Souderton Resident James Troutman Charged With Rape and Murder of Skyler Kauffman
Troutman states he "snapped" and choked his 9-year-old neighbor to death.
Amidst an onslaught of expletives and threats from a mob of local residents, James Lee Troutman was arraigned shortly after 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday at the Souderton District Court.
Wearing a bulletproof vest, jeans, and a T-shirt, Troutman sat silently with his head in his hands as the judge read aloud the charges, which Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Ferman had levied against him.
The charges included murder in the first degree, murder in the second degree, kidnapping, rape, deviate sexual intercourse with a child, abuse of a corpse, and tampering with evidence.
The charges stem from last night's disappearance of 9-year-old Skyler Kauffman, who failed to show up for dinner with her family around 6 p.m. Monday evening.
"The investigation began initially with a call by Kauffman's mother (Heather Gebhard) to the local police shortly after 7 p.m. yesterday evening," said Ferman.
After failed attempts to locate Kauffman by both family and local police, two residents of the Souderton Garden Apartments stated they had found what they believed was a pool of blood in one of the apartment complex's common basements.
Shortly after, Montgomery County Detective Edward Schikel encountered Troutman, and noticed what he thought was blood on Troutman's right sneaker.
According to court documents, both the detective and Troutman continued their conversation, in which Troutman spoke of a previous altercation with the victim. Troutman subsequently agreed to assist in the investigation, and led the two back to his apartment.
Upon knocking on the door, Troutman's fiancee, Heather Clemens, yelled "Come in," at which point the detective and the accused entered the residence.
Clemens stated that Troutman had left the apartment around 5 p.m., to "play games on his cell phone." A little while later, she stated she heard a girl screaming loudly, saying "no" multiple times while crying.
Clemens described hearing a "wailing" sound, as well as "crashing sounds" and the sound of someone falling to the ground.
Clemens stated that she immediately tried to contact Troutman via cell phone, though he didn't answer. After 20 minutes, Troutman called Clemens, stating he was exercising at the Indian Crest School.
When Troutman arrived home, Clemens stated he was covered in what looked like mud, and said he had gotten dirty while working out on a football field. He then got a shower, put his clothes in a hamper in the master bedroom, and sat down with Clemens for dinner.
Detective Schikel asked to see the clothing, and Clemens escorted him to the master bedroom, where he found blood-soaked clothing in the hamper.
Later in the evening, Detective Moyer of the Franconia Township Police Department discovered the body of Skyler Kauffman wrapped in a blanket and tossed into a trash bin within the apartment complex.
Though initially denying any involvement, Troutman later admitted that he had "choked her to death with [his] own hands," while also admitting that Kauffman's head hit the floor "a couple of times."
Troutman stated that he walked Kauffman into the basement of his building, and once inside, "it was like a white-out" and he "snapped."
After the alleged murder, Troutman stated "I got rid of her," at which point he admitted to wrapping the child in a blanket and throwing her body into a dumpster.
According to a report by the Montgomery County Medical Examiner, the cause of death was asphyxia and blunt-force trauma, with sexually related lacerations and trauma.
"This is one of those terribly disturbing situations where it seemingly happens out of nowhere. No criminal history to speak of, and certainly none of the typical history that we see many times in cases with these kind of allegations," said Ferman.
Troutman is currently being held without bail, and his preliminary hearing is scheduled for May 19 at 1 p.m.
In the wake of the tragedy, residents of the area were out nearly all day Tuesday, trying to comfort one another in the aftermath of an alleged brutal murder.
"My stepson and his girlfriend actually went out looking for her after the Amber Alert," said one neighbor, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
"It's just horrible. When you go after a defenseless child, screw the courts. Let the public have him. That's an innocent child that couldn't fight back," said the neighbor. "I can't imagine what her parents are going through. My heart goes out to them."
Another resident, Lisa DeVenney, walked through the police barricade, heading toward the scene of the murder while carrying a handful of red flowers. She was escorted off the scene, as her friend said "They should definitely hang that piece of (expletive)."
As of 7 p.m., hundreds of people were at the intersection of Second Street and Chestnut, holding a candlelight vigil, including the victim's aunt and cousin, who are selling T-shirts in an effort to raise money to pay for Kauffman's funeral.
Stay tuned to Patch for more information, as it becomes available.