Illinois Fathers Press Bill on Interference With Visitation

Back in 2008, Steven Watkins of Illinois went to his ex-mother-in-law’s house to pick up his daughter, Sidney, for visitation.  There, 75-year-old Shirley Skinner, mother of his ex-wife, Jennifer Watkins, shot Watkins in the back of the head at close range, killing him.

Here’s one article about the case (Springfield Journal-Register, 8/14/10).

In May of 2010, Skinner was convicted of first-degree murder and a month later was sentenced to 55 years behind bars.

But apparently the case isn’t closed.  That’s because, while Shirley Skinner pulled the trigger, more than one person believes she was merely part of a Skinner-family conspiracy to get Steven Watkins out of his daughter’s life.

At the time of the murder, Jennifer Watkins lived with her mother and the pistol used to take Steven’s life was Jennifer’s.  As important, people who know them call the Skinner family a “clan” that no outsider should consider trying to get too close to.  Indeed, the facts that the Skinners uniformly remained silent after Watkins’ murder and all of them invoked their Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination before the grand jury do nothing to dispel the notion.

It doesn’t take too much imagination to conclude that Shirley Skinner knew what her daughter wanted done and did it, believing that her age would give her a break in court.  How would she have known that Jennifer wanted Steven out of the way?  That’s a continuing mystery.  The grand jury investigating the killing has not been disbanded.

Meanwhile, Steven Watkins’ parents have asserted their right to visitation with their granddaughter and a judge has agreed that the girl should see them regularly.  Parenthetically, I’m amazed that Ralph and Penny Watkins have the courage to pursue visitation given what happened to their son, but they’ve done so, and successfully.

Or maybe not so successfully.  It now develops that Jennifer Watkins has fled the state, apparently to prevent Sidney’s grandparents from having contact with the child.

All of that has prompted the organization, Illinois Fathers to promote a bill called the Steven Watkins Visitation Bill.  The bill provisions can be found on the IF website here.  It seeks to put some teeth into parental visitation rights and create real legal consequences for interference with visitation.

Here’s the text of their press release about the bill and a rally in support of it:

On Thursday, February 10, 2011, Illinois Fathers will hold a Press Conference and Rally in support of the “Parental Visitation Interference Bill’ hereafter to be known as “The Steven Watkins Bill’. Steven was murdered for attempting to visit his daughter. The mother has since left the state and Penny and Dale Watkins haven”t seen their granddaughter since the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

Steven”s story was profiled on Dateline NBC on October 8, 2010. It was followed up by the State Journal-Register”s Bruce Rushton when Jennifer Watkins, Steven”s ex-wife, fled out of the state and now the Watkins can”t exercise their court ordered visitation with their grandchild.

This bill is sponsored by State Representatives Constance Howard and LaShawn K. Ford along with Senators Mattie Hunter and Michael Frerichs.

Illinois Fathers has been contacted by House Speaker Michael J. Madigan”s and Senate President John Cullerton”s office concerning the Steven Watkins bill and expect full support for the passage of this necessary bill.

The press conference begins at 9:30 a.m. sharp with the rally to follow immediately after beginning with speaker Jill Egizii, President of PAAO (Parental Alienation Awareness Organization).

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