An Idaho couple was arraigned on Monday, Sept. 18 in Lincoln County 19th Judicial District Court on charges of deliberate homicide, a felony, or in the alternative deliberate homicide by accountability.
Sarah Louise Carpenter Skinner, 27, and Ezra Levi Skinner, 28, pleaded not guilty to the charge of deliberate homicide in the January death of Travis Gillett. Both remain held without bail in the Lincoln County Detention Center.
The Skinners were arrested in Idaho with the assistance of Boundary County law enforcement on Thursday, Aug. 24.
Court documents and previous news reports outline how law enforcement was notified of the discovery of Gillett’s body and how authorities were led to the Skinners as suspects.
A former resident of Libby and Troy, Gillett was reported missing from the Sandpoint, Idaho area on Jan. 16 and found dead of gunshot wounds later that day in the upper Yaak.
Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office Detective Duane Rhodes Yaak Mercantile and met with Sarah Skinner -- then Sarah Carpenter -- who told him her boyfriend had been missing since Friday, Jan. 13. She said Gillett told her he was going to make a delivery in the Yaak with a friend and would return later that day or early Saturday.
Sarah told Rhodes that Saturday morning she received a text from Gillett’s phone. She responded, but did not hear back from him. Later that day, she told Rhodes, she heard her dog barking and opened the front door to find a plastic bag hanging on the door. It contained Gillett’s cell phone and wallet.
Sarah then contacted Gillett’s mother and sister via text Sunday morning, Jan. 15. Sarah wrote Gillett’s mother that she had never been to the Yaak, and wrote Gillett’s sister that she had found a piece of paper in the plastic bag that referred to mile market 48 on “Solo Jack” Road in the Yaak. Gillett’s sister reportedly told Sarah she should contact law enforcement. Sarah contacted the Ponderay, Idaho Police Department the afternoon of Sunday, Jan. 15 to report Gillett missing.
On Monday morning, Jan. 16, Sarah contacted Lincoln County dispatch to ask that they send search and rescue to look for Gillett. She was told by dispatch that they did not have a location to send search and rescue to and would have no idea where to begin looking. Sarah did not provide the information from the note she found in Gillett’s belongings to the dispatcher.
Sarah left her Idaho home and traveled to the Yaak Mercantile, where she showed a photo of Gillett and asked if anyone had seen him. She then began traveling up the road to mile marker 45 where she came upon two hunters and told them she was looking for mile marker 48. They followed her up to the 48 mile marker to make sure she made it. She later told Rhodes she stopped because she was a trail “bigger than a game trail.” She walked to the edge of the road and saw a body partially covered with snow that she believed to be Gillett. Sarah and the two hunters then returned to the Yaak Mercantile to call 911 and report the body.
Rhodes and the two hunters returned to the location of the body, where Rhodes and Undersheriff Brandon Huff recovered seven shell casings.
On Jan. 18, Rhodes was called by John Runkle, owner of the Dirty Shame bar in the Yaak. Runkle reviewed video footage with Rhodes that was dated the afternoon of Jan. 14. Rhodes recognized the woman as Sarah but the man she was with was not Gillett. It appeared that Sarah was upset and being comforted by the man.
Detective Dave Hall went to Ponderay, Idaho to try to identify the man in the video. With the help of local law enforcement and a rental agency and upon obtaining a photo, Hall identified the man in the video footage as Ezra Skinner.
Rhodes formally interviewed Sarah on Jan. 23. She maintained that she had never been to the Yaak. Rhodes was also able to determine that the handwriting on the note referring to “Solo Jack” Road did not appear to be the same handwriting that appeared elsewhere in the notebook in which it was found.
Rhodes obtained a search warrant for Sarah’s home in Ponderay, Idaho, where Sarah again told Rhodes that she had never been to the Yaak. Rhodes confronted her with date- and time-stamped still images taken from Runkle’s surveillance video. Sarah then admitted that she and Ezra had gone to the Yaak on the date to look for Gillett.
Rhodes then interviewed Ezra, showing him the search warrant stating that they were looking for a gun. Ezra told Rhodes he had sold his Glock pistol several months earlier and did not know who he sold it to. Ezra said that he was at his parents’ house on Ruy Ridge all of Saturday, Jan. 14, because he thought he was sick from food he had eaten the day before. Ezra also told Rhodes that he was suppose to go snowboarding with his brother on Saturday, Jan. 14, but had to cancel due to his illness. Rhodes then confronted Ezra with the date- and time-stamped images taken from the surveillance video, after which Ezra ended the interview by asking for a lawyer.
The next court appearance for the Skinners will be an Omnibus hearing on Nov. 13.