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By Thinkgoat

Ashland, Illinois Although the trial of Shirley Skinner has been postponed a while, accusations are amping up to a fevered pitch. I’ve never been a fan of using one crime as a platform for political advancement or deterrent, but the residents of Cass County better start asking some tough questions and demanding some form of accountability from those who are sworn to protect and serve. While nothing can bring Steven Watkins back to his family, perhaps justice for him will encompass vast changes in department procedure and oversight. Or perhaps the residents of that small county can continue supporting yahoos who appear to not know their ass from a hole in the ground.

Yes, I’m opining, but the more I read about this case, the more I analyze the situation, the more I cannot understand why more people aren’t throwing an out and out fit. If accusations are true, Cass County Sheriff’s department had information they sat on that was instrumental in blowing out the murder for hire development. Sat on it. In a recent “Letter To The Editor” penned by Dale and Penny Watkins, parents of the slain Steven Watkins, they describe approaching Cass County officials, Sheriff Osmer and Chief Deputy Bob Fair with information regarding Shirley Skinner approaching someone to kill Steven. As it appears, those officials did nothing, dismissing that lead as a “rumor”. Now, what the fuck else goes on in a small county to where they wouldn’t devote a little time investigating the “rumor”? We’re not talking about a crime of “he said – she said” domestic nastiness or a stolen bicycle, we’re talking a cold-blooded murder. Something that just doesn’t happen all that often in those parts. So again, I have to ask, “What the fuck?” Me? I think they’d jump at the chance of a little drama. I’d think they’d have their noses so deep in this crime since it’s one of the biggest things to plague that county in a long time. What’s really going on?

Why? Why weren’t gun shot residue tests performed on Shirley Skinner, Kenneth Skinner, or Jennifer Watkins, the three adults in the home at the time Steven Watkins was gunned down from behind? I know I’ve been pretty tough of Chief of Police Jim Birdsell in my previous coverage regarding this crime. But given the information set forth by the Watkins family, if Cass officials didn’t do shit with some leads, what else didn’t they do. What if Chief Birdsell walked into the Skinner home, saw Steven dead on the floor and froze? While not exactly the reaction one wants out of an official who’s to be in charge, it’s kind of understandable since brain matter scattered about isn’t exactly what one would expect to find in a sleepy town of 1300 people. So what if Birdsell just freaked, waited for County to come in to take control? What if it was the Sheriff’s Department who was ultimately responsible for dropping the ball? Where they there prior to Shirley being carted off to the hospital? Why didn’t they step up to the plate, order GSR tests, seclude the adults in separate places, interrogate/interview them? We know they were there per footage captured by TV Channel 20 (WICS) news. Why did they allow mass chaos to continue? Surely Cass County Sheriff’s Department has more training and resources than Chief Jim Birdsell. Why isn’t anyone questioning this shit? Why is everyone so willing to “accept” that these tax supported officials did absolutely nothing but keep their thumbs in their ass, walked around gawking at a dead guy sprawled out on the floor and waited for the Illinois State Police to do the simplest and basic crime scene processing? Just how damn hard is it to keep Shirley, Kenneth, Jennifer, and God knows who else, away from each other? How hard is it to put bags over everyone’s hands to preserve any residue that may be there even if they don’t have the capability to perform the damn test? How hard is it to take every single adult to different parts of the house, the police station, ad nauseam, for interrogation? Instead, these cold-blooded killers were allowed to have access to one another as a sweet family support system. I don’t give a flying fuck if the Skinner’s claimed blowing the brains out of this guy was self-defense. Let the courts sort that out. If you’re an official paid to control this kind of thing, never never never assume you know what the hell is going on. Treat everything as a crime and don’t take sides against the kid who’s silent because he’s dead on the floor. Why aren’t more people screaming about this?

If there isn’t an infrastructural change in that county, the citizens are to blame. Inquiring minds are silenced and vastly ignored or labeled troublemakers when in reality, they are the ones who are trying to initiate change. What transpired in Cass County was an execution style murder and nothing was done for over a year – when the State Police took complete control of the case. Leads were not followed up on but rather dismissed. Is this a case of incompetence or willful negligence? Those are the two choices, people. I hope, for the sake of the residents, there doesn’t need to be another murder case to get a second opinion.

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Picture of Steven and his daughters courtesy of Justice for Steven Watkins Facebook.

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  1. Lazlo says:

    It makes one wonder if there is some kind of personal connection between the Law Enforcement/Justice apparatus in Cass County and the Skinner family. What at first blush appeared like gross incompetence on the part of a small town Police Chief looks more and more like an orchestrated effort to hide/obfuscate the facts of this case. And I don’t mean by Birdsell. I wish the much maligned Chief would open up, and tell us what really happened that night. Small town justice at it’s dirtiest I’m afraid. You refer to two possibilities – I propose a third – Obstruction of Justice by the very folks whose duty it is to ensure it. Who guards the Guardians?


  2. thinkgoat says:

    Lazlo, it really makes you wonder, doesn’t it? I understand not being able to release information pertaining to the case, HOWEVER, people have a right to have their questions answered regarding the very people they pay to perform their duty. What is mind-boggling is that more people are willing to be just as complacent in asking “why” as it appears the Sheriff’s Department was in performing the very basic crime scene preservation. (that does include secluding the witnesses) I cannot believe, out of a handful of law enforcement officers there, every single one of them froze and not one of them snapped back into professional mode to get the job done.

    If they froze, people need to ask themselves if that is really who they need filling that position? If they couldn’t perform as professionals and fulfill the very basic obligations, people really need to ask if that’s the best candidate for the job. If pertinent leads weren’t followed up on, are these the caliber of individuals best suited to lead the charge in maintaining law and order?

    Unfortunately, it’s much easier to accept the personality of the individual than the principles when it should be the complete opposite.


  3. skinnerhater says:

    Unfortunatly the mojority of Cass county resident voted for a puppet of the Osmer regime of Cass County Crime Solvers……….lol. So I really hope we have no more murders in this county because the puppet spent 20 yrs being trained by Sheriff and we all now how he investigates a murder. I really hope and pray that there will be Justice for Steven Watkins at this trial and Shirley Skinner gets everything she deserves and more. I’m sure that in the end her family will also play with either prison sentences or by the wrath of GOD.


  4. Perspective says:

    They just found her guilty of all 5 counts!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


  5. Lazlo says:

    WOOT!!! I was afraid they weren’t going to, with the trial being so short. Thats awesome.


  6. Moved to Rville on purpose says:


    ‘Dateline’ to cover local murder
    by Maria Nagle

    The television newsmagazine “Dateline NBC” will look at the murder of Steven Watkins of Cass County in its program tonight.
    During the first hour of the show, which is scheduled to air at 7p.m. (Central Time), correspondent Rob Stafford will report on the Nov 25, 2008 shooting death, according to Raven Tarpley, assistant to “Dateline” producer Cathy Singer.
    She has been working on the segment since last year. Singer covered the trial of Shirley Skinner, who was convicted of the crime, and talked with others involved in the case.
    Watkins, 32, of Chandlerville was killed when he went to Skinner’s home in Ashland to pick up his daughter, Sidney, for a court ordered visitation. Watkins and his estranged wife, Jennifer Watkins, were to appear in court the next day for a hearing related to more visitations between the child and her father.
    Skinner was convicted of first-degree murder and of soliciting two co-workers to commit murder. She was sentenced to 70 years in prison.


  7. Bob Bowser says:

    Unfortunately, two of the indictments have been over-turned. But, nonetheless, the old lady will die in prison and the cowardly young grand-daughter will stay at home laughing. She is sick and her family would be doing her a favor to get her some help and maybe they should get some for themselves, as well.



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