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74-year-old Seminole woman charged in Illinois murder

SEMINOLE — A 74-year-old great-grandmother was arrested on a murder charge Monday in connection with a homicide in Illinois last year, authorities said.

Pinellas County sheriff's officials arrested Shirley J. Skinner as she exited Cristino's Coal Brick Oven Pizzeria in Clearwater with family members at about 5 p.m.

Skinner, who was living at 513 Skipper Lane in Lake Seminole Estates Mobile Home Park in Seminole, is charged with killing her adult granddaughter's estranged husband in Ashland, Ill., in November 2008. Officials said Skinner left Illinois after killing Steven Watkins, 32.

Pinellas deputies assisted Illinois authorities in arresting Skinner. At the time of her arrest, she was with three family members, including her granddaughter, Jennifer Watkins, 31, and Watkins' 2-year-old daughter, Sidney Watkins.

Jennifer and Steven Watkins were five months into in divorce proceedings when he was killed. The couple dated for a month before entering a marriage that lasted just over a year, said Penny Watkins, the victim's mother.

The shooting happened two days before Thanksgiving. Watkins was shot in the back of the head when he went to a home owned by Skinner to pick up his daughter for a court-ordered visit. A court hearing was scheduled for the next morning in which Steven Watkins was seeking full custody of the child, Penny Watkins said.

"All he wanted was to be a part of Sidney's life," said Watkins, 52, of Chandlerville, Ill. "Their biggest problem was that Jennifer did not want to share Sidney."

Watkins' death, which will be featured in a future segment of Dateline NBC, has prompted vigils in Chandlerville, where he lived. Supporters have also documented the case at

Jennifer Watkins could not be reached Monday night, nor could attorneys for her or Skinner. Skinner has no previous criminal history.

Capt. Scott Compton of the Illinois State Police said Skinner is scheduled for an extradition hearing this morning.

Lenny Cristino, owner of the restaurant where the arrest took place in the parking lot, said Skinner and her family sat down and had four entrees and finished with espresso, gelato and chocolate cake. He remembered one thing about the head of the table.

"She looked like a nice old lady," Cristino said.

74-year-old Seminole woman charged in Illinois murder 10/05/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 6, 2009 4:31pm]
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