Couple charged in Montana slaying

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  • Ezra Skinner

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    Sarah Carpenter Skinner

  • Ezra Skinner

  • 1

    Sarah Carpenter Skinner

BONNERS FERRY — A Boundary County couple was arrested Thursday in connection with the killing of a Bonner County man in Montana’s Yaak River Valley, the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office announced on Friday.

Ezra Levi Skinner, 28, and Sarah Carpenter Skinner, 27, are charged with the deliberate homicide of Travis J. Gillett, who was reported missing from Bonner County in January. The Skinners are accused of killing Gillett sometime between Jan. 13 and Jan. 16, Lincoln County authorities said.

Gillett, a 31-year-old who has also resided in Libby and Troy, was found shot to death in the Upper Yaak on Jan 16. Detectives from Lincoln County coordinated efforts with their counterparts in Idaho to facilitate the arrests in Boundary County.

“The detectives worked tirelessly on this,” Lincoln County Sheriff Roby Bowe said in a statement on Friday.

Criminal complaints allege Ezra Skinner and Carpenter, also known as Sarah Louise Skinner, purposely and knowingly caused Gillett’s death. Deputy Lincoln County Attorney Marcia Boris added alternative charges alleging that the couple aided and abetted the killing, according to the complaints.

The couple is being held without bond. Jay Sheffield, a justice of the peace chambered in Libby, issued warrants for the couple’s arrest on Tuesday, court records show.

The Skinners appeared in Boundary County court on Friday. Judge Daniel McGee ordered them to remain in custody pending their return to Montana to face charges for Gillett’s killing, court records show.

A deliberate homicide conviction in Montana is punishable by 10 years to life in prison, according to Montana law. A deliberate homicide by accountability can result in a 10- to 100-year prison term.

Lincoln County officials said their dispatchers received a call on Jan. 16 that Gillett left Bonner County on Jan. 13 and was headed to the Yaak area to make a delivery with an unidentified subject in a dark blue or green pickup truck. The unidentified caller said Gillett was due to return on Jan. 14, but never showed up. Gillett was subsequently deemed a missing person.

Both defendants in Gillett’s killing have had brushes with the law in northern Idaho, according to the state supreme court data repository.

Ezra Skinner was charged with carrying a concealed weapon in Boundary County in 2014, but the charge was dismissed upon a motion by the state. He faced a felony drug charge and evidence tampering in Boundary County in 2009, although the drug charge was later reduced to a misdemeanor and the tampering offense was dismissed.

Sarah Skinner was charged with domestic battery in Bonner County in 2014 and 2015, although the charges were later dismissed, court records show.

Gillett, meanwhile, was accused of domestic violence against Sarah Skinner — then Carpenter — in Bonner County in 2015. Sarah Skinner alleged she was attacked by Gillett while pregnant with their child. Gillett alleged Skinner attacked him during the altercation, according to court documents. He ultimately pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of disturbing the peace.

John Runkle, managing director for the Dirty Shame Saloon in Yaak, said the couple made an impression when they stopped in for drinks on Jan. 14.

“They acted really unfriendly. I still remembered what they ordered. She ordered a double shot of Jack Daniels. He ordered a double shot of Sailor Jerry’s and they toasted each other, which I didn’t think was weird until two days later,” Runkle said.

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