CARROLL - What began as a simple prayer vigil to remember Gordon and Joyce Skinner quickly grew into a community event Sunday evening.
More than 300 residents turned out at the Willis Hale Town Park in Frewsburg in support of the Skinners, both of whom were found dead Wednesday morning inside their Wheeler Hill Road residence. Four men from the Elmira area have been charged in what police are calling a horrific crime scene.
Pastor Ron Lemon of the Koinonia Christian Fellowship in Frewsburg helped organize the gathering. He said the vigil brought together a community still grieving.
OBSERVER?Photo by Eric Tichy
Flowers and a cross have been placed at the home of Gordon and Joyce Skinner. Four men from the Elmira area have been charged in connection with their homicides.
"I just think it was important for everyone to come together," Lemon said. "We didn't broadcast it to the news or anything like that. We just made the announcements in church and posted it on Facebook.
"There were just so many people that showed up. I believe there was some healing going on. And I think that was important after what happened."
Lemon, like many friends and relatives, spoke of Gordon, 66, and Joyce, 59, as pillars of the community. The former county legislator said he played golf with Gordon, a former Marine, and recalls Joyce's expertise in baked goods.
"They were the friendliest people in the world," Lemon said. "They were great neighbors and would talk to anyone that walked by - just generally very nice people."
At least five other congregations were present at the vigil. "I think it was important for healing," said Pastor Becca Ehrlich of the Zion Lutheran Church. "We're a small town and this was very tragic because everyone knows everyone."
She added: "Having this vigil was very helpful in the healing that is taking place. It was amazing to see how many people came out."
Flowers and a cross have been placed at the Skinners' residence. A U.S. Marine Corps. hat also is present.
Chautauqua County Sheriff Joe Gerace on Monday said the investigation into the double homicide was ongoing.
"The case is advancing every day," Gerace said. "We are collecting more information; our investigators worked throughout the weekend. We are going to keep investigating, and that's how we're handling it right now."
Authorities have not released a cause of death, although the sheriff said no firearms were used in the homicides. Autopsies on the bodies were performed by an Erie County medical examiner. Results have not been released.
Frewsburg firefighters were first alerted Wednesday morning to a fire at 232 Wheeler Hill Road where the bodies were discovered.
By Thursday Gerace and Chautauqua County District Attorney David Foley announced that four men from Elmira were in custody. The suspects, Ricky L. Knickerbocker, 18; Joshua A. McCormick, 21; Steven W. Todd, 18; and Davide Coggins, 34, were charged with two counts each of felony second-degree murder in their initial court appearance.
All four men are scheduled to have their preliminary hearings Thursday at 10 a.m. in Carroll Court.
According to the Ithaca Journal, Todd and McCormick placed calls to their parents, claiming Coggins alone committed the murders. Todd's attorney, Lyle Hajdu, had no comment when asked of the calls. Hajdu said he was preparing for the preliminary hearing, but noted a grand jury could hand up indictments prior to Thursday.
Coggins is being represented by Public Defender Ned Barone.
A memorial service for Gordon and Joyce Skinner will be held Friday at 11 a.m. at the Trinity United Methodist Church in Frewsburg.