By Michael Kloppenburg
The Skinner family is trying to gain support for an effort to have convicted murderer Shirley Skinner released from prison for health reasons. According to Ashland Police Chief Jim Birdsell, who spoke at the Oct. 9 meeting of the Ashland village board, Kenneth Skinner, Shirley’s husband, is trying to gain signatures on a petition for Gov. Pat Quinn to grant clemency for Shirley. Birdsell said Kenneth approached him to gain his signature on the petition. Birdsell refused to sign it.
Shirley, 78, is serving a 55-year prison sentence for a murder conviction in the shooting death of Steven Watkins, the father of Shirley’s great-granddaughter, Sidney Watkins. Birdsell was the first officer to respond to the 911 call the evening of Nov. 25, 2008, and discover that a homicide had occurred.
Sidney is at the center of a visitation battle between her mother, Jennifer Watkins, and Steven’s parents, Dale and Penny Watkins. Jennifer later fled with Sidney to Florida to avoid Cass County court orders awarding Dale and Penny visitation rights. Jennifer spent time in a Florida jail during an extradition fight to bring her to Illinois to face contempt of court citations for disobeying court orders but was ultimately not extradited and was released. New warrants for Jennifer’s arrest were issued earlier this year.