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Illinois cops: Seminole woman, 74, may not be last arrest in custody killing

SEMINOLE — A grandmother accused of killing her granddaughter's husband waived extradition in court Tuesday. She agreed to return to Illinois to stand trial, which must take place within 120 days.

More arrests are possible in the slaying of an Illinois man last November that already led to the arrest in Seminole of Shirley Skinner on first-degree murder charges, the Illinois state police said.

Skinner, the 74-year-old grandmother of the victim's estranged wife, was arrested in Clearwater on Monday as she left a pizza restaurant with family members. She was being held without bail Tuesday.

Skinner appeared via video conference from a room in the Pinellas County Jail. Wearing a dark blue jumpsuit with white stripes, she answered three questions before her attorney introduced himself and informed the judge that she had waived extradition that morning.

Dan Fultz, one of two Springfield lawyers representing Skinner, was initially stunned by the courtroom full of reporters interested in a case from a tiny county in central Illinois.

With Skinner during her Monday arrest was her 31-year-old granddaughter, Jennifer Watkins, whose estranged husband, Steven, was killed with a single gunshot to the back of his head.

The couple was in the midst of a divorce and a battle for custody of their 2-year-old daughter, Sidney. Steven Watkins was killed during a court-ordered visitation. He was to seek full custody of Sidney at a court hearing the next day.

Shirley and Kenneth Skinner, Jennifer Watkins and Sidney were all in the house when police arrived in response to a call of a custody dispute and found Steven Watkins dead, Ashland police Chief Jim Birdsell testified at Watkins' inquest, according to the Journal-Courier in Jacksonville, Ill.

"State police said at the press conference that the investigation is ongoing and that additional arrests are possible," Fultz said.

Fultz also represents Jennifer Watkins. He said he did not expect her to be arrested. Watkins, her daughter and her grandmother moved to Seminole eight or nine months ago, Fultz said.

"At some point, we knew someone was likely to get arrested," Fultz said. "We did not know who they would arrest and we did not know what the delay was in the investigation. At this point, we know what their intentions are."

Fultz said Skinner, who owns a mobile home at 513 Skipper Drive, is "obviously upset" and "troubled" by her arrest but that it "did not come as a complete surprise because she knew someone would be arrested."

Skinner moved to Seminole shortly after Steven Watkins' death two days before Thanksgiving

Fultz said he did not know the exact location of the family members residing with her in Seminole, but said her husband is en route from Illinois.

Steven Watkins' mother said she felt better now that there has been an arrest. "I'm glad that somebody is being charged with Steven's murder," said Penny Watkins. "I do feel better. I feel like it's been a long battle. I feel like it's not over yet."

Penny Watkins she did not consider Shirley Skinner a suspect but became curious when she was subpoenaed by Skinner's attorneys in an unrelated child services case, she said.

Though she called an arrest "long, long overdue," Penny Watkins said there will never be closure.

"This is just a hole in our family that will be there forever," she said.

According to his mother, Steven Watkins served in the Coast Guard for eight years before moving to Springfield to work for the Illinois child services hotline taking calls from those having trouble making child support payments.

No one answered the door at Skinner's residence Tuesday morning. A Cadillac with Illinois plates was in the carport.

Staff writer Emily Nipps contributed to this report. Brant James can be reached at brant@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8804.

Illinois cops: Seminole woman, 74, may not be last arrest in custody killing 10/06/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 7, 2009 9:47am]

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