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Police name brother as suspect in Knightdale woman's murder

Posted October 14, 2013
Updated October 15, 2013

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— Investigators say the brother of a woman whose body was found in her Knightdale apartment over the weekend is now a suspect in her murder – the second homicide in the town's history.

"We have gathered evidence to narrow the scope of inquiry, and we are treating him as a suspect," Knightdale Police Chief Jason Godwin said Monday. "We currently do not have any other leads that we are pursuing."

John Wesley Winters Jr., 70, was arrested in Prince William County, Va. – about 250 miles from Knightdale – on Thursday after state troopers found him along the side of Interstate 95 in a 2008 PT Cruiser belonging to his sister, Seanne Winters Barnette.

"He was taken to a hospital because of issues identified by Highway Patrol there during their encounter," Godwin said. "They contacted family members who then reached out to us to seek out the sister he was residing with here in Knightdale.”

Police found Barnette, 55, dead Saturday morning at her home on Sappony Drive at Alta Legacy Oaks apartments.

Authorities haven't said how she died or how long she might have been dead.

Winters faces a charge for the theft of Barnette's car, but he has not been charged in her death.

The car, Godwin said, has been returned to North Carolina and is being processed as evidence in the case. Investigators hope that any evidence they recover will help provide a better, more accurate account of what might have happened to Barnette.

Both Barnette and Winters are children of Raleigh's first black City Council member, John Winters Sr., who was elected in 1961.

Barnette was a special-needs teacher for seven years at Holt Elementary School in Durham but stopped teaching full-time in 2011 to care for her ailing mother, who died in September of that year.

Holt principal Star Sampson said Barnette, a widow whose husband died a few years ago, continued working there as a substitute teacher and was also working on her nursing license.

"She was a very positive, loving person," said Sampson, who also described Barnette as someone who always made people feel warm and special.

"She loved the kids she worked with, and they loved her," Sampson said.

Winters has been homeless for years, and authorities and close family friends said Barnette took him in after she saw her brother on WRAL News being interviewed at Shepherd's Table Soup Kitchen in downtown Raleigh.

The organization's executive director, Tamara Gregory, said Winters was a regular who dined there nearly every day for the past two years.

A man of few words, she said, he was always very complimentary and thankful.

"He just has always been so kind, and so mild-mannered is how he's always seemed the past couple of years," she said. "I've never dreamt someone like him would have a violent bone in his body."

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  • Cueteegirl Oct 15, 2013

    A family is hurting...it would be kind to show compassion, empathy and love in this painful situation.

  • djofraleigh Oct 15, 2013

    This is a sad case. The man is mentally unstable. His sister who worked with Sp. Ed. children probably thought she could handle him and tried too hard, too long, to do just that. In a moment it was over. How do we know this was "the John Winters" family?

  • dontstopnow Oct 14, 2013

    looks like in this case it is not, 'like father like son'. His father worked so hard to give him a better life and this is how he is repaying him. SAD

  • Obamacare is here Oct 14, 2013

    "The late John Winters is spinning in his grave. Terrible."
    Seenenuff

    Any more of these shenanigans and he might rise from the ashes.

  • Seenenuff Oct 14, 2013

    The late John Winters is spinning in his grave. Terrible.