Suspect in 11-year-old Alaska murder held in Carolina killing

Posted: Wednesday, July 19, 2000

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- A man suspected of killing his girlfriend here eleven years ago has been charged with murdering his wife in South Carolina this summer. Both women were shot once in the mouth.

Elizabeth Skowran, 31, vanished in March 1989. Her body was found by hikers two years later, south of Portage.

Now the man long suspected of killing her has been arrested in South Carolina.

Richard Wilkins, a video repairman when he lived in Anchorage, is charged in Anderson County, S.C., with killing his wife of three years, raping her 12-year-old granddaughter and attempting to kill the girl. He is being held without bail.

From the time Skowran's body was identified in 1991, Wilkins was the prime suspect, said Lt. Mike Marrs of the Alaska State Troopers and Mike Grimes, former Anchorage Police Department homicide investigator.

Wilkins had been Skowran's boyfriend for several years. He left Alaska around the time she disappeared.

Skowran lived in Anchorage for six years. She was a nude dancer with an addiction to drugs that led her into dangerous situations, according to her mother, Elizabeth Reed.

Reed was not surprised that her daughter died young or that it might have been at the hands of the man in her life. ''She always felt she had to have some guy around to take care of stuff,'' Reed said. ''I can't understand that. The girl went into the Army. She was athletic, she was a very intelligent girl, and thoughtful.''

Wilkins worked for an electronics company in Anchorage and wrote a how-to book about repairing VCRs that was published in 1991.

After Skowran's body was discovered, Alaska investigators worked the case hard. Twice they flew to California armed with warrants to search the bus Wilkins was traveling in at the time.

But they couldn't put it together. There was no forensic evidence, not even the bullet that killed her. Wilkins refused to talk to investigators. ''The DA felt it was not enough to bring the case to trial,'' Marrs said.

Wilkins disappeared from trooper radar.

Then last month, on June 11, officers surrounded a camper parked in Williamston, S.C., where Wilkins, 54, had been living with his wife, Victoria, and her 12-year-old granddaughter. The child told a neighbor she had been choked and sexually assaulted by Wilkins and that he also had killed her grandmother, according to investigators.

After a brief standoff, Wilkins was taken into custody, treated for a drug overdose and charged with six felonies, including murder. Victoria McNairy Wilkins, 58, was found dead in a storage building adjacent to the trailer.

Wilkins has refused to talk to investigators. His case is scheduled to go to a grand jury next month.

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