TYLER, Texas (KETK) – The federal government intends to prosecute a Tyler man accused of driving halfway across the country and kidnapping an Alabama girl he met online. He is facing several charges in state court, including human trafficking and child sexual assault.
19-year-old Daniel Skipworth is being held in the Smith County Jail on a $550,000 bond. A grand jury in June returned indictments on the following charges:
- Aggravated sexual assault of a child
- Trafficking a child and engaging in forced sexual conduct
At a hearing Monday afternoon, defense attorney Brett Harrison asked 7th District Court Judge Kerry Russell to delay the case until Jan. 10, 2022, due to his knowledge of the federal government’s intention to pursue charges since the case crossed state lines.
Lead prosecutor Richard Vance said that if the federal government does prosecute, the case would be dismissed in state court. He said to his knowledge no charges have been filed in federal court due to a lengthy trial that has tied up the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Vance also stated that no plea offer has been made yet in the case to Skipworth.
Russell accepted the defense’s motion to delay the case while they await word from the feds, but did comment that the arrangement of holding Skipworth in a Smith County taxpayer-funded jail when the State of Texas likely would not be pursuing charges against him was unfair to local residents.
“The citizens of Smith County gets to keep paying for his housing over here whenever that doesn’t really seem fair to the court for our local citizens. To just keep waiting and waiting and waiting with the intent of turning it over to federal prosecutors.7th District Judge Kerry Russell
Skipworth will be back in state court on January 10. He only spoke when prompted with the exception of him commenting at the beginning of the hearing, saying: “Hope you all are well today.”
According to an arrest warrant obtained by KETK News back in April, Skipworth met the victim online through Instagram messages and drove 10 hours from Tyler, Texas to Florence, Alabama, on the night of April 14. He arrived around 5:30 a.m. on Thursday, April 15.
KETK News is withholding the name of the victim since she was a minor and the alleged victim of a sex crime.
The victim’s parents filed a missing person’s report that same day with the Florence Police Department. They contacted the FBI, who was able to track the girl’s cell phone until it was dumped.
The warrant states that FBI investigators “further determined that the movements of [the victim’s] phone were traveling with another number, later determined to belong to Daniel Dylan Skipworth.”
They were able to track Skipworth’s number back to Texas. He had returned from Alabama at 3:46 a.m. on Friday, April 16. FBI agents from Birmingham contacted Tyler PD and agents with the Tyler, Texas FBI office, who went to Skipworth’s house on April 17.
According to the documents, Skipworth’s father told them that Skipworth had traveled to Alabama in the past week, but was adamant that there was not a 13-year-old girl being held at the home.
His dad went up to Skipworth’s room and brought him to authorities. The warrant says that he was “uncooperative and upset that his family had allowed investigators inside their home. [Skipworth] eventually did confirm that [the victim] was inside his bedroom.”
In multiple interviews with investigators, the victim said that she had initially left her home willingly with Skipworth, but had a change of heart. She repeatedly asked him to take her back home over the two days, but he refused.
Skipworth told police that the victim had brought a small bag with a few belongings along with a computer. He said that the victim asked him to go back home, but claimed he was too tired from the trip and that he would take her later.
He also allegedly told police that “he had kept [the victim] concealed within his bedroom and took steps to provide her with food and to entertain her during her stay.”
Skipworth is being held in the Smith County, Texas Jail on trafficking, kidnapping, child sexual assault, and resisting arrest. His bonds total $560,000.