Slain UNCC professor ‘had so much to give to Charlotte’

Jeannine Skinner
Jeannine Skinner Facebook screenshot

A UNC Charlotte professor who was killed Friday in southwest Charlotte was remembered Saturday for her work at the university and what she had to offer to the community.

Jeannine Shante Skinner, 35, was an assistant professor of gerontology and psychology in the Department of Psychological Science, according to the university.

Skinner’s body was found in an apartment off Interstate 485 near South Tryon Street at 11:37 a.m. after police were called to do a welfare check in the 9300 block of Kings Parade Boulevard.

Initial information indicates the incident is possibly domestic related, and the victim and suspect knew each other, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police said. They said 45-year-old Donny Lewis Franklin is the suspect in connection with Skinner’s death and a murder warrant has been issued for his arrest.

Franklin was last seen driving a burgundy Jeep with the license plate number 0512KN, police said. He is considered armed and dangerous and may be suicidal, police said.

In September 2003, Franklin pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of assault on a female, court records show, while a charge of violating a domestic violence protective order was dismissed at that time.

Skinner is the 62nd homicide victim in Charlotte this year. Last year, there were 67 homicides in the city.

Remembering a colleague

UNCC Chancellor Philip Dubois issued a statement to faculty and students Saturday expressing condolences to Skinner’s family.

“We grieve for Jeannine’s family, and we hope that joyful memories of her life will sustain them in the days to come,” Dubois said in the statement. “I hope those of you who were her students and colleagues will remember Jeannine for her accomplishments and for the influence she had on your lives.”

Dubois said many people endure interpersonal violence, often without others knowing. He noted the school has resources for people who may be struggling with interpersonal violence.

UNCC’s counseling center will also be available for anyone needing support following Skinner’s death.

Skinner began working at the school two years ago.

Prior to working at UNCC, Skinner was an adjunct faculty member in psychology at Belmont University and Fisk University in Nashville, Tenn., UNCC spokeswoman Buffie Stephens said.

Skinner received her PhD from Howard University in 2010, and studied at the University of Washington school of medicine. Skinner also was a research instructor at Vanderbilt University’s medical center from 2013 to 2014, Stephens said.

According to her Facebook posts, Skinner was a St. Petersburg, Fla., native who enjoyed running and often posted colorful pictures of restaurant food.

Anita Blanchard, a friend and associate professor in psychological science, remembered Skinner for her humor and her research, which focused on cognitive aging. Blanchard said Skinner was working to start a program to research the impact of walking as a way to prevent cognitive decline for older adults.

“She was so important and had so much to give to Charlotte, and to the university, the students, to older people, to everybody,” Blanchard said.

Other colleagues marveled at Skinner’s dedication to teaching.

Eric Heggestad, interim chair of the department of psychological science, said Skinner connected well with her students and constantly looked for ways to improve at teaching, though he said she was already great at it.

“One of our other colleagues called her a rising star in the academic world, and I think that’s absolutely right on,” Heggestad said. “She was going places as a professor in terms of researching and teaching.”

Skinner was admired outside of the classroom too, Heggestad said, noting her kindness and empathy for others.

“She was just such a wonderful, bright light in this world,” he said. “She will definitely be missed here.”

Observer reporter Adam Bell contributed

LaVendrick Smith; 704-358-5101; @LaVendrickS

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