Murder victim’s family grappling with unanswered questions
Mary Ellen Skinner Giles says her nephew, Jason Skinner, will never be forgotten. Not only is her grandson Jason’s namesake, she says he is remembered every single day.
Jason Skinner, who was 34 at the time of his murder, struggled with addiction, but was in the process of seeking help when he was killed last spring, his family said.
One year ago, Skinner was killed. The 34-year-old had been battling addiction for some time, but by last spring had finally taken steps to turn his life around. Originally from Harbour Round, he was living at a house owned by a local homelessness network, on Eighteenth Avenue in Grand Falls-Windsor, and planned to get help for his addiction.
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He never got that chance.
Police found a badly injured Skinner on April 14, 2013. He was taken to hospital, where he later died from his injuries.
A short time later, Pamela Pike and Wanda Ash were arrested and charged with first-degree murder in Skinner’s death.
His family has been left with questions and what-ifs — as they try to pick up the pieces and cope with the loss of their loved one.
“Someone else took away his right to turn his life around,” his aunt said. “What if he had gotten his life finally turned around? What would have happened? What could he have been?”
Giles said this past year has been a series of firsts for his family — his first birthday without him, first Christmas and now the anniversary of his death.
“Trying to cope with the firsts is plagued with what’s happening next in the court system, so you’re never really getting a chance to grieve properly because his death is still imminent in your mind,” she said.
Though Skinner’s parents, Melvin and Wanda, work in Alberta for part of the year, they still try to attend every court proceeding they can. This year, on what would have been Skinner’s 35th birthday, the family marked the occasion in a courtroom during one of Ash’s appearances. They sang happy birthday as she was led from the courtroom in handcuffs.
“His family has tried to be at every court proceeding, whether it’s a court appearance, whether it’s a bail hearing, because they have so many questions,” Giles said.
“It’s like watching a train wreck where you know there’s going to be all kind of carnage at the end that you probably shouldn’t see, because it’s going to give you nightmares, but yet you have to know the details about what happened.”
Pike has been released on bail, while Ash has not sought bail. Last week, a preliminary inquiry found there was enough evidence for Ash to go to Supreme Court on a charge of first-degree murder.
Pike has not yet had a preliminary inquiry and is due back in court June 8.
Learning Pike was released on bail last month was difficult for Skinner’s family, Giles said.
“If we had a son or daughter behind bars, we would want the exact same thing — to be able to see them — but it doesn’t seem like justice is served when you’re accused of taking someone’s life and that person is lying in a cold grave. The best his parents can do for their son is put flowers on a grave,” she said.
“Then you have (Pike), who can walk around and breathe the fresh air. She can hug her mom and dad. My brother and his wife would do anything to be able to hug Jason, even if they didn’t agree with anything he did, to just be able to hug him and make sure he’s OK. And they can’t do that.”
Though Giles said it brings a level of comfort knowing Ash is facing a first-degree murder charge, the Skinner family has a level of compassion for the families of the two accused.
“Right from the beginning, because they have dealt with a troubled son, Jason’s parents have felt compassion for the other parents,” Giles said.
“I find it incredible, watching my brother and his wife go through all this, and yet one thing they’ve always wanted to put through is they don’t want another parent suffering for this.”
They do want justice, however.
“When (they) say, ‘I want justice for my son’s death,’ that does not mean that they don’t feel for the families and what they’re going through. It’s just compassion and justice are two different things.”
Though the justice system moves slowly, Giles said for the most part her family is pleased with how things have progressed. She said it’s a difficult thing to have to go through for any family, and it’s especially hard having to go through everything twice since there are two accused.
She said they’re taking everything a day at a time, trying to support one another, and doing their best to cope.
“His memory will live on and his name will live on and his story will live on, but unfortunately, he doesn’t live on, and we just have to get through the best way we can.”