A New Zealand man who was shot while breaking into a woman’s Goochland County home had met her 14-year-old daughter online and suddenly arrived uninvited after methodically planning his trip to the U.S., Goochland’s sheriff said Monday.
The man, Troy George Skinner, 25, was found with duct tape, pepper spray and a camouflage folding clip knife with a 2.75-inch blade, Sheriff James Agnew said during a news briefing at the sheriff’s office. The duct tape and the blade had been purchased from a Walmart on Friday, the day of the attack.
“His arrival here was totally unexpected by anyone,” Agnew said. “I have to emphasize very clearly, that while he may be ... in the hospital [with a gunshot wound], he is not the victim. The lady [who shot Skinner to prevent him from entering] and her family members are the victims.”
Skinner’s actions were not spontaneous or random, Agnew said, but part of a carefully planned trip from his native country to see one of the mother’s two daughters, ages 14 and 18. The family wasn’t identified and wishes to remain anonymous, the sheriff said.
According to a timeline developed by sheriff’s investigators, Skinner took a flight from Auckland, New Zealand, at 6:05 a.m. Wednesday to Sydney, Australia, and from there boarded a flight at 9:25 a.m. to Los Angeles.
He took a third flight at 9:40 p.m. from LA to Washington, D.C., and after arriving took a Greyhound bus at 8:35 a.m. Thursday to Richmond. He checked into the Hosteling International USA hostel at 7 N. Second St. downtown.
Skinner then checked out at 8:46 a.m. Friday and made his way — police haven’t yet determined how — to a Walmart store in Glen Allen, where he purchased the knife and duct tape.
Agnew said investigators believe Skinner first made contact with the 14-year-old Goochland girl three to four months earlier through Discord, a voice-over-internet application that allows video gamers to communicate via their personal computer or smartphone.
About 2:30 p.m. Friday, a resident of the Holland Hills subdivision, while driving out of the neighborhood, noticed a man in black clothing and a backpack crossing the road along Bulldog Way and Steeplechase Parkway, Agnew said.
Then two hours later, at 4:27 p.m., Goochland authorities received a call about a man dressed in black attempting to break into the family’s home on Steeplechase Parkway by smashing a glass door with a landscaping brick.
Agnew said the mother was downstairs painting with one of her daughters when Skinner knocked on the front door. Family members didn’t answer — the mother told authorities she’s not in the habit of answering the door during the day.
“They thought that was the end of it until they saw him at the back basement door, which is situated under the deck,” Agnew said. After spotting the family inside, Skinner told the mother through the door, “I need some help; I’ve hitchhiked here 30 miles.”
“He got a brick and attempted to break that door down,” the sheriff said. “This 6-foot-1-inch, 275-pound man attempted to violently get inside her house.”
The mother then locked the door from the basement steps to the main house after she and her daughter ran upstairs. The mother then instructed her youngest daughter to retrieve the family’s .22-caliber pistol, and the mother loaded it.
It was around this time that the sheriff’s office received a second 911 call, from the woman’s husband, who reported his wife had called him about a man dressed in black who was trying to enter their home.
Skinner then reappeared on the back deck and again tried to get inside by throwing a landscaping brick through a glass door. The mother warned Skinner several times that she had a gun. After he broke the glass, reached inside and attempted to unlatch the door, she fired twice. One round struck him in the neck, the sheriff said.
Skinner fled but collapsed in a yard nearby.
Investigators found him in possession of his New Zealand driver’s license, his plane ticket from Auckland, and his bus ticket from Washington to Richmond. The pepper spray was found in his pants pocket, the knife in a pocket in his black hoodie and the duct tape in the backpack, Agnew said.
Skinner will be charged with breaking and entering with a deadly weapon with the intent to commit a serious offense. Agnew has asked the FBI to assist in learning more about Skinner’s background and whether federal charges are warranted.
“They are pursuing federal charges related to contacting” the girl, the sheriff said. “I do not have any background on him.”
Citing the ongoing investigation, the sheriff declined to discuss what exactly he believes Skinner planned to do if he had gotten inside the home.
Although the 14-year-old had been in contact with Skinner via a computer tablet and by cellphone, “the younger daughter tried to stop communicating with him,” Agnew said. However, Skinner persisted and tried another method of communication, but “she did not cooperate with him.”
The girl’s mother was unaware of her daughter’s communication with Skinner until after he showed up at the family’s home, Agnew said.
After deputies found Skinner lying in a yard with a gunshot wound to his neck, they administered first aid before he was taken to VCU Medical Center. He initially was being treated in intensive care but Agnew said he believes Skinner’s condition has improved and he will survive.
Agnew said it’s hard to fathom that the suspect would travel around the world to pursue the teen. “When I sit back and think about it, I said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’”