Gunman accidentally dials friend of home invasion victim mid-robbery, alerting police
Skyla Hunter home alone with infant daughter when masked men in black storm in
On the night of Feb. 9, 2017, Skyla Hunter sat on the floor of her 10-month-old daughter's bedroom and sobbed — overcome with emotion after 25 frightening minutes in her Paradise home.
Aside from a bruise on her leg, the young pregnant woman and her baby were safe.
In fact, the little girl didn't even wake up as her mother was led from room to room by two men dressed "head to toe" in black, with guns pointed at her.
Hunter was the latest witness for the Crown in a curious and shocking trial for four men facing 53 charges in relation to four home invasions — two in Paradise and one each in Mount Pearl and St. John's.
As she testified by video link from another province, Gary Hennessey, 33, Mitchell Nippard, 26, and Abdifatah Mohamed, 28, listened from a long, wooden prisoner's box on the opposite side of the courtroom.
A fourth accused, Tyler Donahue, 24, is not in custody and sits about a metre away from the other men.
'Told me to cooperate'
Hunter was in her roommate's bedroom at 69 Angel's Road, a quiet residential wooded street that backs on to Topsail Pond, when two men barged in around 10:30 p.m.
"I just seen two guns," Hunter testified at provincial court in St. John's.
"They were telling me to lock the dogs in the bathroom."
She recalled the men kicking her two large dogs into the bathroom, and accidentally kicking her in the process. The men apologized, she said.
"They were asking me if I had any money," Hunter said. They told me to cooperate and nothing would happen to me or my daughter."
One man walked behind her. Another held on to her, as they led Hunter around the house, she said.
They peered into the bedroom where her baby daughter slept but didn't go inside.
"They were getting kind of mad at me," she said, as Hunter explained to them that she was on maternity leave and only had five dollars in her purse.
They hauled the white gold engagement ring off her finger, and she gave them $1,005 worth of pull tabs that her fiance had won.
Friend alerts police
She told them she had an XBox, and the two began to unplug it.
"Just take whatever you want, just leave my house," she told them.
After about 25 minutes, the men fled out her basement door.
What the men didn't know was that police weren't far behind — having been called by Hunter's friend.
When the intruders took Hunter's phone they accidentally called her friend, who heard the entire event, and subsequently called police.
Hunter said she stayed frozen on a bed where they left her for five minutes before locking her door and immediately going upstairs to check on her daughter.
She was still sleeping.
Shaken, Hunter sat on the floor and cried, she said. Then a knock came on the door.
"I thought, 'Great, awesome, they're back and they have guns.'"
But as she looked out her daughter's bedroom window, she saw the red and blue flickering of lights — an officer was at her door.
4 men arrested
Soon after, police found a grey Mazda 3 with Ontario licence plates stuck in snow on the unserviced end of nearby Dawe's Road.
The car was still running but no one was inside. But officers did find three pieces of identification belonging to Mohamed, Nippard and another man, Mohamed Salim.
In the trunk, police found items they believed were stolen during previous armed intrusions.
Edge, an RNC police dog, followed two sets of tracks from the car to an area off the Conception Bay South bypass. The dog located Donahue and Mohamed.
Another RNC officer found Hennessey and Nippard sitting in a Lancer on a street close to the scene. The men had run out of gas.
All four men were taken into custody that night.
Can't identify men
Like witnesses before her, Hunter said she did not see the men who invaded her home and robbed her.
They each wore black shirts, black jackets, black pants and black steel-toed boots. Their faces were entirely concealed, except for eye holes.
"They told me not to look at them. I was just doing what they told me to do," she told Crown prosecutor Alana Dwyer.
"I was afraid. I've never been through anything like that before — especially not with my daughter there."
In describing one of the men, Hunter lifted her shoulders to show a larger build and said he was very tall. The second man was shorter, but still taller than her 5'1" frame.
- A podcast special: I am an accused in this case — and I represent myself (Ep. 1)
- A podcast special: The ex-girlfriend, the former friend, and a fascinating home invasion trial (Ep. 2)
On cross-examination, Mohamed, began as he always does: with an introduction.
"Good afternoon, Ms. Hunter. I'm Abdifatah Mohamed. I'm an accused in this case and I am representing myself in this matter," he said, leaning close to a microphone.
He asks Hunter if she can identify the men or if they're in the courtroom.
Her screen showing the courtroom was blurry. But it didn't matter — Hunter said she had no idea who the men were aside from the fact they had accents that weren't of Newfoundland origin.
The trial is expected to continue on Thursday.