By NICHOLE GOLDEN, Staff Writer | Published November 13, 2014
ROSWELL—“Unconditional love” and “unity” are among the words Richard Markey uses when describing the community’s support following the murder of his only sister, Sharon Wilkins of Roswell, in August.
Wilkins’ husband, Dan, shot and killed her on Aug. 13. Dan Wilkins then took his own life.
Sharon Wilkins had obtained a temporary restraining order against her husband and moved in with her 87-year-old mother, Patricia Markey of Sandy Springs, on Aug. 11. The crime occurred at Mrs. Markey’s home.
“Unfortunately, just two days transpired,” said Markey about his sister’s decision to leave an abusive environment.
The couple’s one daughter, Mary Kathleen, was just starting her freshman year at Blessed Trinity High School. The family attended St. Brigid Church.
Richard Markey has been looking for a way to voice his family’s “gratitude and thanksgiving” for the stewardship and holiness exhibited by community members in the weeks following his sister’s death.
According to Markey, a family from Blessed Trinity opened their home to Mary Kathleen, neighbors brought meals to Mrs. Markey, and clergy offered much spiritual support.
“The ‘host family’ should be highlighted because of their quick, unwavering and awesome response to assisting Mary Kathleen from the afternoon of Aug. 13,” said Markey.
The Markeys were unsure how to handle the “herculean” task of moving the Wilkins family’s belongings out of their rented home in Roswell.
“The Holy Spirit intervened,” said Markey.
Blessed Trinity’s campus ministry coordinator Patti McCarthy and parent Annie Rizzo organized a team of 30 to 35 parents, student leaders and staff to help with the move.
“They orchestrated a service project,” said Markey. “The people worked in dignity. The students didn’t put anything on social media.”
A move that could’ve taken two or three days took only a few hours and was one less thing to cause worry.
“They worked efficiently and effectively. They were willing to show up for Mary Kathleen Wilkins and her family,” Markey said.
Markey also expressed his gratitude to Father Neil Herlihy and Deacon Leo Gahafer of St. Brigid, and Msgr. Hugh Marren of All Saints, Mrs. Markey’s longtime parish.
The funeral Mass for Sharon Wilkins was Aug. 20 at St. Brigid with a reception in the parish hall afterward.
“It meant a lot to my mom. It was a celebration of my sister’s life,” said Markey.
Dan Wilkins’ interment was the same afternoon. “My mom was willing to forgive. My mom’s side of it was tremendous,” said Markey. A grandmother’s faith and compassion enabled a young girl to be able to grieve for both her parents.
Markey also thanked “phenomenal” victims’ advocates and Pam Sullivan, an attorney who assisted them with legal issues.
By late August, Richard, his brother Shaun, and the family with whom Mary Kathleen had been staying, along with her grandmother were pressed by the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services to make an immediate decision regarding guardianship.
Mary Kathleen was able to spend Labor Day with friends at Hilton Head. “She had the opportunity to be a normal teenager,” said Markey.
It was decided that moving to Chicago with her uncle Shaun’s family would be a “fresh start” for her.
“We had to break the news to her. She had a myriad of questions,” said Markey about the move.
Mary Kathleen is attending a Benedictine school in a Chicago suburb. An anonymous donor paid her initial tuition costs. In addition, almost 200 individuals and families have contributed to a fund for her future education at Associated Credit Union.
Markey said that being able to attend a Catholic school is important because of the “vital resources” offered to Mary Kathleen while she mourns her parents, including counseling. “She can receive the Holy Eucharist,” emphasized Markey.
Mary Kathleen is described as an “accomplished tennis player” which helped her acclimate to a new school. “She’s on the JV tennis team,” said Markey.
Markey, who lives in North Georgia, now comes often to visit his mother and help with various tasks once handled by Sharon.
“My sister was my mom’s best friend,” he explained.
Patricia Markey, who was at her home the day of her daughter’s shooting, needs continued prayers for healing, said her son.
When Sharon Markey moved out of her Roswell residence, an off-duty police officer stood watch. On the morning of Aug. 13, she dropped her daughter off at school and returned to the Sandy Springs residence of her mother.
“When my sister had returned, she noticed that her husband had come to my mom’s house,” said Markey.
Sharon told her mother to go to her bedroom.
“My sister dialed 911,” said Markey.
Dan Wilkins reportedly fired several rounds into a door to gain access to the home.
“Fortunately, my mom was not harmed. He did find my sister. She was hiding in the closet,” said Markey.
Markey had an “inkling” of verbal abuse but had not known of any physical abuse until Aug. 4, when Sharon mentioned problems and that she hoped not to wind up on the evening news.
“That’s what happened. That was the last time I saw my sister alive,” said Markey.
He appreciates the Masses offered for his sister and the Mass cards sent by friends.
“Our faith is important to us,” he said. “She had a heavy cross to bear. She can rest.”