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Tia Mariemitchell SKINNER





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Police say Tia Skinner planned the murder because she was angry at her parents for taking away her cell phone and for forbidding her to see Kurtz, who was her boyfriend of two-weeks at the time
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: November 12, 2010
Date of arrest: Same day
Date of birth: December 8, 1992
Victim profile: Paul Skinner, 47 (her adoptive father)
Method of murder: Stabbing with knife
Location: Yale, St. Clair County, Michigan, USA
Status: Sentenced to life in prison without parole on September 16, 2011. Resentenced to life in prison without parole on July 11, 2013

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Tia Skinner sentenced to life again in dad's death

By Ed White - Associated Press

July 11, 2013

PORT HURON — A former honors student convicted of plotting to have her father stabbed to death when she was 17 years old was sentenced Thursday to life in a Michigan prison without parole — the same punishment she first received in 2011.

Tia Skinner returned to court because the U.S. Supreme Court has barred automatic no-parole sentences for those younger than 18 who are convicted of first-degree murder. A St. Clair County judge was free to give Skinner a shot at parole but settled again on a sentence that means she’ll never leave prison.

“Justice demands that you serve not one day less,” Judge Daniel Kelly said.

Skinner was just a month shy of her 18th birthday in late 2010 when two young men attacked her parents in their bed in Yale, 85 miles northeast of Detroit. Paul Skinner was stabbed to death, while Mara Skinner survived 26 stab wounds.

The evidence showed that Tia Skinner orchestrated the attack because she was upset at her parents’ disapproval of her boyfriend, an 18-year-old man who was also convicted in the killing. She left a window open and a ladder outside the house. She drew a map of the neighborhood, used text messages to communicate with the killers and chose knives.

“Tia was the architect of the plan,” the judge said.

Skinner, now 20, said she was sorry for what happened and acknowledged she could have stopped the attack.

“I am the coward that everyone says I am,” she told Kelly.

Mara Skinner was in court but did not speak. Three relatives, however, urged Kelly to show no mercy during emotional statements that seemed to be aimed more at Tia Skinner than the judge.

“How did that knife feel — foot-long and an inch-and-a half wide? You didn’t just bring a paring knife,” said an uncle, Ken Skinner.

“We’re together. You’re not. You’re out,” he said of the family. “You shouldn’t see no light at the end of the tunnel.”

Kelly said the Supreme Court struck down automatic no-parole sentences for teenagers because it felt that vulnerable, immature young people deserved a thorough hearing and shouldn’t be treated the same as adults. But the nation’s top court still didn’t remove the possibility of life without parole.

Defense attorney John Livesay called the attack “egregious” and “incomprehensible” but said Skinner otherwise had a spotless life and deserved a chance at freedom.

The judge, however, said she didn’t suffer from the disadvantages experienced by other kids who don’t comprehend the consequences of committing crimes.

At the time, Skinner was a high school senior soon to be accepted to Western Michigan University. She was active in her church and performed in the school band. Paul and Mara Skinner adopted her after her mother, an inmate at the time, gave birth to her in prison.

“She was not affected by peer pressure. She was not a follower,” the judge said.

The two young men convicted of first-degree murder in Paul Skinner’s death were 18 at the time of the killing and aren’t entitled to a new sentence.

More than 350 Michigan inmates convicted of first-degree murder are serving mandatory no-parole sentences for killings committed while they were teens, but most aren’t benefiting from the 2012 Supreme Court decision so far. The state appeals court has said only recent convicts who haven’t exhausted their initial appeals are entitled to a second hearing like the one granted to Skinner.

A lawsuit pending in federal court in Ann Arbor could help those prisoners serving no-parole sentences for their teenage crimes. Separately, the Michigan Supreme Court also could intervene.


Teen Convicted Of Deadly Knife Attack On Parents Blames ‘Bad Temper’

July 12, 2012

YPSILANTI (WWJ) - A teen convicted of murdering her father and trying to kill her mother in a knife attack at their St. Clair County home says she regrets everything and blames her actions on a “bad temper.”

Tia Skinner, who is now 19-years-old, spoke to the Times Herald of Port Huron from the confines of the Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility in Ypsilanti, where she’s been locked up since the Nov. 2010 attack. It was the first time the young woman has spoken out since her arrest.

Skinner, Jonathan Kurtz and James Preston were convicted last year of first-degree murder, attempted murder and conspiracy to murder.

Paul Skinner, 47, chased the masked assailants from the home before he collapsed and died from stab wounds. Mara, his wife, was critically injured after suffering more than 25 knife wounds inflicted by Kurtz and Preston.

Police say Tia Skinner planned the murder because she was angry at her parents for taking away her cell phone and for forbidding her to see Kurtz, who was her boyfriend of two-weeks at the time.

Skinner described what happened as “awful,” saying “I regret all my decisions.”

Investigators say she drew the map of her neighborhood and a diagram of the Skinner home that led the murderers to the bedroom where her parents were sleeping. Among the instructions she gave Kurtz and Preston were “The later, the better” and “Try to make it look like a break-in gone bad.”

Tia Skinner, who was adopted by the Skinners as a child and is Mara Skinner’s biological niece, said only on the night of the attack did she have second thoughts.

“Never would I have thought that these two boys would have gone against what I said,” she told The Times Herald. “I just wonder how everything could have been flipped upside down so quick, and I never would have thought I’d be the one to orchestrate something to hurt my family because my family is people I’d protect.”

But the attack happened anyway. The young woman, who was in the home on the night of the attack, said she’ll never forget the sounds of her father’s screams as her older brother, an emergency room nurse, tried to save him.

“It sounded awful to me, it literally made my heart-break in two to hear my dad like that,” she told The Times Herald. “I think it was just awful I just had a bad temper and I took it out on somebody who didn’t deserve it, somebody who looked after me and took care of me.”

Despite initially wanting them dead, Tia Skinner said her thoughts about the lives of her parents changed after the attack.

“I hoped that both of them pulled through. That was the biggest thing, that I hoped both of them would pull,” she told The Times Herald.

While life in prison is difficult, Tia Skinner said she is taking it one day at a time and hopes that one day, she’ll be freed. She said she hopes the community knows she is sorry for her role in the attack.

“I believe that everybody deserves a second chance in life,” she told The Times Herald.

Since being sent to the prison in Ypsilanti, Tia Skinner said she has not heard from her mother, siblings or anyone else from the close-knit Yale community.

“It’s been rough, it’s hard losing your whole family in a blink of an eye,” she told The Times Herald. “It’s tough because that’s my family; they’re supposed to stay by you through thick and thin.”

Tia Skinner, along with Kurtz and Preston, was sentenced to mandatory life in prison without a chance for parole.

After a recent opinion by the U.S. Supreme Court challenged Michigan law by stating such juvenile life sentencing constitutes cruel and unusual punishment (she turned 18 less than a month after the attack), Tia Skinner and her lawyers are trying to request a new sentencing.

Tia Skinner, who believes 20 years would be a proper sentence for her role in the slaying, is currently appealing her convictions on the grounds of being interviewed by police as a minor without parental consent and claiming her lawyer was ineffective.


Judge sentences three teens to life in prison without chance of parole in Yale murder case

By Anu Praksh -

September 16, 2011

YALE, Mich. (WXYZ) - A teen, convicted of murdering her father, and her accomplices have been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Tia Skinner, 18, James Preston, 19, and Jonathan Kurtz, 19, have been sentenced to life in prison without any chance of parole in the stabbing death of Paul Skinner and attempted murder of Mara Skinner.

The courtroom proceedings started around 9:15 a.m. The courtroom was full of people and was standing room only.

Kurtz addressed the court and turned to those in the courtroom and said in barely audible voice, "I'm sorry for doing what we did". He then went on to shock everyone in the courtroom when he said to Judge Daniel Kelly "On behalf of everyone you put away for life, (expletive) you".

James Preston stood before the judge and said "Convicting me is an injustice, the prosecution has failed to do that in my case."

Paul Skinner was murdered while his wife, Mara, survived nearly 2 dozen stab wounds. Tia Skinner is the couple's adopted daughter.

Police say Tia was upset over her parents’ disapproval of her relationship with co-defendant Jonathan Kurtz.

Tia Skinner apologized to the community and her family.

"I love my family so very much … and realize I was given the best life I could have had," said Tia Skinner. She said "I wish i could have my family back."

Mara Skinner spoke directly to the teens and said "Our screams and cries for help went unanswered. You heard them and chose not to stop."

Police say Kurtz and Preston carried out the attacks in the Skinner home with knives Tia had left for them. They say she was in the basement watching a movie at the time. She promised them $500 each for carrying out the crimes.

In court, Mara Skinner played a video that showed pictures of her husband Paul and pictures of the family. She said she wanted Kurtz, Preston and Tia Skinner to see the lives they decided to change.

Mara Skinner said she was grateful the justice system worked and that "evil does not win".


Tia Skinner, 18, found guilty in dad's killing, mom's stabbing

The Associated Press

August 16, 2011

A jury deliberated about 45 minutes Tuesday before finding an 18-year-old woman guilty of murdering her father and trying to murder her mother in a knife attack at their Port Huron-area home.

The St. Clair County Circuit Court jury convicted Tia Skinner of first-degree murder, attempted murder and conspiracy to murder. She faces automatic life in prison without parole. Skinner stood quietly as the jury's foreman read the verdict.

Paul Skinner of Yale was stabbed to death and Mara Skinner was seriously wounded in the November attack.

Prosecutors say Tia Skinner was angry at her parents for forbidding her from seeing Jonathan Kurtz and confiscating her cellphone. Authorities say Kurtz and James Preston broke into the home and attacked the couple while Tia Skinner watched a movie in the basement.

Kurtz and Preston were convicted earlier of the same charges. All three are scheduled for sentencing Sept. 16 by Judge Daniel Kelly.


911 Calls Show Daughter Phoned Police After Stabbing Parents

Jonathon M. Seidl

December 17, 2010

PORT HURON, Mich. (AP) — The 911 calls released Wednesday in the double stabbing of a Michigan couple detail the frantic aftermath of the attack, which their daughter, her boyfriend and another teen are accused of carrying out.

Tia Skinner, now 18, faces murder, assault and conspiracy charges in the Nov. 12 slaying of her adoptive father, Paul Skinner, and stabbing of her mother Mara in Yale, about 85 miles northeast of Detroit.

“I stayed in the basement and my brother ran upstairs. I heard something loud and I told him to go help, because I heard screaming,” Tia Skinner said in one of the 911 calls released to The Associated Press by St. Clair County authorities following a Freedom of Information Act request.

“We’re bleeding really bad,” Mara Skinner, who was repeatedly stabbed, said earlier on the same call. Shortly afterward, her son Jeff took the phone from her.

“Somebody came in and stabbed my mom,” said the son, who works as a nurse and was trying to aid his parents. “Stabbed my mom and dad.”

Paul Skinner could be heard in the background saying he couldn’t breathe. Jeff Skinner passed the phone to his sister.

“Nobody saw them,” Tia Skinner said of the attackers.

But authorities believe not only did the teen know who committed the crime, but that she was behind it. They say she helped plan the attack with her boyfriend Jonathan Kurtz, now 19, and James Preston, 18, who is Kurtz’s neighbor.

Kurtz and Preston also have been charged with murder, assault and conspiracy.

Tia Skinner’s defense attorney, John Livesay, said he had heard the 911 calls and that “they speak for themselves.” He declined further comment on the calls and the case in general, saying: “I think it’s appropriate that people be tried in the courts.”

Mara Skinner and Jeff Skinner both testified last month about the stabbings before a judge found enough evidence to warrant a trial for Tia Skinner, Kurtz and Preston. All three waived arraignments scheduled for Monday in St. Clair County Circuit Court, and remain in custody. Pretrial conferences were expected Jan. 10.

Investigators say they were led to the suspects in part by glaring evidence: a hand-drawn map found outside the scene of the violent home invasion with the words “my house” scrawled on it. A prosecutor has said Tia Skinner was angry at her parents for forbidding her to see Kurtz and for grounding her and confiscating her cell phone after finding texts from him declaring his love for her.


Overwhelming evidence in Yale murder case led police to local suspects

By Corey Williams, Associated Press

November 30, 2010

It was evidence so glaring detectives could hardly believe it, and it led them straight to their suspects: a hand-drawn map found outside the scene of a horrific home invasion with the words "my house" scrawled on it.

A judge on Tuesday found enough evidence to warrant a trial for the 17-year-old daughter of the couple attacked in the home and two men who police say carried out the assault.

Tia Skinner, her 18-year-old boyfriend Jonathan Kurtz and his 18-year-old neighbor James Preston were arrested within hours of the Nov. 12 attack in Yale, about 20 miles north of Richmond. The two males are from Avoca. They face charges of murder, assault and conspiracy in the slaying of Tia's adoptive father, Paul Skinner, and vicious stabbing of her mother, Mara.

Investigators say the discovery of the map and Tia's unusually calm demeanor led them to arrest her and her co-defendants.

A prosecutor says the girl was angry at her parents for forbidding her to see Kurtz and for grounding her and confiscating her cell phone after finding texts from him declaring his love for her.

"Her demeanor was indifferent," Michigan State Police trooper Regina Margosian said of Tia's behavior as she questioned the teenager after the attack.

As they rode in a patrol car to the state police post, Margosian said Tia Skinner talked about being a high school senior and her plans for college.

"She never asked what happened or the condition of her parents," Margosian testified before Port Huron District Court Judge John Monaghan.

Later, Tia Skinner revealed that she had been fighting with her parents, especially her 44-year-old mother, who is a teacher at Yale Middle School.

"The basic argument was who she chooses as boyfriends," Margosian said. "She said her mother did not want her dating Jon."

It was that rift between Tia, Mara Skinner's biological niece whom the couple adopted when she was 3 years old, and her parents that resulted in a plan to get rid of them, St. Clair County Prosecutor Michael Wendling told Monaghan.

At about midnight on Nov. 12, two men with bandanas covering their faces climbed through Tia Skinner's first-floor bedroom window and crept upstairs to her parents' room.

The girl was in the basement watching a movie with her brother Jeff, who was visiting from his home in the Grand Rapids area.

Mara Skinner, who was recently released from a hospital after suffering 26 cuts and stab wounds, calmly recounted the attack in court on Tuesday while her daughter, clad in an orange prison jumpsuit, listened.

Mara Skinner said she was resting comfortably next to her husband that night when he shouted "Hon! Hon!"

"At the same time, I felt blunt force to my back and to my neck," she said. "I was being attacked and my husband was being attacked. I was screaming. My husband was screaming."

Skinner said she couldn't see her attackers until her husband turned on the light in their second-floor bedroom.

"I saw a knife ready to come down. I grabbed it," she said. "I said 'no! You have to go, go, go. Jeff is here right now.'"

Jeff Skinner ran up from the basement when he heard the commotion. His sister stayed behind.

The attackers fled with the bleeding Paul Skinner chasing them out the front door. He made it back into the home but collapsed in a pool of his own blood and died.

Jeff Skinner, one of the couple's four children, testified that he first realized something was going on upstairs when he heard a rumbling.

At one point his sister had gone up the stairs, returned and told him "there's something wrong. There's something wrong," Jeff Skinner testified.

He said when he got upstairs, he followed a blood trail. He saw his father come back into the house and said he was blood-covered and appeared disoriented. He also went upstairs to help his mother.

Tia Skinner remained in the basement during the attack and after police arrived at the home, he said.

As officers attempted to calm down Jeff Skinner, at least one was surprised by how his sister was responding to the tragedy.

"She was so calm," St. Clair County sheriff's deputy Jeff Green testified. "I asked 'Do you know what happened up there?' She said, 'No, but my brother said it was bad.'"

It was Green who found the hand-drawn map while searching outside the family's home.

Tia Skinner told detectives that she allowed Kurtz and Preston to take the map before the attack, Margosian said.

Preston also told officers that she gave it to him, state police Detective Sgt. Twana Powell testified.

The map included an arrow pointing to the location of the Paul and Mara Skinner's bedroom.

They also were given a checklist of what to do before the attack and promised $500 each to carry out the job, Wendling said.

"She was angry at her mother," Wendling said. "Mr. Kurtz volunteered and entered into the plan because he wanted the money, and he recruited his friend, Mr. Preston.

Details of that plan were discussed days before outside of a church youth group meeting.

The breaking point appeared to come Nov. 10 when Mara Skinner grounded the girl and took her cell phone after reading the text from Kurtz professing his love.

Kurtz later told police that Tia Skinner texted him that she "snatched" her phone and needed "it done tonight at 11 p.m.," Powell said.

Police testified that under questioning, each of the defendants tried to play down their role in the attack.

Lawyers for Tia Skinner, Kurtz and Preston said after Tuesday's hearing that those statements about culpability likely will lead them to seek separate trials.

"Frequently that occurs in these situations, especially when fingers tend to be pointed back and forth," said Tia Skinner's attorney, John Livesay.

The defendants were ordered held without bond, and a trial date was not set.

At the end of Tuesday's hearing, as her daughter, Kurtz and Preston were led away in chains and orange jail clothing, a weeping Mara Skinner had to be consoled by relatives and friends.


3 ordered held for trial in Yale stabbings

By Elisha Anderson - Detroit Free Press

November 23, 2010

The daughter of a Yale couple stabbed in their home and two 18-year-old males were today ordered held for trial in St. Clair County Circuit Court on murder and other charges.

Judge John Monaghan of 72nd District Court in Port Huron issued the order following about a five-hour preliminary exam in which one of the stabbing victims Mara Skinner, 44, testified how she and her husband, Paul, 47, were attacked in the bedroom of their home on South Main Street in Yale just after midnight on Nov. 12.

Paul Skinner was stabbed more than 20 times and later collapsed inside the home after chasing the suspects outside. Mara Skinner sustained 26 stab wounds, according to her testimony, but managed to call 9-1-1. Her adult son, Jeffrey Skinner of Grand Rapids, who was home in advance of a planned engagement party on Nov. 13 for adult sister Margaret Skinner, also testified about how he came to the aid of his parents.

Testimony in court this afternoon from one of the law enforcement officers investigating the stabbings indicated that Tia Mitchell Skinner, 17, had agreed to pay $1,000 to Jonathan Kurtz, which would be split with James Preston, both 18 and of Avoca, and former schoolmates of Tia’s at Yale High, to attack the Skinners.

Police said the Skinners had issues with Tia’s relationship with Kurtz, who allegedly recruited Preston to help him. Tia is a niece who was adopted by the Skinners as their daughter from Mara’s sister Valerie Borja at about the age of 3.

Borja has previously spent time in prison for possession of a controlled substance, breaking and entering and other offenses, according to the Michigan Department of Corrections.

Mother recounts attack

Mara Skinner said she, her husband and their 17-year-old daughter had been shopping and went out for dinner Nov. 11 – hours before she was seriously wounded and her husband was fatally stabbed in their Yale home.

When they got home from their excursion, they found adult son Jeffrey Skinner of Grand Rapids at their South Main Street home. Jeffrey Skinner had come home early for an engagement party planned for Nov. 13 for the couple’s adult daughter, Madelyn Skinner, and her fiancé, Gregory Langolf, of Macomb.

Mara Skinner testified at a preliminary examination today that she went to bed and fell asleep sometime after the start of the 11 p.m. news. She was awakened when she felt blunt force to her head and back, and realized she and her husband were being attacked in their bed.

She and her husband of 24 years were screaming as they were being stabbed, Mara Skinner testified. She said she felt continuous strikes without pause, but no pain while being stabbed. There were two people in the room with her and her husband, she said.

As she was fighting off strikes from her attacker on the bed, Mara Skinner said her husband managed to turn on the lights and she could finally see what was happening. At that instance, she testified, she could see a knife being plunged toward her chest and she grabbed it.

“No! You need to go, go go!” she said she screamed at her attacker. “Get out of here!”

The two assailants began to run, she said, and her husband went after them. Mara Skinner said she called 911 from a phone on her nightstand.

Jeffrey Skinner came up to check on her. “I told him I was OK,” she said. “Go take care of Dad.”

Mara Skinner said she later learned she had received 26 entry wounds on the upper half of her body across her back, head, ribs and breasts. Her husband, who also sustained more than 20 stab wounds, later collapsed and died.

Tia, wearing an orange jail jumpsuit and shackles, looked downward and remained motionless for most of her mother’s testimony during the examination.

Jeffrey Skinner also testified today at the preliminary examination about the events that night as did Deputy Jeff Green with the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Office, who indicated he arrived at the Skinner home about 12:20 a.m. in response to the 9-1-1 call.

Jeffrey Skinner surprised his parents by going to their home on Thursday night.

He said Tia wanted to watch a movie downstairs the night of Nov. 11, so that is what they were going to do.

Then Tia asked him for help with a book report. Jeffrey Skinner testified Tia went upstairs three times to get things and when she came down the last time, she said something was wrong.

Jeffrey Skinner, a nurse, ran upstairs finding blood at the base of the stairs and on the wall. He said he found his dad and tried to help him. Then checked on his mom and then went back to his father who injuries were more significant.

He said he yelled for Tia but she never came upstairs to help.



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