Skinner was an honors student at Rutgers-Camden, was working part time at a deli and at an internship with the Department of Youth and Family Services, and was caring for her son. Asenith Whye said both Troy Whye and Skinner had confided about problems in a relationship that she said was "a little rocky."
"One minute they would be together, and another they would not be together," she said.
Even after they moved into an apartment in Lindenwold, the relationship was troubled, Asenith Whye said, describing several confrontations.
Troy Whye wanted to reconcile and asked his niece to talk to Skinner. Days before Skinner's death, he went to his niece's home for help. "He was pacing back and forth like he had something on his mind," she said.
He told her he was having thoughts in his head and asked her, "Pray for me." Skinner was getting on his nerves, he told his niece, and he worried that if Skinner did not change her behavior, "she would make him kill her," Asenith Whye testified.
Skinner had found knives and a large rock hidden throughout the apartment, she said. Troy Whye told his niece that he had hidden the knives so his son would not get them.
Later, Skinner told Asenith Whye that she wanted to change the lock to her apartment to keep Troy Whye out, and she made plans the next day, March 25, 2008, to pick up Asenith Whye to go to a hardware store. Skinner never arrived, which was out of character, Asenith Whye testified. She started calling friends, relatives, and Troy Whye, who suggested that Skinner would probably be in touch with her soon. He later told his niece that he had spoken to Skinner, who he said was having trouble with her phone.
Still concerned, Asenith Whye went with a relative to Skinner's apartment the next morning. She said she worried even more when she saw Skinner's car in the lot, and after she called the deli and learned Skinner had failed to arrive for work. Asenith Whye then called 911.
Inside the apartment, Skinner was dead, Lindenwold Police Officer Anthony Tweedley testified Wednesday. The officer, at times emotional, described how he had found the couple's son sitting near his mother's head, stroking her hair. Nearby, a bloody butcher knife was on the floor, Tweedley said.
The boy, now being raised by relatives, was taken to the apartment complex administrative office. While playing and drawing, Tweedley testified, the toddler would make stabbing gestures with a pen, repeat his father's name, make obscene remarks about women, and say, "Troy hit Mom-mom."
This is the second time Troy Whye is standing trial for first-degree murder. He was convicted in 2010 and sentenced to life, but a three-judge Superior Court panel overturned the conviction, citing error in the way Judge Samuel Natal instructed the jury.
Natal also is presiding over the second trial, which is scheduled to resume Tuesday.