PORT HURON, Mich. – A middle school teacher described in court Tuesday how her mortally wounded husband fended off two masked men who crept into their home and savagely stabbed them while they were in bed, chasing them from the home before collapsing and dying in a pool of his own blood.
Facing Mara Skinner in the crowded Port Huron courtroom Tuesday was her 17-year-old adopted daughter, Tia, and two 18-year-old men charged in the Nov. 12 attack, including Tia's boyfriend.
Tia Skinner, Jonathan Kurtz and James Preston have pleaded not guilty to charges of murder, assault and conspiracy in the attack on the couple. They could be sentenced to up to life in prison if convicted of murder.
During Tuesday's preliminary hearing in the case to decide if the case would proceed to trial, Mara Skinner told the court that she and her husband went to bed at about 11 p.m. on the night of the attack in their home in Yale, about 85 miles northeast of Detroit.
Composed and direct, she told how she was resting comfortably when her husband shouted "Hon! Hon!"
"At the same time, I felt blunt force to my back and to my neck," Mara Skinner said. "I was being attacked and my husband was being attacked. I was screaming. My husband was screaming."
Skinner said she couldn't see her attackers until her husband turned on the light in their second-floor bedroom.
"I saw a knife ready to come down. I grabbed it," she said. "I said 'no! You have to go, go, go. Jeff is here right now.'"
The masked attackers then fled with Paul Skinner chasing them out the front door.
Jeff Skinner, the couple's adult son who was visiting and was in the basement, like Tia, ran upstairs to his parents' aid.
Paul Skinner made it back to the home but collapsed and later died.
Mara Skinner testified that she and Tia had been in conflict over the girl's relationship with Kurtz. Tia's parents did not approve of her seeing Kurtz, who lived with his parents about six miles from Yale.
"We had talked about friends that were in his peer group," Mara Skinner said. "And that was something I didn't want her exposed to at all."
Testimony in the hearing was continuing with Jeff Skinner on the witness stand.
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