Five Witnesses Testify In Carroll Double Homicide Pre-Trial Hearing
MAYVILLE – Gruesome details were abound Thursday in the first pre-trial hearing of Davide Coggins, the 34-year-old Elmira man accused of leading three men to burglarize and murder a Carroll couple last year.
Coggins, whose trial is scheduled for Sept. 16, was taken into custody on April 17, 2013, the very same day that he and three other Elmira men – Joshua McCormick, 21, Ricky Knickerbocker, 18, and Steven Todd, 18 – allegedly invaded the 232 Wheeler Hill residence of Gordon and Joyce Skinner, stabbed them countless times and set their log cabin-style home ablaze.
Thursday’s pre-trial hearing at the Chautauqua County Court in Mayville was conducted to resolve any lingering evidence issues between David Foley, Chautauqua County District Attorney, and Public Defender Nathaniel Barone – who is representing Coggins – prior to the actual trial.
Five witnesses were called to the stand by Foley and his prosecution team, each of whom were involved in either the arrest of Coggins or the initial investigation of the crime scene.
The first witness, Randall Boland, an investigator with the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office, was one of the first people to enter the Skinner home after the incident occurred in the early morning hours of April 17.
In detail, he described entering the home at approximately 10:30 a.m. through a rear entrance into the basement, and immediately noticing the overwhelming amount of debris and ceiling tiles strewn on the floor.
Within a short distance, he identified two human bodies, one of them “deeply charred” on a wooden chair and the other lying face down on its stomach.
“I couldn’t even tell if (the bodies) were male or female,” Boland confessed.
The body on the chair – which was later identified as a male by Coroner John Sixbey – was discovered to have some kind of rope around its midsection.
The body on the floor – later identified as a female – was discovered to have multiple stab wounds in its back as well as a recently homemade bandage on its right arm, tied with a shoelace.
Other notable observations included phones ripped off the wall, the smell of gasoline, blood (or what appeared to be blood) stains in multiple spots, the appearance of zip ties, a broken window near a side door knob and scattered personal belongings.
“(The home) appeared to be ransacked,” said Boland, describing how drawers and dressers were ripped apart along with the contents of a wallet and purse. A device underneath the television also appeared to be stolen.
According to Boland, the dead bodies were positively identified later as Gordon and Joyce Skinner through dental records.
The second witness was Lieutenant William Nelson, a patrol supervisor with the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office.
Nelson was informed by one of the Skinners’ neighbors that an unknown car – a tan 2003 Pontiac Grand Am – had been parked on the Skinners’ driveway at around 4:30 a.m. the day of the incident.
They provided Nelson with the license plate number, allowing him to notify police agencies throughout the state with a BOLO or “be on the look-out” bulletin shortly after 11 a.m.
The license plate was traced to an Elmira woman named Lindsey Brown.
The next two witnesses called to the stand were directly involved in the pursuit of Coggins.
Scott J. Cipollina, an investigator with the New York State Police, was traveling on Interstate 86 near Horseheads at approximately 2:30 p.m., when he realized that the car listed in the recent BOLO was right in front of him.
Since Cipollina was traveling in an unmarked vehicle, it was difficult for him to navigate through traffic, and he eventually lost sight of the wanted vehicle.
Mary Carson, a New York State Trooper from Horseheads, who was also in the vicinity, pursued the car into the driveway of an elementary school shortly after 3 p.m.
As several police cars arrived on the scene, Coggins was removed from his vehicle, handcuffed and taken to the New York State Police barracks in Horseheads for questioning.
The final witness for the day was Christopher Wilkinson, a criminal investigator with the NYSP in Horseheads, who interviewed Coggins for a number of hours.
Wilkinson revealed how Coggins and the three other men allegedly traveled to Jamestown to deliver “Molly,” an ecstasy-like drug.
Coggins was reportedly aware that the Skinners were related to him, and stated this as the reason why he went to their home in the first place.
According to Wilkinson, Coggins claimed that it was the three other men who instigated the incident, when they decided to steal items from the home. Coggins alleges he became upset and left them there, and upon returning thirty minutes later, found the three men in the process of injuring the couple.
As the four men left area, they returned to the home of Lindsey Brown in Elmira, where they took showers and disposed of their clothes.
Coggins was reportedly traveling to visit a girlfriend in Corning when he was discovered by Cipollina.
Barone’s cross-examination of witnesses mostly involved police protocol, and whether or not improper methods compromised or contaminated evidence.
The next pre-trial hearing is scheduled for June 19.
Coggins and McCormick were indicted by a Chautauqua County grand jury on first-degree murder.
Due to his age at the time of the homicides, Knickerbocker is facing a second-degree murder charge. The men are also facing burglary and arson charges.
In March, Steven Todd pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree manslaughter and is expected to testify against the other defendants.