In contentious testimony, defendant denies killing girlfriend

Troy Whye at his first trial in 2010.A retrial was ordered after judges faulted jury instructions.
Troy Whye at his first trial in 2010.A retrial was ordered after judges faulted jury instructions. (CHARLES FOX / Staff)
Posted: February 08, 2014

LINDENWOLD Troy Whye insisted Thursday that he never harmed Krystal Skinner and was not the person who stabbed her 30 times just days after she broke up with him in 2008.

"I never put my hands on Krystal," said Whye, 42, who is on trial in Superior Court in Camden for first-degree murder. Skinner was 23 and caring for the couple's 2-year-old son.

She was found dead March 26 near the front door of her Lindenwold apartment. Her son was kneeling next to her body, stroking her hair. A bloody butcher knife was nearby.

On the stand, Whye spoke little of his son, John, except to say he often cared for the toddler when needed. Skinner was an honors student at Rutgers-Camden, aspiring to be a social worker. She was juggling classes, an internship with the state Department of Youth and Family Services, and work at a deli.

Skinner and Whye had a tumultuous five-year relationship in which they frequently fought, broke up, and reunited, he told the jury during two hours of testimony.

"I knew Krystal better than anyone," he testified.

Camden County Assistant Prosecutor Christine Shah paused during questioning, then asked, "Better than her family?"

"Absolutely," Whye replied.

Later, when asked by Shah if Whye was Skinner's best friend, Whye said: "Yeah, I would think so."

Shah painted a different picture. She asked Whye about police reports that showed Skinner had at least twice called police about Whye. The jury did not hear all the details of those previous incidents.

In March 2006, according to police records, Skinner filed an assault complaint against Whye, and received a temporary restraining order.

"You ain't leaving me if it's not in a casket," Whye warned her, Skinner allegedly told police. "You ain't going nowhere. I'll leave my son motherless. I'm coldhearted, I don't care."

In court, Whye acknowledged that he violated the restraining order within days.

On Jan. 29, Lindenwold Police Officer Andrew Tweedley testified that after John was taken out of the apartment, 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."

Whye's niece, Asenith Whye, also testified last week that Skinner was planning to change the locks to her apartment after she broke up with Whye. Whye asked his niece to speak to Skinner because the two were friends. Whye said her uncle talked about disturbing thoughts he was having, and asked his niece to pray for him. He also said if Skinner didn't change, he was going to have to kill her, she said.

Whye testified he never said those things to his niece.

Whye remained on the stand about two hours, contentious as he sparred with Shah. At times he told Shah she was not paying attention, or distorted his words. Other times, he insisted she was wrong. With a smile, he told Shah, "You have to get your story straight, counselor."

Whye told the jury he had an alibi. He said he was with a woman named Honey in the overnight hours when Skinner was killed, but he could not recall her last name. He said that before Skinner's body was found, he drove to the apartment with a woman named Marcy to get his clothes, but decided not to go inside when he saw Skinner's car in the parking lot.

"I did not want no altercations, or nothing, so I left," Whye said.

On direct questioning by his attorney, Brad Wertheimer, Whye described first meeting Skinner at a Trenton train station. After their son was born, he said, Skinner was angry with his lifestyle selling prescription drugs and driving a cab without a license.

"She wanted me to get my life together," Whye said.

Under cross-examination by Shah, there were times Whye contradicted himself about repeated calls he made to Skinner in the days before the slaying, and where he was. Whye said that days after learning about Skinner's death, he reached out to Lt. Marty Devlin of the Camden County Prosecutor's Office.

He told Devlin, now retired, he just wanted to talk and would come in voluntarily. Devlin, he said, was wrong when he testified that Whye confessed, told Devlin he would accept responsibility for what he did, and surrender.

Police arrested Whye after he boarded a train in Camden. Those officers were wrong when they reported he identified himself as Troy Washington, Whye said.

Whye said he had identification in his pocket with his real name. He used other names, he said, to buy disposable cellphones and when he did not carry his ID.

This is the second time Whye is standing trial. He was convicted of first-degree murder in 2010, but a three-judge Superior Court panel overturned the conviction, citing judicial error in instructing the jury.

The case was sent back for a retrial before Superior Court Judge Samuel Natal, who also presided over the first trial. The jury began deliberating Thursday afternoon and is scheduled to return Tuesday morning.


bboyer@phillynews.com

856-779-3838 @BBBoyer

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