Slaying suspect’s fiancee tries to make sense of things

GALLERY: James Lee Troutman, left, allegedly trapped Skyler Kaufmann, right, in his bathroom three weeks ago. Skyler's mother, Heather Gebbard, center, called police, but they did not charge him. Troutman is now accused of the girl's murder. Click here or above
GALLERY: James Lee Troutman, left, allegedly trapped Skyler Kaufmann, right, in his bathroom three weeks ago. Skyler's mother, Heather Gebbard, center, called police, but they did not charge him. Troutman is now accused of the girl's murder. Click here or above
Posted: May 11, 2011

Heather Clemens said she never had a clue.

"It was something I never expected - not him, or the person I thought he was," she said. "Had I known he was vicious at heart, I would have done everything to make sure he was not out in society."

She was speaking of James L. Troutman, 24, her fiancé and roommate, and now the suspect in the killing of 9-year-old Skyler Kauffman.

"How this poor family can cope with something like this," she said nervously, fingering a lit cigarette. "They didn't deserve this."

Clemens, 21, spoke from the living room of her sister Mandy's apartment in Sellersville. She has been staying there since Tuesday's arrest of Troutman, trying to make sense of the man she was planning to marry.

Since the body of Skyler was discovered and Troutman was arrested, Clemens said, she has barely slept. She has spent the days pacing, occasionally crying, hyperventilating, and barely touching food.

While she does not question that Troutman, as police charge, raped and strangled Skyler, she said the man she knew was kind and caring, if a bit childlike and socially awkward.

She said he had Asperger's syndrome, a disorder characterized by difficulties in social interactions.

The two met at her mother's apartment in Souderton, where Troutman was a neighbor. Her first impression was that Troutman was a very gentle guy but a bit introverted.

"I never met anyone so sweet," she said.

They would take long walks to check out the scenery, go out for pizza, and joke together.

"Every day was a date," she said.

The two moved in together three weeks to a month after they met. He was soft-spoken and protective, Clemens said. He treated her well.

Still, "I knew something was a bit off about him," she said. He had trouble communicating. When she asked about it, he told her he had Asperger's.

"He had a hard time understanding things," Clemens said. "You have to break it down and tell it again."

Her sister said "he became frustrated when he was not understood. He can't articulate as well as the rest of us."

Unemployed, Troutman spent his days playing games on his phone, eating, sleeping, and occasionally doing favors or errands for others.

"He is a favor-doer," Heather Clemens said.

Troutman kept a tote full of Legos and enjoyed making buildings, taking them apart, and then making something else. "He made me a heart once," she said.

He would also do odd jobs and yard work for friends and family, she said.

She was so blinded by her view of him, she said, that she never thought to connect him to the screams she heard coming from the basement of the apartment complex Monday.

"None of us suspected something of this nature," her sister said, calling Troutman a "monster."

After he was arrested, Clemens quickly accepted the police version of the man she knew. Among the first things she did was remove her engagement ring.

"He didn't just break my heart; he pretty much killed it," Clemens said. "He broke and killed the heart of this poor family and this community."


Contact staff writer Mari A. Schaefer at 610-892-9149 or mschaefer@phillynews.com.

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