Friday, August 3, 2012

Murder by the book: Murder by Deception

Unexpected Assault

To people who knew them, Mark and Donnah Winger seemed happily married and well established in their community of Springfield, Ill. Neighbors said they appeared quite contented, and they were actively involved in their synagogue. Both in their early thirties, she was an operating room nurse, and he, a graduate of Virginia Military Institute, was a nuclear safety engineer for a state facility. In June 1995, they realized a dream when they adopted a baby girl, Bailey Elizabeth. They had a nice home on West View Drive, where they had lived for three years, but in August 1995 something terrible happened that ended their idyllic existence.
It was a horrifying attack that shocked everyone in the neighborhood, more so after they learned what had precipitated it. A man entered the Winger home late in the afternoon of August 29 and apparently used a hammer to bludgeon Donnah Winger into unconsciousness. Mark was home at the time; he reported that he had been running on a treadmill when he heard the baby crying and something thumping upstairs. He explained that when he went to check, he saw Bailey alone on the bed, and then went into the kitchen where he found a strange man standing over his wife with a hammer. He told police that he retrieved his .45 semi-automatic handgun and shot the attacker, later identified as Roger Harrington. He then called 911 twice, hanging up after the first call.
Mark Winger's .45 semi-automatic handgun
Mark Winger’s .45 semi-automatic handgun
Paramedics arrived and found two people on the floor, the man about five feet from the woman. A quick-thinking police officer, David Barringer, shot three Polaroids to record the scene before anything was moved. He noticed blood spatters on the wall and ceiling, and several pools of blood near both victims. Both were still breathing when they were transported to Memorial Medical Center. Mark Winger remained behind to speak with police rather than accompanying his wife in the ambulance.
Harrington died from two bullets to the head; Donnah succumbed directly thereafter to massive head injuries. The police towed away the dented and dirty maroon Oldsmobile that Harrington had parked in front of the couple’s home. Despite a police road block, two women drove into the area that evening, one of them stopping and weeping inconsolably in her car. Presumably, she was related to Harrington.
Harrington's car parked outside the Winger home
Harrington’s car parked outside the Winger home
Neighbors said that they had seen a man in a junky Oldsmobile drive up, park the wrong way in front of the Winger residence, and wait for a few minutes before going inside. There was no sign of forced entry, but no one seemed to know just how he got in.
Mark Winger had suffered no injuries. Winger told investigators that Harrington had been harassing the Wingers recently, but the story that unfolded made little sense. Certain facts soon came to light that provided a motive for the surprising attack, and the case was ruled a justifiable homicide in defense of home and family. Winger was regarded as a hero.
Sangamon County State’s Attorney Patrick Kelley stated, “I anticipate that there will never be any charges filed against Mr. Winger.” He couldn’t have been more mistaken.

The Shuttle Ride

Donna Winger
Donna Winger
On August 23, Donnah had scheduled a shuttle to pick her up at Lambert Airport in St. Louis, Mo., to take her home. She was returning from Florida, where she had taken her new baby to visit her mother. Roger Harrington was her driver, working for Bootheel Area Rapid Transit (BART), a Missouri-based shuttle company, and Donnah and her baby were the only passengers that day.
Roger Harrington
Roger Harrington
Apparently Harrington made a number of frightening remarks to her about taking drugs and having wild sex parties, and he reached speeds in excess of 80 mph. Donnah was glad to arrive home safely, and she told several people about her harrowing trip. Mark was on a business trip in Tennessee; after she called him, he urged her to write everything down. She recorded what she could recall and taped her notes to the refrigerator door.
However, the ordeal was not over. Someone called their home and then hung up on several occasions. The Wingers suspected it had something to do with the shuttle driver. They even called the police, who sent extra patrol cars to the neighborhood. Mark complained to BART, and Harrington was summarily suspended.
An investigation of Harrington revealed that he had been charged in 1990 with battery against his wife, and that he had a psychiatric record, but his parents and friends said that he seemed happy and well-adjusted. They were stunned and grieved at the report of his attack on a virtual stranger.
Based on information from a coroner’s inquest in September, reporter Jefferson Robbins wrote that Harrington believed he took orders from demons. Springfield Police Detective Charles Cox, who had investigated the case, stated that Harrington was known to have talked about a demonic entity named “Dahm,” which had supposedly ordered him to murder, dismember, and plant bombs. Harrington had mentioned this demon to Donnah during the shuttle ride.
He also asked the shuttle company to give the Wingers his phone number, and when Mark called, as he later reported, he noticed that Harrington spoke strangely. Mark asked him to leave the family alone. A few days later, Harrington came over and bludgeoned Donnah to death.
The inquest closed the case…for the moment. Harrington’s parents claimed their son was not mentally ill and had never been violent. They were certain that the incident had not occurred as Winger described it, but no one listened to them.
Winger received $150,000 in life insurance from Donnah’s death and $25,000 from the state’s Crime Victim’s Compensation Program. But two investigating officers, Doug Williamson and Charlie Cox, thought he was acting strangely. After the case closed, Winger checked in several times to ask if they were looking at it again. He also asked for the return of his gun. They thought it odd that he’d want such a brutal reminder of his wife’s death. For them, this behavior was a red flag, but when they looked for the evidence from his case, they learned it was in the custody of his attorney.
Re-enactment of forensic examination of Winger's gun
Re-enactment of forensic examination of Winger’s gun
Winger had instigated a lawsuit against BART. That proved to be his undoing.

The Lawsuit

The Winger's kitchen table
The Winger’s kitchen table
Mark Winger filed a civil lawsuit against BART for hiring a man as dangerous as Harrington, and against Harrington’s estate. He sought considerable damages. However, BART’s attorneys hired a forensic blood spatter expert, Thomas Bevel, who turned up evidence that Winger may have lured Harrington to his home to be a fall guy so he could get away with killing his wife. Among the items was the fact that Winger’s hand, although it had been bloodied, showed a clean area that suggested he’d been holding something thick, like a hammer. Also, the fact that Harrington had brought a mug and cigarettes into the house contradicted a psychotic rage, and three photographs taken of the scene showed blood spatter patterns the failed to support Winger’s story. The investigators surmised that he’d already considered killing Donnah, and the shuttle ride had given him the idea to frame Harrington.
The hammer used in the murders.
The hammer used in the murders.
There were other factors as well that undermined Winger’s version of the events. Harrington had told a roommate he planned to go to the residence that day — not exactly the act of a madman following the orders of a demon. He had said he had a meeting with Winger, indicating he expected Winger to be in the house at the time. He even left a note in his car indicating his 4:30 appointment.
Harrington's note of Winger address
Harrington’s note of Winger address
He apparently had realized that he was in danger of losing his job, so he had hoped to make things better with the Wingers. No one saw evidence that day of the type of psychosis attributed to him at the inquest.
In response to Winger’s lawsuit against Harrington’s estate, Harrington’s parents turned the tables and sued Mark Winger for wrongful death, although they were afraid to speak to reporters about it lest Winger retaliate. They did say they were glad to have the case revisited, as they had never believed their son had attacked Donnah Winger.
As this story came out, so did a statement from a woman who claimed she had been having an affair with Mark Winger at the time of the killings. She had become suspicious due to statements he made to her before and after the incident suggesting his possible involvement.
When Donnah’s mother and stepfather learned of this new development, they were devastated. They could not credit the allegation that their son-in-law had set up the whole thing to be rid of his wife. They defended the quality of the couple’s marriage and did not believe the woman’s allegation.
BART’s attorneys asked the court to hold Winger, now remarried and living in another town, in contempt and force him to submit to a deposition.

Case Re-opened

Now the Springfield police were reviewing the whole incident in a new light, and they hired Tom Bevel to assist. He concluded that it had been a staged domestic homicide, covered by the murder of Harrington. One or the other Winger had willingly let Harrington into the house, despite the fact that they feared him and that their 100-pound dog was locked in the garage. Blood pattern analysis at the scene indicated that Harrington was killed first by gunshot, in the kitchen area, where he fell on his face and bled. Donnah had probably come running from the bedroom, where she’d left the baby on the bed, to find out what happened and was beaten with the hammer. On the day of the incident, Winger said, Donnah had left the hammer in the dining room to remind him to finish a project. Harrington, who had a knife and a crowbar with a taped handle in his car, would not have known he would have access to a hammer.
Hammer on the floor at crime scene
Hammer on the floor at crime scene
The blood spatter on the clothing Winger wore that day also implicated him, not Harrington, in the hammer beating. Although he claimed he had cradled his wife, thus getting blood on him, paramedics found her face down in a pool of blood, meaning, for Winger’s account to be true, Winger would have had to have placed her that way after cradling her. In addition, the blood was spattered on Winger’s shirt, not smeared, as from a transfer of blood.
Re-enactment of forensic examination of shirt
Re-enactment of testing done to shirt
Only a few spots of blood from Donnah were found on Harrington’s clothing, which could have happened when Winger beat Harrington in the chest with the same hammer he had just used on Donnah. He then rolled Harrington over onto his back, creating another pool of blood, and shot him again, from overhead, straight into the floor. Since Harrington had been shot in the top of the head, this was inconsistent with Winger’s statement that Harrington had looked up at him, and the position of his body was inconsistent with how Winger said he had fallen after being shot.
Re-enactment of forensic examination of hammer
Re-enactment of forensic examination of hammer
After a neighbor came forward to say that she had heard a single gunshot at 4:30 p.m. that day, it became clear that some forty minutes had passed between Harrington entering the home and the second shot. That, too, was inconsistent with a rampage murder attempt by Harrington, which would have taken only a few minutes.
It was disturbing to many that the police had missed these details, especially since the home-invasion scenario was so bizarre, but no answers were forthcoming. In fact, criminal charges were not immediately made when this information was publicized. Spokespeople for the department said the evidence was still under review.

Winger Prepares

Winger hired a new attorney from Chicago, Tom Breen, who had experience with criminal defense. At the same time, Winger requested that a judge dismiss his suit against BART. No explanation for this change of heart was forthcoming.
It was not until August 23, 2001, that Winger was finally indicted and arrested. He faced a sentence of life in prison for the double homicide, because the state had decided against seeking the death penalty. Winger was held on a $10 million bail. He asked a childhood friend who was wealthy to post the bail for him, but the man refused.
Reporters had learned an additional detail about the statement given by the woman, still not named, who had been involved in an affair with Winger at the time of his wife’s murder. She claimed he had wanted to leave Donnah and had allegedly said, “It would be easier if Donnah died.” This woman apparently knew that the murder was staged and had been told that if she went to the authorities, she would wind up in jail. She had kept the secret because she feared for her life, but doing so had resulted in severe psychiatric problems.
Winger ended this affair in February 1996, and then took up with another woman who had started working for him as a nanny after Donnah was killed. He married her and they had two children together.
The Harringtons stated that they still mourned their son’s untimely and violent death but were relieved that his name would be cleared. Their attorney pointed out that if Winger had not had the “chutzpah” to file a civil lawsuit against BART, there would never have been an investigation, despite the number of people who knew his description of the incident made no sense.
Sangamon County Jail
Sangamon County Jail
Winger pleaded innocent to all the charges. Despite his attorney’s request to reduce his bond, the judge refused, so Winger remained incarcerated at the Sangamon County jail. His job at the state’s Department of Nuclear Safety was now on hold. Breen averred that Bevel’s report about the blood spatter patterns was merely speculative and would have no weight. He started the search for his own expert.

The Trial Begins

Legal scholars debated the probability of winning a case against Winger with evidence that might be lacking a clear chain of custody, but the DA was confident the people would win. Seven women and five men were selected for the jury, and it was expected the trial would take about two weeks. Rumors published in the local paper suggested that Breen would attempt to use the trauma of Donnah Winger’s death to explain discrepancies between the evidence and Winger’s statements in 1995.
Judge Leo Zappa presided, while Sangamon County state’s attorney John Schmidt, with two assistants, was the prosecutor. The case had become high profile, garnering attention from the national media, and both sides prepared to proceed with care. The prosecutors knew that because the case had been closed so quickly, with only three photos taken, they faced a battle persuading the jury the new story made more sense. They did have Winger’s clothing from that day, as well as clothing from Donnah and Harrington. The Polaroid photos assisted them with the position of the bodies and the blood spatter evidence. Winger’s mistress at the time, now identified as DeAnn Schultz, was expected to testify, but she apparently had a psychiatric history and could be portrayed by the defense as a vengeful woman retaliating for being dumped. The prosecution’s case was anything but straightforward.
Sangamon County seal
Sangamon County seal
Among the first to testify were the police detectives who had found the flaws in Winger’s story. The place where Harrington fell did not correspond to Winger’s account, they testified, nor the fact that Winger called 911 twice and apparently shot Harrington the second time after he’d already been in the house for forty minutes. The neighbor who heard the single gunshot at 4:30 also testified, as did a man who had seen Harrington’s car in front to the house at 3:50.
The police officer who had initially questioned Winger that day said Winger had had blood on his arms, hands, and neck. He was wearing gym shorts and a T-shirt, which supported his story that he had been working out. This officer testified that Winger had said he had kept his .45-caliber handgun in the nightstand of the master bedroom because of the strange calls they had received. Winger said that he saw Harrington bent over his wife, hitting her with the hammer, and had shot at him twice. Harrington then fell backward, blood spurting, and, Winger said, he had nearly run over him from his own momentum. Harrington had then raised his head, Winger said, so he shot him again. Winger then checked his baby and called 911, quite upset. He then rolled his wife over and held her.
But Harrington was still moaning, so, Winger said, he removed the hammer from the man’s hand and beat him with it in the chest. When the police arrived, he seemed not to know the identity of his wife’s attacker until they told him. Two shell casings were found in the dining room, but the prosecutor maintained that if Winger had fired from the distance he claimed one should have been in the hallway. In addition, Harrington’s body in the photos was positioned opposite of the way it would have been if Winger’s account were correct. It was also not clear why Donnah, who feared Harrington, would have let him into the house. That there were problems with Winger’s account was an understatement.

The Truth about Demons

Dr. Joseph Bohlen testified for several hours about Harrington’s state of mind at the time of the double homicide. Bohlen had not actually been Harrington’s psychiatrist, but he had reviewed his case files, along with other materials in the possession of the prosecution. He stated that Harrington abused both alcohol and marijuana, and suffered from schizotypal personality disorder. His ideation was odd and eccentric, and he apparently had strange fantasies, but his condition fell short of a diagnosis of psychosis. What Harrington had said about “Dahm” was to get attention, nothing more.
Roger Harrington
Roger Harrington
Under cross examination, Dr. Bohlen refused to label Harrington’s ideas as delusions and stated that he found no evidence that incidents of domestic violence in 1990 and 1992 were linked to mental illness. In short, he offered nothing that would assist Winger.
Another mental health expert, Dr. John Lauer, had treated DeAnn Schultz for a series of problems, including four suicide attempts, and had determined that the cause of her agitated psychological state were the secrets she had kept about Mark Winger. Lauer had urged her to tell her family and the police, predicting that until she did, she would fail to heal. He testified that she had first admitted what she knew about Winger in September 1998, and this statement from a professional was key to corroborating hers, and to showing that she was not just a spurned mistress seeking payback.
“She told me she was very scared of this husband,” Lauer stated, “that he may come and kill her. She said she knew he was involved with the death of her girlfriend.”
Two co-workers of Mark Wingers also added to the case against him. One said he had seen Winger embracing a woman other than Donnah, and the other said that despite Donnah’s call to him about her harrowing ride Winger had not gone directly home but rather had remained unnecessarily in Tennessee for two extra days. Winger had also wondered out loud about what would happen to their new baby if Donnah died.
But the most important witness for the prosecution was the woman who had come forward to the police, whose story had inspired them to reopen the case.

Key Witness

There was great anticipation as DeAnn Schultz, 39, took the stand to testify against her former lover. There had already been rumors of her psychiatric issues, and she readily admitted to them. In fact, she stated, it was the strain of keeping the murders secret that had so badly affected her. She had been Donnah Winger’s best friend, and the incident shamed her.
Donna Winger
Donna Winger
DeAnn had met Donnah in 1990 after moving to Springfield and being employed as a surgical nurse at Memorial Medical Center, where Donnah worked. It wasn’t long before the Schultzes became friends with the Wingers and began to socialize on a regular basis. But then on July 18, 1995, her affair with Mark began. Her own marriage was ailing and she had told Donnah she was considering moving. Mark called to tell her he did not want her to leave. He admitted that he, too, was unhappy and that he was attracted to her. He persuaded her to join him at a Comfort Inn in another town, telling Donnah he was on a business trip. Commencing an adulterous affair that night, they began to talk regularly on the phone. Winger told Schultz he did not love his wife.
On August 5, she testified, he had made the statement, “It would be easier if Donnah just died.” He told Schultz that he could take care of it, and all she had to do was come over and find the body. She said she believed he was joking and told him he was crazy. Yet when he repeated it again, she knew he was serious. They rendezvoused again at a motel on August 19, while Donnah was in Florida. On her return trip, Donnah rode the fateful BART shuttle, telling Schultz about it the next day. She mentioned how the driver talked with a spirit named Dahm and thought he sometimes flew over trees.
Schultz accompanied Donnah to a baby shower on August 26, and when they came home, Mark asked to speak with her alone. Within the next couple of days, he said to her, “I’ve got to get that guy in the house.” She understood that he meant Harrington, the shuttle driver. Apparently, he’d spotted an opportunity. Early on the afternoon of August 29, he asked Schultz if she would love him “no matter what.” Later that day, the double murder occurred.
That night, Winger and Schultz both stayed at the home of a rabbi, and during the night, Winger told her it would be best to stay away from the police. He urged her to keep their relationship under wraps. He said he felt certain the Springfield police officer who had questioned him after the incident had believed the story he had told.
Despite what she knew, Schultz continued her affair with Winger. He gave her a ring and talked about marrying her. But then he would say odd things like, “Dead men don’t talk,” as if he were growing paranoid. He refused to give any detail about what had happened in the house.
Early in 1996, he took a trip to Africa, and when he returned, he called Schultz to tell her their affair was over. Schultz became deeply depressed and began to drink. “I was devastated by Donnah’s death,” she said. “I ceased to be a vital person.” She attempted suicide with a bottle of pills, but failed. She tried three more times that year. Knowing what she did about the murders, she said, disturbed her, and suicide seemed her only recourse. She ended up in counseling and even submitted to electroshock therapy to try to ease her depression.
At the end of 1998, Schultz had occasion to talk with Winger again, and he told her he had become a Christian and had been forgiven. Shortly thereafter, Schultz finally voiced her suspicions to her psychiatrist. In March 1999, she had a lawyer and was talking to the police. She was granted immunity in exchange for her testimony.
But her story did not wrap things up. The defense attorneys had their own witnesses.

Defense Witnesses

The most significant person to corroborate Winger’s side of the story was the former wife of Roger Harrington, Tari Edwards. She described three separate incidents in which her husband had been threatening. Once he had even pointed a gun at her and implied he was going to kill her. However, she admitted, she had never known Harrington to have been violent with strangers, which indicated that his episodes were domestic in nature, inspired by stressors specific to their relationship, not by a break with reality.
Mark Winger
Mark Winger
In addition, a psychiatry professor based in Chicago, Dr. James Cavanaugh, actually used the word, “crazy” in his opinion of Harrington. He had never met Harrington, but like Dr. Bohlen had reviewed school, psychiatric and work records, along with statements from people acquainted with Harrington, to come to his conclusion. He thought a home invasion during a psychotic episode was consistent with what he found in the records, especially given the notion that he followed the command of a demon.
More important to the defense was the testimony of a blood spatter pattern expert who would rebut the prosecution’s forensic experts. Before seeing what each specifically said, let’s look at this approach in general.

What’s in the Blood

The key evidence was the blood spatter found on the clothing of all three people in the scenario, as well as on walls and ceiling of the home, and both sides had experts to interpret it. Blood pattern analysis is a complicated discipline and requires experience with many different situations to be able to perform an accurate reading.
Different types of bloodstains indicate how blood was projected from a body. It may drip out, spray from an artery, ooze out through a large wound, or be flung off a weapon raised to strike another blow. In the 1930s, Scottish pathologist John Glaister classified blood patterns into six distinct types:
  1. Drops on a horizontal surface
  2. Splashes, from blood flying through the air and hitting a surface at an angle
  3. Pools around the body, which can show if it’s been dragged
  4. Spurts from a major artery or vein
  5. Smears left by movement of a bleeding person
  6. Trails, either in form of smears when a bleeding body is dragged, or in droplets when it is carried.
Any of these patterns or shapes can be traced to their point of origin by considering such factors as the surface on which it fell, the angle at which it hit, and the distance it traveled from the source. Thus, bloodstain patterns can assist investigators to interpret the positions of wounded bodies and the means by which a victim and suspect moved through a crime scene. A reconstruction of the scene helps the investigators determine if witnesses or suspects are telling the truth or lying.
The shape of the blood drop itself reveals significant information. The proportion of blood reveals the amount of energy needed to disburse droplets of those dimensions. The shape of a bloodstain illustrates the direction in which it was traveling and angle at which it struck the surface. Basic trigonometry enables investigators to develop a three-dimensional recreation of the area of blood’s origin.
Arterial spurts, for example, when compared with the anatomical location of the injury, may provide information about the position when the injury was inflicted and any subsequent movement by the injured party. Castoff patterns, drops that are thrown off a swinging instrument in the arc of a swing, can illustrate the position of the assailant.
According to basic texts, the shape of a blood drop can reveal a lot about the conditions. The experts don’t necessarily all agree, but a rule of thumb with a generally smooth and non-porous surface might be the following:
  • If blood falls a short distance—around twelve inches—at a 45-degree angle, the marks tend to be circular.
  • If blood drops fall several feet straight down, the edges may become crenellated, and the farther the distance from the source to the surface, the more pronounced the crenellation.
  • A height of six feet or more can produce small spurts that radiate out from the main drop.
  • If there are many drops less than an eighth of an inch across, it may be concluded that the blood spatter resulted from an impact.
  • If the source was in motion when the blood leaked or spurted, or if the drops flew through the air and hit an angled surface, the drops generally look like stretched-out exclamation marks.
Although there were only three photos of the Winger/Harrington scene, it was enough for the experts to see where the blood from the wounds of both victims had landed and what shape it had taken. Even so, they reached opposite conclusions.

The Experts Speak

Pathologist Travis Hindman testified for the prosecution about the autopsies he had performed on both victims. He had found small amounts of blood on Harrington’s right palm and index finger, and some on his left hand. He also described the bullet wounds, indicating that they contradicted the story that Winger had told. There had been no blood on a ring and watch that Harrington wore, indicating he could not have bludgeoned Donnah with a hammer.
Blueprint of Winger house
Blueprint of Winger house
Tom Bevel then testified that the blood spatter patterns on the walls, ceiling, and clothing of all participants in the incident failed to support the story that Mark Winger told. He had been contacted by Springfield police in 1999 after giving a seminar on blood spatter. He stated that the person who had killed Donnah had knelt perpendicular to her and moved his arm in a north-south direction, as evidenced by spatter on the wall south of her head. She was beaten a minimum of three times and her blood would have spattered the hand and clothing of whoever hit her. Winger had the right kind of spatters on his shirt. Bevel also stated that Harrington had been shot near the refrigerator, not in the foyer, and had been rolled onto his back after the first shot before being shot again. However, Bevel admitted, when pressed, that blood spatter pattern analysis is open to interpretation.
Winger refrigerator
Winger refrigerator
In fact, Terry Laber, a forensic scientist from St. Paul, Minn., disputed Bevel’s findings and stated that the blood evidence was consistent with the story Winger had told. He did not think the hammer was swung in a north-south direction, and stated that hammer impact causes blood to “go high,” not against a wall. The pools of blood around Harrington could have resulted from several different scenarios, he said, not necessarily the one that Bevel described. He had been unable to review the stains on Winger’s shirt, as that piece had been cut out. He responded to a question as to why Harrington’s hands had so little blood on them by suggesting they might have been cleaned off.
Jury members would later say that these two experts had canceled each other out, and this testimony had not been instrumental in their deliberations. They felt the same about the psychiatrists who described Harrington. It was the three photos that, in the end, appeared to have the most impact on the verdict. But this would not be the only jury asked to judge Mark Winger.

Two Verdicts

The jury deliberated about thirteen hours. After two days, they nearly hung, with several hold-outs, but decided to go home and sleep on it. After a few more hours, only one person still had doubts, but finally “all the little things” helped them arrive at a unanimous agreement: Winger was guilty of the premeditated murder of his wife and a stranger he’d set up as a fall guy. “The bodies just couldn’t be where he said they were if the story was true,” one juror told reporters at the State Journal-Register. Winger was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Both C.S.I.: New York and 48 Hours Investigates took on this bizarre tale, bringing it to a much wider national audience. Correspondent Richard Schlesinger interviewed several of the key witnesses, including Winger, and Springfield area newspapers published articles about the embarrassment of being on such public display. By now, Winger had a new flourish to offer: he now maintained that paramedics had moved Harrington’s body, thus accounting for the difference between his version of events and the photographs. He continued to insist on the truth of his story.
Re-enactment of forensic examination of Harrington's mug
Re-enactment of forensic examination of Harrington’s mug
In June 2005, in a bid to establish his innocence, Winger requested a post-conviction DNA analysis of the blood spots on Harrington’s clothing and on other items. DNA testing had been requested by the prosecution in 2001 close to his trial date, so it had been limited. He felt certain that more testing would clear him. However, the state’s attorney stated that at the time of the trial Winger had been able to test as much as he liked; he just had chosen not to. In addition, post-conviction DNA testing was for offenders looking for exonerations of such crimes as rape, not for speculative new theories. His request was denied.
Winger in police custody
Winger in police custody
Winger also appealed that his attorney had not properly represented him because he had not adequately cross-examined several witnesses. This, too, was rejected, as the appellate court found the cross-examination to be both competent and adequate.
Then during that same summer, shocking news came out that Winger had attempted to hire a hit man to kill DeAnn Schultz, as well as the wealthy acquaintance who had declined to post his bail in 2001. He had asked another inmate, Terry Hubbell, to find someone to do the job and had written nineteen rambling pages that detailed his bizarre plan. He was going to kidnap his now-wealthy childhood friend, Jeffrey Gelman, and extort money from him in exchange for not harming Gelman’s wife and children. With the money, he would pay the hit man to force Schultz to recant her testimony and then kill her. He would also have the hit man kill Gelman and his family as payback for not helping him. Winger considered this plan his “get out of jail free” card. He wanted DeAnn’s body buried thirty feet down.
Hubbell turned the letter over to prison authorities. In exchange for a transfer to a less restrictive prison, he agreed to wear a recording to device to get Winger to repeat it, for corroborating evidence. Winger talked with him for an hour, digging himself in even deeper.
When caught, Winger denied that he’d meant any of it. He called the plan his “fantasies” and joked that even intelligent people could be fooled. Nevertheless, he wound up in court for this episode in 2007, and in short order the jury found him guilty. The judge stated that the notes displayed the same cold-blooded, sociopathic mindset as the double homicide had—Winger had actually been diagnosed in prison with antisocial personality disorder. Winger got another thirty-five years added to his sentence.
The officer who had taken the crucial three photos says he now carries a camera with him to every scene, and Charlie Cox admitted he had made a mistake in the beginning of this case. “We learned never to close a case that fast; there’s no rush to close any case.”
Donnah’s family established a fund in her memory for abused women in the hope it will help women escape bad situations before they’re killed. The Harringtons found closure with the official and public recognition that their son was not a psychotic killer, and the Illinois Supreme Court declined to hear Winger’s appeal.


  1. I watched this terrible story at french TV, today.

  2. I saw this on Forensic Files, 48 Hours and Murder By the Book

  3. Det. Cox was a bastard to the Harrington family! He treated them like shit! Why? Because they were poor, working class and Winger was a rich Jew.

    1. The Harrington's eventually forgave him and he does regret it all

  4. Mark Winger is nothing but a coward who refuses to face reality.