The 14-year-old girl and the 25-year-old man met online and communicated through an app that connects video gamers through their smartphones or computers.
But after the girl stopped talking to the man, he allegedly came to her house — traveling for two days from his New Zealand home to Goochland, Virginia. Along the way, he stopped at a Walmart to buy duct tape and a camouflage folding clip with a 2.75-inch knife, Goochland County Sheriff James Agnew said at a Monday press conference, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports.
When no one answered at the girl’s front door on Friday afternoon, the man — who also carried pepper spray and was dressed in all-black — went around to the back of the house to a basement-level door. Inside, he spotted the girl’s mother with one of her two daughters, who are 14 and 18, and allegedly asked for help, saying he’d hitchhiked 30 miles to get there, said Agnew.
After the mother refused, the man grabbed a brick and tried to break the door, Agnew said. The mother and daughter ran upstairs, and the man reappeared outside a glass door on the upper deck, this time with a concrete landscape stone that he used to smash through a glass door before reaching in to try and unlock it, according to Agnew.
But then the mother — who had warned the man that she was calling police and was armed — grabbed a .22-caliber handgun and shot him, twice.
Authorities called to the scene found the man, Troy George Skinner, sprawled in a neighboring yard with a non life-threatening gunshot wound to the neck. According to Agnew, he meticulously planned his journey from around the world to pursue the teen.
“When I sit back and think about it, I said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me,’” Agnew said at the press conference.
He declined to speculate on Skinner’s motives, but said Skinner likely will be charged with breaking and entering with a deadly weapon with the intent to commit a serious offense. The FBI is investigating whether additional federal charges also might be filed regarding Skinner’s alleged contact with the minor girl, the sheriff said, according to the newspaper.
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Skinner was transferred Monday out of intensive care at VCU Medical Center, the sheriff said. His condition is fair, a hospital spokesman tells PEOPLE.
Journey From New Zealand to Virginia
So far, Skinner isn’t talking to law enforcement, the sheriff said, according to news station WTVR.
The mother, who has declined along with her family to be identified by authorities, only learned about her youngest daughter’s contact wth Skinner after the incident, the sheriff said.
“I’m so bewildered by what happened I can’t, I don’t know what was going through his head that was so outrageous,” a friend of Skinner’s, who also asked not to be identified, told WTVR. “Everyone who knows him is like, what the hell has happened? This is so out of character. He’s got no history of drugs, no criminal record.”
The friend knew of Skinner’s plans to travel to the U.S., but believed he had plans to meet with other American friends in Portland, Oregon. When he didn’t arrive there as expected, the friends searched online for his name and discovered the events in Virginia.
“Then you hear about duct tape, knife and are like, what the hell is this?” the friend said. “He’d been on some medication, had psychiatrists visiting his flat to discuss certain things, apparently there were some antipsychotics, so this sounds like a mental break of some description.”
Skinner had been pursuing studies in law at the University of Auckland, according to the friend.
According to the timeline compiled by law enforcement, Skinner boarded a flight at 6:05 a.m. Wednesday out of Auckland for Sydney, Australia, and from there traveled to Los Angeles. That night he flew from Los Angeles to Washington D.C., then boarded a Greyhound bus at 8:30 a.m. Thursday bound for Richmond, where he checked into a downtown hostel.
On Friday morning, Skinner checked out of the hostel and traveled to the Walmart in Glen Allen, where investigators learned he bought the knife and duct tape, according to the sheriff.
The 911 call reporting a man in black attempting to enter the home where the shooting occurred came at 4:27 p.m. Friday, the sheriff said. Simultaneously a second 911 caller reported his wife had alerted him to a man trying to break into their home, the agency said in a news release.
Authorities say they found Skinner with his New Zealand driver’s license, his outbound plane ticket from New Zealand, and his bus ticket to Richmond. In his pants pocket was the pepper spray; in the pocket of his black hoodie they found the knife, the sheriff said. He carried the duct tape in a backpack.
Girl ‘Tried to Stop Communicating with HIm’: Sheriff
Skinner had been in touch with the 14-year-old girl through a voice-over-internet app called Discord starting three or four months earlier, Agnew told reporters. He did not say who initiated the contact; a call by PEOPLE to the sheriff’s office was not immediately returned.
“The younger girl tried to stop communicating with him,” the sheriff said, but when she did so, Skinner tried to keep in touch with her through other means. “She did not cooperate with him,” he said.
The sheriff spoke in defense of the mother, who is not currently facing any charges.
“His arrival here was totally unexpected by anyone,” Agnew said. “I have to emphasize very clearly, that while [Skinner] may be … in the hospital, he is not the victim. The lady and her family members are the victims.”
The investigation is continuing.