MAYVILLE – Backing out of cooperation with the Chautauqua County District Attorney’s Office resulted in nearly a life sentence Monday for one of four men convicted in the slayings of Gordon and Joyce Skinner of Frewsburg.
Steven Todd, who was 18 at the time of the 2013 murders, initially had agreed to cooperate with District Attorney David W. Foley and was expected to testify at the trial of Davide Coggins, 35, who was ultimately convicted of second-degree murder.
Todd, of Elmira, did not give a reason for failing to show up in court to fulfill his agreement with the prosecutor. He refused to cooperate either in person or through a statement implicating Coggins.
County Judge John T. Ward sentenced Todd to two consecutive 25-year prison terms on two counts of manslaughter, the maximum allowable.
If Todd had cooperated, his agreement would have meant a total of 32 years in prison rather than 50 years.
Todd told the judge that he was sorry for his actions and that “if I would have known that was going to happen, I never would have gone.”
Two other Elmira men also were sentenced Monday to the prison terms that had been set when they agreed to testify against Coggins.
Joshua McCormick, 22, was sentenced to 35 years in prison on his guilty plea to two counts on manslaughter, and Ricky Knickerbocker, 20, was sentenced to 32½ years, also on a guilty plea to two counts of manslaughter. Both Knickerbocker and McCormick also are scheduled to have five years of postrelease supervision.
All three men originally faced second-degree murder charges and a total of 11 counts relating to the arson and burglary of the Skinner home.
Foley said he believed that Coggins was the reason that the four men went to the Skinner home. He was related to Gordon Skinner and had lived in the Frewsburg area. “If not for Davide Coggins, they never would have ended up there,” he said.
Gordon Skinner, 66, and his wife Joyce, 59, were stabbed to death in an April 2013 break-in and burglary in their home in the rural Town of Carroll. Gordon Skinner’s body was set on fire.
It was an emotional day in court for Skinner family members, who had sat through six weeks of the Coggins trial and listened to dozens of witnesses who talked about the couple’s deaths.
“In one night, you ruined your own life, ended Joyce and Gordie’s and influenced my family forever,” said Julie Walker, niece of the couple, said in a statement read to the three defendants.
Walker’s statement included comments about Gordon Skinner’s service in the Marine Corps during the Vietnam War and Joyce Skinner’s battle with breast cancer.
“Your arrival can be likened to cancer, coming without notice and sparking fear into its victims,” Walker said. “You are much worse than cancer, however, while cancer victims have the hope of survival and the love and support of their families along side of them,” she added.
Walker said she will prepare a new statement when Coggins is sentenced in County Court.
Knickerbocker and Todd will start their sentences at the state prison at Elmira. McCormick will begin serving his sentence at Wende Correctional Facility.