It was only through news reports Wednesday evening that family members in Juneau learned police made an arrest in connection to the disappearance of their loved one — and the charges included two counts of murder.
Thomas Skeek Jr., 33, was arrested Wednesday after the Anchorage Police Department served a search warrant at the house he shared with former Juneau resident Linda Louise Skeek, 32. Following the search, he was arrested and charged with first-degree murder, second-degree murder and tampering with evidence related to Linda’s disappearance, according to a release by the Anchorage Police Department issued at 5 p.m. Wednesday.
“We were sending out flyers to Anchorage businesses, putting up notices, information on Facebook. I guess we were all looking in the wrong place,” said Myrna Brown, Linda’s aunt who lives in Juneau.
Brown said her niece, a Tlingit and Eskimo Alaska Native, moved to Anchorage less than a year ago with her husband. Brown said she lost touch with her niece after the New Year holiday.
According to APD’s release, Thomas reported his wife missing on Jan. 4; he said in the report that she left their home on foot following an argument the two had. APD did not release any other information about the last time Linda was seen.
Juneau resident Rena Sims, Linda’s foster mother since she was 14, said she talked with Thomas before he reported his wife as missing. In a phone interview with the Empire, Sims said she had urged Thomas to file the missing person’s report. She said she had told him that in her experience, Linda always kept in touch to let everyone know she was OK, even when she was in trouble.
“She had addictions, but she was trying to clean her life up. She had a dream to be whole,” Sims said, adding that Linda had checked herself into rehabilitation centers in the past. “She was a very loving, thoughtful person, respectful to others — that’s why she could always get such good jobs. She loved children and didn’t forget a birthday. She was a great daughter. That doesn’t mean she didn’t have her problems, but she was very well loved and she gave love back.”
Sims said she last saw her foster daughter during a trip at the end of October and early November. They touched base regularly and visited with each other whenever possible. Linda was celebrating a recent promotion with the NANA Regional Corporation, an Alaska Native for-profit social economic group where she worked as a secretary. When New Year’s came and went without a phone call from Linda, Sims said she became worried.
“When she didn’t call for New Year’s — she calls for every holiday, Mother’s Day, anniversaries — that indicated something was wrong,” Sims said.
Sims said Thomas recently didn’t allow her to speak with the two children the couple has together, an 8-year-old girl and a 5-year-old boy, which raised some flags for Sims. At that point, Sims began pressuring Thomas to be truthful about what happened to her foster daughter.
“I asked him, ‘Did you murder Linda?’ and he kept saying, ‘I didn’t hurt her,’ and I said, ‘I didn’t ask you that,” Sims said.
Sims said she continued to ask Thomas outright several times if he killed Linda, and she said he consistently said no. Then, she said, he changed his answer during a phone call that took place after he filed the missing persons report.
“I said again, ‘Did you kill Linda?’ then he said, ‘I don’t think so,’ Sims said. “That’s when I called the police.”
Sims flew to Anchorage on Sunday to speak with police in person to voice her concerns. She said she couldn’t get anyone to speak with her directly, and flew back to Juneau on Monday. On Wednesday night, media outlets began sharing the news of APD’s arrest and the murder charges.
In a phone call Thursday, Sims said the news confirmed her worst fears about her foster daughter’s disappearance, and verified her suspicions about Thomas.
Now, Sims is waiting for news from Linda’s birth mother, Laura Sheldon, and Linda’s sister, Kendra Sheldon, both Juneau residents, who left for Anchorage Thursday morning after learning about the arrest.
Sims and Myrna Brown both said police have not notified them of Linda’s death or whether her body has been found, despite murder charges being filed. Sims did say she received word from the Anchorage District Attorney’s office that a body has not been found and that police are investigating recent purchases by Thomas. An attorney from the Anchorage office would not confirm or deny the report.
APD Public Information Officer Anita Shell said police are not releasing any information about the possible discovery of a body at this moment, citing the ongoing investigation.
Brown, who is still reeling from the loss of her son Jordan Sharclane who died after a fatal stabbing in December, said she and Sims are waiting for more information before they head to Anchorage, too. They want to receive information first-hand, and also to retrieve the two children whom they believe are in the custody of the Office of Children’s Services. A third child of Linda’s, a 12-year-old girl, lives with her father, Sims said.
Thomas was arraigned at 2:30 p.m. today in the state District Court in Anchorage. Anchorage District Attorney Clinton Campion could not be reached by phone to summarize the arraignment details. Anchorage District Attorney’s Office paralegal Lacy Jensen told the Empire she would not disclose information regarding the public hearing.
According to Sims, who listened in on Thomas’ arraignment through a court provided phone line, bail was set at $500,000. Thomas told the judge he did not have funds for a defense attorney and the judge told him one would be appointed to him, Sims said. This information could not be confirmed through Alaska’s public court document system as it was not updated by press time.
Sims had this to say of Thomas’ demeanor in the courtroom: “He didn’t sound remorseful. He sounded strong, stronger than when I last spoke with him.”
Thomas’ next court appearance is scheduled for Feb. 26.