Murder prompts rally for parental visitation rights

Rally for Steven Watkins and family law reform at the Capitol Building in Springfield, Ill. / Jim Whitfield

A rally was held to get support for House Bill 1604, the Steven Watkins Bill.

Steven Watkins Memorial Act will go before the Illinois Senate after being passed the House by a vote of 78-36.

Steven Watkins was an Illinois man who was shot to death as he arrived to pick up his daughter for his court-ordered visitation in 2008.

The shooter was his ex-wife's mother, Shirley Skinner of Ashland. Last year she was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to 55 years in prison. She was 75-years-old at the time of sentencing.

See the Related Links below this story for more details on the 2008 murder.

Penny Watkins, Steven's mother, was a speaker in support of family law reform at the rally.

The rally was held on the east side of the Capitol Building at 302 S. Second Street in Springfield, Illinois Tuesday.

See the public event page for this rally on Facebook by clicking here .

Bill 1604 is an effort to put some teeth into visitation orders. It amends the state law providing for the suspension of the drivers' license of parents who don't pay child support. If the bill passes, Illinois parents who don't comply with visitation orders can have their drivers license suspended until they come into compliance.

Under the sun-drenched dome of the Illinois State Capital in Springfield, Penny Watkins told a crowd of about 100 people that the Illinois General Assembly needs to pass House Bill 1604 and send it to the governor for his signature.

She was speaking to members and supporters of the group, Illinois Fathers, at this rally. This year, the rally's theme was "Justice for Steven."

Steven Watkins was a non-custodial father who was murdered by his ex-wife's grandmother, Shirley Skinner, in Cass County, Illinois three years ago.

Now Watkins' parents want to see their granddaughter. But the child's mother, Jennifer Watkins, has moved to Florida and has ignored numerous court orders to return to Illinois.

"It has been a nightmare. You know, I have a big hole in my heart. I've lost my son. He's not out there. It's not like I can have visitation with him. With his daughter that is wonderful, that is just priceless," said Penny Watkins.

House Bill 1604 calls for legal action against someone who violates child visitation ordered by the court. If found guilty, you could have your drivers' or professional license suspended, and face fines of up to 500 dollars a day.

It has passed the Illinois house, and now is in the senate.

Illinois Fathers and these supporters want to see it signed into law.

Does this issue strike close to home for you? We'd love your comments and stories below and on our Facebook page here .