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Police charge Winters with sister's Knightdale murder

Posted November 14, 2013

John Wesley Winters Jr.
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— Knightdale police have charged a man with the first-degree murder of his sister, who was found dead in her Knightdale apartment Oct. 12.

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

John Wesley Winters Jr., 70, was arrested three days earlier, Oct. 9, in Prince William County, Va. – about 250 miles from Knightdale – driving a 2008 PT Cruiser belonging to his sister. Authorities found him sitting in the car alongside Interstate 95.  

Virginia state troopers thought something might be wrong with Winters, so they took him to a hospital and reached out to his family, including Barnette, Knightdale Police Chief Jason Godwin said.

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

Winters was initially charged with car theft, and in a court appearance Oct. 24, Assistant District Attorney Howard Cummings told a judge that he admitted to a doctor at a Prince George County hospital that "he had an altercation with his sister and stabbed her."

Cummings told the court Barnette was stabbed 50 times. Police found her, covered in blood, her body draped in a U.S. flag. Hers was just the second murder in Knightdale history.

"I am extremely proud of our department and its ability to handle such a large investigation. My hopes would be that we never have such an investigation again,” Godwin said Thursday.

Winters is scheduled for a 2 p.m. court appearance Thursday on the murder charge.


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  • 678devilish Nov 14, 2013

    She had a right to life.

  • itsyoureternalsoul Nov 14, 2013

    We call could have guessed he had mental problems from the soup-kitchen interview. He went on to prove it

  • outhousecat Nov 14, 2013

    This whole story makes me so sad. It's another example of the mentally ill being forced to live outside of normal society with nobody to make sure they get the help they need. This poor lady was doing what so many families of the mentally ill do - they try to take care of loved ones with no support, no real understanding of mental illness, no guarantees of their safety if the demons get too bad for the sick one.

    I hope that when the legislators start talking about what to do with the Dorothea Dix property, this story and others like it are prominently noted. Dix is for the mentally ill. The state stole it because of that, people like Seanne are dead. Pat yourself on the back, gentlemen. You were an accomplice to her death.

  • 678devilish Nov 14, 2013

    What a shame he took his blood sister's life. Now he will spend the rest of his life behind bars in prison. What a very sad story indeed. My condolences to the family and friends in your loss.

  • pja1357 Nov 14, 2013

    The lesson is that sometimes family should let the system do the work, even if the system doesn't work well when someone is not saying or acting as a threat to self or others.

    This is the big problem - the system DIDN'T WORK FOR HIM - He was pitiful and often living on the streets. My heart goes out to the family that has to deal with these two big losses. He truly had no one to properly take care of him and it ended with him getting out of control and taking his sister's life. Greed played a big part in all that has gone on over the years. Prayers to all involved.

  • sjb2k1 Nov 14, 2013

    tried to help him and he killed her. man oh man.

  • Cueteegirl Nov 14, 2013

    Seanne is an Angel in heaven and was an Angel on earth...

  • djofraleigh Nov 14, 2013

    We all feel sad from our memory of the father, John Winters, to see this happen to his children. The murdered sister thought she could manage her brother and it cost her, her life. Her brother is and was mentally ill. She would want him to be treated as gently as possible, but treated, not punished. This case is not about crime, but mental health.

    The lesson is that sometimes family should let the system do the work, even if the system doesn't work well when someone is not saying or acting as a threat to self or others.

  • NotUrTypicalAmerican Nov 14, 2013

    Good Lord...

  • lets_b_real79 Nov 14, 2013

    I am not a big fan of insanity or mental health defenses. I am a bit partial in thinking this guy was disturbed, or anyone for that matter who kills a sibling. And the guy is 70 years old.