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Seminole grandmother leaves Pinellas County jail for murder trial in Illinois

LARGO — Shirley J. Skinner, the 74-year-old great-grandmother accused of murdering her granddaughter's husband, was released from the Pinellas County Jail on Wednesday morning and sent home for trial in Illinois.

Skinner was taken from the health care unit and put in the custody of the Illinois state police at 7:55 a.m., a jail official said. She waived extradition during a court hearing Tuesday. Her Illinois State Police plane was scheduled to arrive at Abraham Lincoln Capitol Airport in Springfield, Ill., by 3:05 Eastern Standard Time.

Skinner was being held without bail after she was arrested Monday outside a Clearwater pizzeria in the November killing of Steven Watkins, 32, at her home in Ashland, Ill. She spent the past few months living at a Seminole mobile home park with her granddaughter, Jennifer Watkins, and her great-granddaughter, Sidney.

Steven Watkins, embroiled in a divorce and custody battle with Jennifer Watkins, went to Skinner's home two days before last Thanksgiving to pick up Sidney for a court-ordered visit. A custody hearing was scheduled for the next day.

Police, responding to a report of a custody dispute, found Watkins dead on the floor from a single bullet to the base of his skull from a 9mm Glock handgun, which was found on some nearby boxes, according to a January inquest.

Several members of Skinner's family, including Jennifer Watkins, were in the house when police arrived. Illinois prosecutors say there could be more arrests.

Ashland police Chief Jim Birdsell testified in the inquest that Watkins, 5 feet 7, died from one shot fired from an upward trajectory more than 2 feet away.

Ashland is in Cass County, Ill., which is so small it doesn't have a jail. According to Illinois State Police, Skinner will be housed in nearby Pike County's jail.

Seminole grandmother leaves Pinellas County jail for murder trial in Illinois 10/07/09 [Last modified: Thursday, October 8, 2009 10:01am]
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