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Center Moriches man pleads guilty to murder in mom's slaying

Christopher Storm Harrison was charged with second-degree murder for killing Joyce Skarka in November 2017. He faces 25 years to life in prison.

Christopher Storm Harrison pleaded guilty to second-degree murder

Christopher Storm Harrison pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the stabbing death of his mother, Joyce Skarka.  Photo Credit: Suffolk County District Attorney

A Center Moriches man pleaded guilty to second-degree murder Tuesday in the stabbing death of his mother in 2017. Christopher Storm Harrison, 27, was charged with murder for killing Joyce Skarka, 53, in their Union Avenue home on Nov. 17, 2017.  

“Taking the life of your own mother is a heinous, cold-blooded crime,” District Attorney Timothy Sini said in a news release Wednesday. “With this plea, the defendant admitted his guilt and accepted responsibility for this brutal murder.”

Harrison is due back in Suffolk County Supreme Court in Riverhead on March 25 for sentencing. He faces 25 years to life in prison.

After the slaying, Harrison turned himself in to Suffolk County police and initially said he had killed his mother after she attacked him with a knife, prosecutors told Newsday after he was charged. Prosecutors said he then changed his story and said he killed her during a domestic dispute.

Sini’s office said he killed Skarka in their kitchen, then dragged her body into a bathtub and doused her body with gasoline. He also cleaned up the murder scene and moved her car so it would appear she was not home, Sini’s office said.

“This was a truly sad and tragic case,” Harrison’s attorney Robert Del Col of Bay Shore said Wednesday. “This whole episode was undoubtedly borne out of mental illness.”

Del Col said Harrison had stopped taking medication for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder four days before killing his mother. Harrison has been in and out of mental facilities for much of his adult life, Del Col said.

Del Col said Harrison killed Skarka in a moment of delusion but then recognized what he had done and tried to conceal the murder, dousing her body with gasoline. 

“He was going to light the house on fire but couldn’t bring himself to do that,” Del Col said.

After his arrest, a suicide attempt and getting back on medication in a mental institution upstate, Harrison recognized he had committed a “horrific act” and “made the decision that he wanted to accept responsibility” rather than pursue an insanity defense in order to spare his sister and mother’s friends a lengthy trial, Del Col said. His attorney said Harrison is currently in Suffolk County jail. 

Del Col said he will ask for leniency at sentencing, requesting 15 years to life.

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