I have watched a couple of documentaries about this case over the years.and it has always stuck in my mind. It shows how some things should not be taken at face value, a seemingly open and shut case of a man defending his wife and home turned into something entirely different.
On August 29 1995, police received a call from Mark Winger saying he had shot a man who he had discovered beating his wife, Donnah. At the scene police found Roger Harrington dying from a gunshot wound, he died not long after getting to hospital. Donnah Winger was discovered badly beaten she also died at hospital shortly after arriving.
Donnah and Mark Winger
Donnah and Mark married in 1985. She was a operating room technician and he was a nuclear engineer. They struggled to have a child, and in 1995 they finally adopted a little baby girl. They seemed like the perfect couple, until the tragic event that happened in August 1995. This happened just three months after they adopted their daughter.
At the time of his death Roger was 27 years old, he was an airport shuttle van driver. Roger had a history of mental health problems. This was sadly how he became involved in this case. He met Donnah when he was driving her and her daughter home from the airport.
Apparently during this journey he had made Donnah feel uncomfortable, he was saying strange things and at times speeding according to Mark Winger. Mark had rang Roger's boss to complain and according to the boss, Mark Winger wanted Roger's contact number so he could speak to him himself about what had happened.
Mark Winger said he came up from the basement, where he had been exercising, to find a man standing over his wife beating her with a hammer. Winger said he shot the man to stop him attacking his wife. Because the victims were still alive when police arrived and needed emergency medical attention at the scene, the scene wasn't treated as a murder scene usually would be. However, an officer was able to get three pictures which showed the positions of the bodies. (These pictures proved to be vitally important later on).
Mark Winger was immediately branded a hero, even by investigating officers. Mark had told them there had been a hammer on the table, which his wife had left out to remind him to do some DIY work.
When told the name of the man he had killed, Mark told police that Roger was the man who had been harassing his wife.
The next day the case was closed and police said Winger had acted in self-defence.
The Suspicion Starts
The tables began to turn against Mark a few months after the case was closed. It was Mark himself who made one of the investigators begin to doubt him.
Mark kept showing up at the station, at one point asking for his gun back. The investigator, Det. Charlie Cox began to believe that Mark was trying to see if they had any new information and checking the case really was closed. Cox had initially believed Winger, but his follow investigator, Det. Doug Williamson, had never believed or trusted Mark. Cox was beginning to think Williamson might be right.
It wasn't until three years later, that they were finally able to re-open the case. This came about after Donnah's best friend, DeAnn Schultz, came forward and admitted she'd had an affair with Mark. According to her the affair had started shortly before Donnah's death and continued for months afterwards. She claimed Mark had told her he no longer wanted to be married, and had even said it would be easier if Donnah were dead.
With the case re-opened, investigators finally took a look at the three pictures, taken by a quick thinking policeman. Looking at the way the bodies were positioned, the events couldn't have happened the Mark claimed. The position of Roger's body was the wrong way round.
Police believed Mark had set the whole thing up, and used Roger as the fall guy for his wife's murder. There was a note found in Roger's car with Mark's name, address and 4.30pm written on it. They believed Winger had called Roger to set up a meeting, on the pretence of settling the complaint Mark had made.
At the time of his arrest Mark had remarried (the nanny he had hired to look after his child after Donnah's death) and had more children.
On 29th May 2002 Mark Winger was found guilty of first-degree murder. He was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole.
Murder Plot From Behind Bars
While in prison, in 2006, Mark Winger tried to hire a fellow inmate to commit murder for him. He wanted two people dead, DeAnn Schultz and a childhood friend. This friend was wealthy and he wanted him kidnapped for ransom, this to pay for the murders he wanted committed.
In 2007, Mark Winger had another 35 years added to his sentence for solicitation to commit murder.
What a terrible crime this was, not only did Winger kill his wife, but he set up and killed an innocent man. Roger Harrington, unfortunately, was a perfect person for Mark to use. Mark used Roger's history of mental health issues against him, so it was quite believable to the police that Roger could snap. I think this shows the depths of Mark Winger's evil and manipulative mind. The child that Donnah had waited so long for grew up without the mother who loved her.
Another thing that bothers me in this case is Donnah's best friend. Why would she wait three years to come forward? If my best friend had been murdered and her husband had told me it would be easier if she were dead, regardless of an affair, I like to think I would mention that to someone. I certainly wouldn't continue an affair for several months afterwards.
There is a 48 hours episode called Invitation to a Murder that covers this case, worth a watch if you come across it.
What are your views on this case? Let me know in the comments.