Police Seek Owner of Truck in Which Slayers of 2 Fled

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Police said Thursday that they are looking for the registered owner of a pickup truck in which two men fled after fatally shooting two other men in an apartment this week.

Homicide detectives also said they have established a motive for the slaying, which happened in the 6000 block of Bannock Road, after talking Wednesday with a man who was in the house. The shooting involved a dispute over property, but police would not say what kind.

Police declined to identify the witness to protect him from retaliation. The man, in his mid-30s, is not a suspect in the killings and was a friend of the victims, Sgt. Mike Mittelstaedt said.

Neighbors had called police at 12:20 p.m. Tuesday after hearing gunfire and seeing two men driving from the house in a red pickup truck. Jerry Lee Skillman, 35, and Steven Frances Rita, 28, were found with bullet wounds in their heads in the living room. They both died shortly afterward.

The witness was upstairs when he heard another man arguing with Skillman for several minutes about property, Mittelstaedt said.

"He heard the shots, but did not see anything. He heard the argument and then the gunshots," Mittelstaedt said.

The man is "extremely scared and doesn't want his name to get out," he said.

The witness recognized one of the voices he heard downstairs, which may help police locate a suspect in the shooting.

Rita, a transient, appears not to have been involved in the argument. "He was in the wrong place at the wrong time," Mittelstaedt said.

Skillman lived at the house with his mother, Colleen, and brother Gary, 28.

Both attackers remain at large. The truck they escaped in was repossessed by General Motors only hours after the homicides.

"The registered owner had called (General Motors) and gave an address in Mira Loma for them to pick up the truck. He wasn't there," Mittelstaedt said. "The owner had missed a few payments."

The truck, a 1992 or 1993 Chevrolet, has an extended cab with dual rear wheels.

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