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More evidence against Coggins in Skinner family murder case

MAYVILLE – Prosecutors on Wednesday continued to present physical evidence in an attempt to link Davide Coggins, 34, of Elmira, to the home where Joyce and Gordon Skinner were brutally murdered in April 2013.

Witnesses testified about blood and DNA connections to the Town of Carroll home as well as items from the home that were later found in the Elmira apartment where Coggins was living.

Coggins is charged with two counts of first-degree murder as well as second-degree murder, felony murder, arson and burglary in the murders. The couple was stabbed to death and Gordon Skinner’s body was set on fire.

Coggins was indicted in April along with three other men, all of whom agreed to cooperate in the prosecution of Coggins. Joshua McCormick, 22, who testified last week, has agreed to a plea deal with District Attorney David Foley.  

Ricky Knickerbocker, 19, also testified and agreed to plead guilty to manslaughter. Steven Todd, 19, pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter; he has not testified but reportedly agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.

DNA samples from the victims as well as Coggins and the three others indicted in the crime were admitted into evidence.

Forensic biologist Sarah Murrin testified about the process of testing samples for DNA and the presence of blood. Forensic biologist Cara Fisher told the jury how she swabbed items, including Coggins’ cell phone. It was later announced that a tiny blood droplet on the phone matched Coggins.

The jury also heard that a bloody shoelace, known to be tied to paper towels  and removed from Joyce Skinner’s right arm, also matched her blood and DNA. 

Sgt. Michael Williams of the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office was asked by Public Defender Nathaniel Barone about several items shown in photographs in the home.

Barone also delved into reasons why other footprints in the Skinner home were not photographed and swabbed for possible DNA. Williams commented that the prints appeared to have been made after the crime and may have been from first responders or from friends of Joyce Skinner who entered the home and reported finding the bodies. 

Three members of the Skinners’ family also provided testimony about them.

Anthony Pulci of Fredonia confirmed that Coggins was a nephew of the slain couple. Pamela VanArsdale, a neighbor and cousin, told the jury that Coggins lived with the Skinners for about six months when he was a teenager. She said it had been many years since she had seen him. 

Julie Walker, a niece of Joyce Skinner, identified several pieces of jewelry that were found in the Elmira apartment where Coggins stayed. Among the pieces were Joyce Skinner’s engagement ring, class rings from both victims and a breast cancer survivor’s charm bracelet.  Walker said she purchased one of the charms on the bracelet as a gift for her aunt.

Coggins continues to actively participate in reviewing evidence.

The trial is in its fourth week of testimony before Chautauqua County Judge John T. Ward.