Helping make sure those who murdered Steven account for their actions
Nine months ago, November 25, 2008, somebody shot 32-year-old Steven Watkins in the back of the head inside a house at 11 Horseshoe Drive in Ashland, Illinois. Watkins worked for the Illinois Dept of Healthcare and Family Services. He had gone to the house to pick up his 2-year-old daughter, Sydney for a court ordered visitation from his estranged wife, Jennifer Webster Watkins who lived there with her maternal grandparents, parents, and a couple of brothers.
Their family is affluent by local standards and the extended family owns several businesses in surrounding Cass County. Watkins and his estranged wife Jennifer were due in court the following day, Nov 26, 2008, for ongoing divorce proceedings.
At any rate Watkins was standing in a room with approx 3-6 members of his wife’s family, apparently including her, when he was shot one time in the back of the head. The coroner’s report said that from the bullet’s trajectory the shooter was either sitting or shorter than Watkins.
The story gets a little fuzzy from that point on, but apparently the grandmother, 82-year-old Shirley Skinner claimed she had an anxiety attack and paramedics were called to take her to the hospital. On arrival paramedics noticed Watkins dead in the middle of the room and called police and then proceeded to take Skinner to the hospital.
The police chief, Jim Birdsell (a retired Illinois Secretary of State police officer) arrived on the scene and reportedly found the murder weapon wiped of prints and in the hall closet. From the outset Birdsell denied all requests for media interviews and my contact with Illinois State Police says he also turned down repeated offers of assistance from that agency.
In six months the Cass County state’s attorney, John Dahlem, never filed any charges in the case and never took it to the grand jury. Then on May 15, 2009 at the direction of Cass County Circuit Judge Bob Hardwick Jr., the case was turned over the Illinois State’s Attorney’s Appellate Prosecutor’s office, to a guy named Mike Vujovich.
Vujovich has turned down any media requests to talk about it and in the three months since receiving the case has filed no charges and not called a grand jury to hear the facts. He also now refuses to talk with the Watkins family about any progress he may have made.
Watkin’s mother says in the months preceding his death his wife had filed charges of child molestation against Steven which a judge found to be groundless and dismissed.
At any rate the facts are pretty clear.
Nine months after he was shot in the back of the head inside the home of his estranged wife’s family no charges have been filed.
We know that both the grandmother and the estranged wife/widow have hired some of the highest priced defense attorneys in Springfield.
Nine months after his murder Watkins parents and other relatives have been prohibited from seeing his 2-year-old daughter. In fact the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services told a local newspaper reporter that they have lost track of Jennifer Watkins/Webster’s whereabouts because there is no pending legal action against her. Penny Watkins says a caseworker told her that the 2-year-old daughter is in no danger because reason for the friction between Jennifer and Steven (i.e. Steven) is no longer alive!
Watkin’s mother, Penny Watkins is very accessible along with various friends. A search of Springfield’s State Journal Register archives and the archives of the Jacksonville Journal Courier will give you some more details, but some of those are linked in a website started by a complete stranger: www.stevenwatkins.blogspot.com
1. arrest all those involved in the case and make them give statements
2. Legislation change so that small town police are mandated to have State Police help in homicide investigations
3. Unfounded allegations againt spouse should be punished by law