVILLE – “Big Brother” was watching as Davide Coggins and Joshua McCormick made their way from Elmira to Frewsburg on April 16 and 17, 2013.

Video footage and records of transactions the men made were shown to the jury on Friday as the third week of testimony wrapped up in the trial of Coggins, 34, of Elmira.

Coggins is charged in the deaths of Gordon and Joyce Skinner, a town of Carroll couple who were found brutally slain in their burning home on Wheeler Hill Road in April 2013.

Video cameras followed Coggins and McCormick as they went into a Walmart store in Horseheads and purchased some beverages and a 15-inch pry bar.

McCormick, 22; Ricky Knickerbocker, 19; and Steven Todd, 19, were all charged in the deaths and reportedly have taken plea deals offered by District Attorney David Foley in exchange for testimony against Coggins.

Knickerbocker and McCormick have already provided testimony to the jury of nine men and three women. McCormick told the jury earlier this week that he identified himself in a video at the Horseheads Walmart. McCormick told the jury he stole gloves from the store and Coggins came out with a crow bar. He identified a pair of black and red gloves that he reportedly left behind in the Elmira apartment where Todd and Coggins both stayed.

He also said the four men brought a bag of stolen items to the apartment when they returned from Frewsburg.

The other two men were reportedly waiting in the gold-colored Pontiac that was also shown in the footage at the Walmart while Coggins and McCormick went in to make purchases. Knickerbocker told the jury that he waited in the car while the two older men went inside. He said they came back with a crowbar and gloves.

Amanda Sawyer, a security specialist with the Horseheads Walmart store, testified about the videos and copies of receipts from the store. At one point she said, “You can see the 15-inch pry bar that was purchased – it was selected from right here.”

Coggins and McCormick were clearly visible wearing dark clothing as they walked through the store’s aisles. Each camera recorded their movements and the date and time of their visit to the store. The videos tracked them from the parking lot to the store and back to the gold Pontiac.

Sawyer said she believed that some gloves were stolen from the store as she saw one of the two men pick them up in the sporting goods department and did not see them holding the items after they traveled through the store. She identified the sporting goods aisle and said the men appeared to take batting gloves from the shelf in that department.

The use of a welfare benefits card issued to Coggins followed his purchases from Elmira, to Horseheads, then to Arcade and then to Jamestown between April 16 ant 17, 2013.

The jury heard from Cindy Bly, a welfare fraud specialist, who stated that there were records of Coggins using his Electronic Benefits Card at the Horseheads Walmart and at a convenience store in Arcade and also in Jamestown. She testified that the card could be identified by the number issued to Coggins and through state reports that are generated for fraud specialists to review.

Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Deputy Phillip Lombardo testified about processing items found in the gold Pontiac after it was secured at the department, including a fingerprint from Knickerbocker and blood samples.

The jury has not heard from a DNA or laboratory specialist who may provide information about the evidence on the blood samples.

Lombardo also said he took into evidence a black nylon bag and some rolled coins as well as some loose change that was identified as Canadian currency. The jury heard from McCormick that the men took currency and coins from the Skinner residence and cashed it in at a Coin Star machine in a Tops store in Elmira.

Some pieces of what appeared to be melted rope also were identified by Lombardo. He told the jury that the same pieces could be seen in photographs of Gordon Skinner, whose burned body was tied to a chair in the basement. “You can see it under his arm,” he told the jury. “It is a yellowish, orangish color,” he added, while pointing to the large photograph displayed by Assistant District Attorney Grace Hanlon for the witness and the jury. He also confirmed a coil of what appeared to be the same rope was found under the deck at the Skinner’s home.

He also identified evidence bags that contained zip ties that he said were at the Wheeler Hill Road home. He said they were found on the deck near the doorway to the home

Lombardo also identified what he collected an empty bag that held pretzels, an empty water bottle and the Bose radio from the car. He said he found a plastic container in the car that held the loose change. He testified that the evidence items are turned over to Sgt. Michael Williams who collects and stores evidence for the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Department.

The jury was released early on Friday and asked to return at 9 a.m. Tuesday when testimony will continue.

They have not heard from Todd, one of the four who was charged.

Tuesday will start the fourth week in the trial, which is one of the most lengthy in recent history in the county courtroom. Jury selection started on Sept. 16.

As of Friday, the jury has seen nearly 300 pieces of evidence and heard from 49 witnesses, all called by Foley and his assistant during the trial.