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.