You may already be familiar with this case, it’s such an interesting one that just about everyone picked up on it: CSI, forensic files, American Justice, and more. You just take your pick.
You could call Mark Winger an evil genius who nearly committed the perfect double homicide. Not only did he viciously kill his wife, he murdered a second victim who was framed for his wife’s death. Mark then collected thousands upon thousands of dollars, making himself rather wealthy from it all, and was even hailed a hero by his community for killing a man! Had Mark only done one or two things differently, he would’ve gotten away with it.
August 29th of 1995, Mark and Donnah Brown Winger had seemed to be so happy; married for 7 years, the couple had built a beautiful life together. She worked in the operating room of a local hospital, he was a nuclear safety engineer working for the state; they had a beautiful home in Springfield, Illinois, both were actively involved in their synagogue, and in June of that year they’d finally adopted the baby girl, Bailey, they’d always longed for. The couple had seemed so very normal, and completely in love – how often is this the case with a murderous spouse? Within 3 months of Bailey’s adoption, Donnah would be dead.
The blissful new mom had just taken little Bailey on a trip to visit her parents in Florida; after their plane arrived at the St Louis airport, Donnah relied on a shuttle company, BART, to bring her and Bailey back home. During this 90 minute van ride, the driver, Roger Harrington, really freaked Donnah out; he drove too fast and erratic, made some lude remarks, and spoke of violent hallucinations which he often experienced. Especially considering her prescious baby had been in the vehicle with her for the ride, Donnah was really upset about the experience; she even wrote a detailed statement as to what happened with Roger that day and how afraid she had been. In turn, Mark called the shuttle company to complain; due to this, the driver was reprimanded. Yeah, Roger was a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic who had already been institutionalized more than once in his 27 years on Earth; it appears he’d been having a really bad mental health day when he drove Donnah and Bailey home. Come to find out, Roger had also been accused of spousal abuse in the past. It seems Mark instinctively knew from the very moment he heard about this guy that he’d found himself the perfect patsy!
So, this is what Mark did – within days of Donnah’s ride home, he began to complain of threatening prank phone calls; Mark told everyone who would listen that he believed Roger to be responsible for the harassment. Then, just 6 days after that shuttle ride, Mark secretly contacted Roger and scheduled an appointment at his home so they could talk things out. Thinking he might get his job back, Roger was very pleased to be meeting with Mark. The driver wrote all of the info down on a little piece of paper later found on the passenger side of his car; this info included the name Mark Winger, his address, and a time of 4:30.
Now this is how it appears to have gone down. Mark invited Roger in for a chat, they spoke for a bit at the table, then Mark lead Roger to a predetermined spot, and shot him. Hearing the gun blast, Donnah, who had been in her bedroom with her 3 month old, hastily placed baby Bailey down on the bed and came running to her husband’s aide. This is when Mark turned on her, the man beat his wife nearly to death with a claw hammer.
With both of his victims now on death’s doorstep, Mark quickly staged the scene before placing a panicked call to 911. On the recording you can hear a man moaning, Mark made an excuse to hang up with 911 and he shot the driver again in the head. A neighbor would state that the two gunshots had been approximately 5 minutes apart.
Once police arrived, the frazzled husband explained to authorities that he had been working out on his treadmill in the basement when he heard a loud noise upstairs; he immediately went to investigate. At this time he discovered a strange man standing above Donnah, bashing her to death with a claw hammer! So, he did what any husband would do: Mark quickly located his firearm and shot the bad guy. When EMS arrived at the Winger residence, both victims were alive – but barely. Because there was a chance of survival, both Donnah and Roger were loaded up on the ambulance first thing; only one of the investigators at the scene thought to take pictures before the bodies were moved. This officer had enough film for just 3 Polaroid pictures.
Only one officer noticed that there were quite a few things that hadn’t added up, and his name was Detective Williamson. First, Mark claimed that he had never spoken a word to Roger, yet Mark’s name had been written on than that piece of paper inside the driver’s vehicle. Also, that vehicle had been parked right in front of the Winger home in broad daylight, which isn’t something one usually does when planning to commit murder. There had been no forced entry which meant that Donnah would’ve had to open the door for this man who she was so desperately afraid of, and then there was the weapon. Roger had kept a tire iron weapon inside his vehicle yet he had not brought it inside with him. The hammer used to bash Donnah’s brains in had belonged to the Wingers; Mark claimed that it had been left out as his wife had been asking him to hang a photo. Now, it’s not odd for a murderer to show up without a weapon, they often do find it at the scene; the problem was that Roger had not entered the home empty handed, no! He’d carried his smokes and coffee inside and placed them on the table, it appeared that Roger had planned on getting comfortable. What kind of killer does that? On top of all this, Mark had been behaving very strangely. Instead of hopping in the ambulance to be with his dying wife in her final moments, as most in this situation would’ve done, Mark decided to stay behind and work with police at the crime scene. Yes, both Donnah and Roger were dead on arrival.
Still, Mark was a hero by just about everyone standards – even his dead wife’s family thought of him this way. He had risen up to defend his attacked wife, and now he was a grieving widower and a single daddy of an adopted infant. Detective Williamson, the one who had second thoughts about Mark’s innocence, was basically told to hush; the case was open and shut, closed the day after it happened. There was no mystery here.
So, back to the evil genius things I mentioned earlier – check this out! The amount of planning Mark had done in less than a week is nothing short of astounding! He had thought far enough in advance to ensure that letter Donnah had handwritten about her terrifying ride with Roger was physically stuck to the fridge at the time of the murders – gotta wonder if Mark convinced her to write it. Mark told everyone that Roger the driver had been obsessed with Donnah, and that he had wanted revenge for the loss of his job. If this were true, the shuttle company was obviously liable; Mark sued BART for millions of dollars, siting negligence! He quickly cashed in on a $150,000 life insurance policy he’d taken out on Donnah, and collected another $25,000 from a crime victims organization for being such a hero! The man had it made!
Several years had passed, and Mark was living the good life again. He was doing very well financially, remarried to baby Bailey’s nanny, Rebecca Handity, who had been hired within months of the tragedy. Together, the new couple had 3 more children; there was Bailey, two adopted kids, and one biological child. Life was great, but Mark just couldn’t leave well enough alone. The widower continued to contact police throughout the years; he promptly informed them when he remarried, at one point even asked for the murder weapons back, and checked in every so often to see if they had any new leads in the case! Why in the world would there be new leads on this obviously open and shut case? Killers very often do feel that need to be close to the investigation, this is something police always look for when there’s a murder. Still, this wasn’t enough to call the man out as a killer.
Then, in 2001, there was a break in the case: Donnah’s best friend, DeAnn Schultz, entered the picture. She had been through an awful lot since Donnah’s death, in and out of mental institutions for depression, even undergoing electro shock therapy. DeAnn’s doctor was the one who pushed her into coming clean; he advised he that she’d never get better until she spoke with law enforcement, so that’s finally what DeAnn did. She told police that at the time of the murders she had been having a quiet affair with her best friend’s husband; DeAnn had been aware that Mark wanted to get rid of Donnah, and had been actively planning her demise! He’d done his very best to talk DeAnn into playing a role in the murder, and had even spoken to her about Roger the driver. She knew for a fact that Mark had killed them both! DeAnn claimed she’d held her tongue for so long because she was fearful – Mark had threatened to kill her if she ever said anything but it was eating DeAnn up inside; this secret had made her mentally and physically ill!
At this point police decided to officially reopen the investigation. The 3 incriminating Polaroids which had been lost until now were finally found. Looking at the photos proved everything, Mark had lied about it all. Donnah had been found face down, when Mark had claimed to have held and cuddled her. There had been no blood spatter on Roger’s clothes whatsoever, and had he truly murdered Donnah with a hammer, the man definitely would’ve been covered. There were 2 pools of blood, proving that the scene had been staged, and the driver was turned in the exact opposite position of which he should’ve been.
In 2002 Mark was finally tried for the double murder and sentenced to life with no parole. Turns out that DeAnn wasn’t kidding, she had been right to believe that Mark would have her killed if she told. A few years after our killer was convicted of double murder, he was busted for hiring a fellow convict named Terry Hubbell to kill his old girlfriend, and a very wealthy friend named Jeffrey Gelman who had committed the crime of refusing to pay Mark’s one million dollar bond! And get this – Mark had even written a 19 page letter to the Hitman detailing precisely how he wanted these people murdered! You just can’t get better evidence than that, a detailed and signed confession!
For all of this plotting, Mark received 35 years; added to the life sentence he already had, we can safely assume that this killer will never be free.
Today, DeAnn says she finally feels free. Mark’s second wife, Rebecca, wasted no time at all in divorcing Mark; she had mistakenly believed she’d married a hero. Last I heard, this mother raised all the children, including Bailey, all by herself. As far as Mark goes, there are many interviews available. If you watch one, you’ll notice he still maintains his innocence. The ruthless killer puts on a good show, too; crying and pretending to be the victim. Thankfully no one believes him anymore, and he’s not free to harm anyone else.