Shirley Winters, The Pyromaniac Killer

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Shirley Winters is a pyromaniac, an arsonist, and a serial killer from Syracuse, New York. There’s very little doubt that she’s truly mentally ill, and most of her issues likely stem back to childhood. In 1966, when Shirley was 7, she lost her 3 siblings: a ten year old brother, and two sisters, aged 11 and 4. The children were found dead in their beds, they’d died from asphyxiation due to fumes from the gas furnace. It was believed that a dog had damaged an exhaust pipe during the night, and it killed most of Shirley’s family. Young Shirley had been staying the night at her grandmother’s house down the road, which is the only reason she survived. Her mother lived, but of course she had some issues after losing most of her babies.

Shirley Winters. All of the images used in this article were taken from Murderpedia.

On September 11th of 1979, Shirley’s friend’s home burnt down with 3 young children inside; those poor kids did not survive. The next day, September 12th, Shirley set fire to her own home. Two of her own children, 3 year old Colleen, and 20 month old John, perished. Had law enforcement looked a bit closer, Shirley would’ve been sent to prison and lives would’ve been saved. Shirley had beaten those children to death before the fire was set, they’d died of blunt force trauma to the head.

Shirley with her ex, Ron, and their two children, Colleen and Johnny.

A few months later, on November 21st, Shirley’s 5 month old son, Ronald, died. This was blamed on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, but really his mama had ended his life; Shirley had smothered him.

Colleen & Johnny Winters, victims of their mother

In 1989, Shirley set fire to her aunt’s garage – not once, but twice. She had been living in that garage with her children at that time. When it finally burnt to the ground, Shirley rescued 2 of her 3 kids, thankfully the third child got out on her own. For this fire Shirley was charged with criminal mischief, and lost custody of her surviving children: 4 year old Joy, 5 year old Ashley, and 2 year old Clayton. In 1997, Shirley was prosecuted for burning her mother’s home to the ground. Since a child was in the home at the time and it could be proven that Shirley was aware of this, she was sentenced to 8 years incarceration.

In 2007, Shirley killed her 23 month old son, Ryan Rivers; the little boy had drowned in his grandparent’s bathtub while his mommy was visiting. For this crime Shirley was finally charged with murder, and they decided to exhume baby Ronald, Colleen and John. Autopsy deemed that little Colleen and John had been beaten to death prior to the fire being set; Ronald had not died of SIDS, he’d been suffocated.

Unbelievably the prosecution offered Shirley a deal: if she plead guilty to manslaughter for the murders of both Ronald and Ryan, she will never be charged with the other crimes. This includes the murders, there will never be any justice for little Colleen and John nor her friend’s 3 children.
Shirley will be eligible for parole after 17 years in prison, she is currently imprisoned at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility.

Authorities can link at least 17 separate fires that were likely started by Shirley; she enjoyed setting fires where children were present, sometimes she’d play the hero by bring the children to safety. Now, as was stated earlier there’s very little doubt that the woman is mentally ill, but do you want Shirley moving in next to you when she meets parole in a few years?

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