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Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Parricide - He said he had shoot an intruder after finding the man beating his wife to death with a hammer
Number of victims: 2
Date of murders: August 29, 1995
Date of arrest: August 23, 2001
Date of birth: November 26, 1962
Victims profile: Donnah Winger, 32 (his wife) and Roger Harrington, 28 (cab/airport van shuttle driver)
Method of murder: Hitting with a hammer / Shooting
Location: Springfield, Illinois, USA
Status: Sentenced to life in prison without parole on August 9, 2002
photo gallery

Mark Winger, (born November 26, 1962) a former Springfield, Illinois nuclear power-plant technician, was convicted in 2002 of murdering his wife, Donnah Winger, and Roger Harrington (born 1967), in 1995. Winger married the former Donna Drescher (born Donnah Brown in 1963) in 1988. Winger was an nuclear plant engineer, his bride Donnah an operating room technician. He is a first cousin of actor Debra Winger.

Synopsis of murders

Winger's wife Donnah had taken a 90-minute ride home from St. Louis International airport after a trip from Florida to visit her mother and stepfather with shuttle van driver Roger Harrington on the early afternoon of August 23, 1995. The psychotic driver had given her a "hard time" all during the ride, annoying her by talking about getting high and having orgies in his home.

Some days later, Winger called 911 and reported having shot Harrington to death, not knowing who he was, upon catching him bludgeoning Donnah to death with a hammer. The case was declared closed at first, but on closer examination it was discovered that the husband appeared as the only possible culprit and that he had killed Harrington before he murdered his wife, after luring him into the house.

Police initially suspected that Harrington, who did have a history of mental problems, had given Donnah Winger a harrowing ride home from the St. Louis airport, and scared her and their child, a 3-month old that the Wingers had adopted just a month and a half earlier, to the point where she told her husband about the incident, which was several days before her death, and that Harrington, who was having trouble with his own wife at the time, had broke into the house and beat her to death with a hammer. The Wingers' initially had contacted the taxi shuttle service where Harrington was employed, and complained about the ride from the airport.

Springfield Police Det. Doug Williamson, the interviewing detetcive in Wingers initial questioning was at first persuaded of Winger's innocence. But his partner, Det. Charlie Cox said that he "became suspicious" when Winger kept showing up at the police station. It reportedly had begun a few months after the murders occurred when Winger came by to ask for his gun back. The two detectives then began to have serious thoughts that Winger had possibly committed the murders.

Detective Cox recalls:

“I released the gun back to Mark and we sat and talked for about a half hour,” Cox says. "He was wanting to know how the case was going. As far as I was concerned, he should have just accepted it was closed.”

Although Winger would deny it, Cox also remembered him dropping by a second time, to say he was getting remarried to his daughter’s new nanny, whom he had hired just five months after Donnah died.

“He kept coming in. I kept feeling like he was trying to find out if we were checking into anything,” says Cox. “I went back to Doug and said, ‘Something’s wrong here. Big time."

Winger had reportedly told the Springfield Police detectives that he ran up from the basement, grabbed a gun and shot Harrington in defense, after he saw him over his dead wife, who was lying on the living room floor. But police later developed evidence that Harrington was set up as part of Winger's plan to murder his wife, based on the positioning of the bodies the police discovered at the crime scene; they didn't add up to WInger's account of a supposed struggle with Harrington, as well as the evidence discoveries in Harrington's car which pointed to a possible appointment for 4:30 PM that afternoon with WInger and his wife.

Donna Winger/Roger Harrington Murder Trial

Up until the time that he was finally arraigned in 2001, life had gone on with Winger; by this time he had remarried, marrying Rebecca Handity, the family nanny he had hired after the death of Donna, and a "Trophy Shiksa", or a non-Jew; both Winger and his late wife Donnah families were of a Jewish background. The new couple added three more children, two which were adopted, to the new family, which included the child Winger had adopted with first wife Donnah.

Evidence and testimonies

At the start of the trial, all of the forensic evidence, including DNA samples, and the video interviews by Winger with the detectives assigned to the case was introduced; it also introduced a post-it reminder note in Harrigton's car of the planned meeting between the cab driver Harrington and the Wingers, and dispatch documents for the airport shuttle service for whom Harrington worked for and also recorded conversations between Winger and the driver of the possible meeting later that afternoon on the day of the murders, as well as, probably most damning for Winger, three polaroid photo shots of the victims at the crime scene which disproved Winger's testimony of a struggle between him and Harrington.

It also introduced the murder weapon, a gun detectives had believed that Winger had used to shoot and kill Harrington, and the hammer that Winger had alleged that Harrington had used to bludgeon Donnah, but which the police had believed that Winger, instead of Harrington, had used to kill his wife. The testimony from acquaintances of the Wingers', in particular, one DeAnn Schultz, one of Donnah's best friends, who would reveal that she had been having an affair with Mark at the time of the murders. She said that Winger had made what she thought were incriminating comments to her, and that Winger wanted out of his marriage so badly that he even tried to solicit her in on the murder plot beforehand. Schultz had also claimed he made incriminating comments to her such as "it would be better if she died."


On May 29. 2002, after three weeks of testimony and 13 hours of deliberation, a jury found Winger guilty of first-degree murder in the beating death of his wife Donnah, and the fatal shooting of Harrington. Winger was convicted and sentenced to life in prison without parole for the murders. It had taken 6 and a half years for the case to finally make it to trial.

Solicitation for murder trial (2007)

In 2006, Winger, then 48, was indicted for attempting to hire a fellow prisoner to commit another murder for him. Winger allegedly tried solicit a Pontiac prison inmate, Terry Hubbell, then 44, to arrange the murders of Schultz, who was his girlfriend and mistress at the time of his wife's and Harrington's death, and a childhood friend, Jeffrey Gelman, a wealthy real estate developer living in Florida at the time, and whom Winger also allegedly felt had slighted him.

The plot originally involved having Hubbell, who was at the time serving natural life for the 1983 murder of a 14-year-old girl, Angel Greenwood, in the nearby town of Olney, arrange for the hitmen to kidnap Gelman, who had allegedly offended Winger when he wouldn't post his US$1,000,000 bail in the Sangamon County case, then obtain a large ransom in exchange for not harming his family. As time progressed, however, the ransom plot was changed to murder Gelman, and Schultz, who wound up testifying against him in the murder for hire trial. The ransom money was to supposedly be used to pay the killer for the deaths of both Gelman and DeAnn Schultz.

The fallout of the plot resulted in a conviction in June 2007 for solicitation to commit murder, as he was found guilty by jury in the Livingston County, Illinois trial, and a 35-year sentence on top of the life without parole sentence he received in the Sangamon County murders.

In the media

The CSI: NY episode "Open and Shut" is based on the Winger case, but with the sexes of the victims reversed: the wife kills the husband and frames his psychopathic driver. In December 2008, CBS News's 48 Hours program ran an update on the story of the Winger murder case, which was also later aired on the cable WE tv Channel's 48 Hours On We program.


Invitation To A Murder

By David Kohn -

December 5, 2007

(CBS)  It seemed like an open-and-shut case. A violent intruder beats a woman to death. He's caught in the act by the woman's husband, who shoots the man in the head.

But over the years, two dramatically different versions have emerged of how Donnah Winger died -- and only one can be the truth.

There's the story told by her husband, Mark Winger. It's the account that police have, for the most part, accepted from the start -- that Winger killed an intruder who was attacking his wife.

And then there's the other version that seems much harder to believe -- that Winger had devised a complicated plot to murder his wife and frame another officer. Critical to this case is one police officer who had a hunch he couldn't let go.


Almost everyone who knew Mark and Donnah Winger thought they were perfect together.

"They were absolutely an adorable, model couple," says Sarah Jane Drescher, Donnah's mother.

Both were respected and successful members of their community. Mark was a nuclear engineer for the state of Illinois. Donnah was an operating room technician.

The Wingers wanted to start a family. But there was a problem. They learned Donnah could not bear children.

So when Donnah and Mark adopted a baby girl, Bailey, in June 1995, they were elated. "My heart was just pounding, I just couldn't believe it," says Winger.

But three months later, the good times ended abruptly. It all began when Donnah returned from a visit to her mother and stepfather in Florida.

Donnah and her baby arrived at the St. Louis airport and boarded an airport van for the 90-minute ride home to Springfield.

It was an unusual drive, with an unusual driver - a man named Roger Harrington, who had been working for the van company for six months.

Harrington was also speeding. "He was telling Donnah that sometimes when he drives, this God-like character would come to him and pull him out of his body and he would be flying above the trees," Winger remembers.

She and Bailey made it home, but Donnah was rattled. Mark Winger complained to Harrington's boss.

Less than a week later, Winger says, he was on his treadmill in the basement when he heard a thump. He says he went upstairs to investigate. Bailey, he says, was alone on his bed. And there were strange sounds coming from the dining room. "I just grabbed my gun and started going down the hall," says Winger.

When he came down the hallway, he said he saw his wife on the floor in the dining room. There was a stranger over her, bludgeoning her with a hammer. Winger shot the man in the head.

When police officers got there, they found two people bleeding on the floor. There was blood on the furniture, on the walls, even on the ceiling.

As paramedics went to work, Officer Dave Barringer took three quick pictures with his Polaroid camera. It was the last three pictures in his camera.


"I've been in crime scene work a long time and there's been very few that I've had that was as severe and bloody as this one was," says Det. Charlie Cox, who got right to work and questioned Winger in the bedroom.

Winger told the detectives the hammer was his, left out by Donnah as a reminder to hang a hat rack. He asked Cox a question: Who was the man he had shot? Cox told him it was Roger Harrington.

"He says, 'Oh my God, that's the guy that's been harassing my wife and me,'" recalls Cox.

"I think I fell over on my side and just cried," says Winger, believing that he would be taken in for killing another person.

But Winger couldn't have been more wrong. The police had all but cleared him. In fact, they didn't consider him a killer, they considered him a victim.

"I said, 'You've killed the person who was killing your wife,'" says Cox, who considered Winger a hero.

According to police reports, Winger said that Donnah was on her knees with Harrington leaning over her, attacking her with a hammer. Harrington looked up at him, and Winger shot him, because he was about to hit her again. He told police that at that point, Harrington fell off of Donnah and rolled back.

Cox's investigation of the crime scene backed up Winger's story. What's more, Harrington had been a psychiatric patient, with a history of delusions. Plus, Cox already knew him -- he once broke up a fight between Harrington and his wife.

Harrington died shortly after arriving at the hospital. Donnah died minutes later. She never regained consciousness.

Donnah's mother and stepfather, Sarah Jane and Ira Drescher, were inconsolable when they heard about the murder. They were shocked to hear that Donnah's ride from the airport had escalated into murder.

Donnah's family rushed to their son-in-law's side.

"We felt terrible for him. Look what he's lost. He's lost his wife also. And then he had to turn around and shoot a man," says Ira Drescher, Donnah's stepfather.

A day after the crime, the prosecutor announced that Mark had acted in self-defense, and that no charges would be filed against him.

The case was closed.


There was an outpouring of support for Mark in Springfield. Almost everyone believed he was a good family man whose life had been shattered by a madman.

But Roger Harrington's family wasn't buying the story. Harrington's sister, Barbara Howell, pleaded with Det. Cox to no avail. Harrington's mother, Helen, also felt the shame of a city that believed she had raised a psychotic killer.

The Harringtons grieved quietly, believing they were alone. But they didn't realize that Detective Doug Williamson was also not convinced of Harrington's guilt.

"Roger Harrington was allowed into the house. There was no forced entry. Somebody let him in," says Williamson. "Why would Donnah leave her baby alone on her bed and open the door to Harrington, a man she supposedly feared?"

Also, Harrington's car was parked right in front of the Winger home, with a piece of paper on the front seat: It had Mark Wingers name, his address and 4:30 p.m. written on it.

"[Mark] says he doesn't know Roger Harrington, has never met him, and does not indicate an appointment, when I have already seen the note which indicates an appointment," says Williamson.

Cox saw no reason to doubt Winger's story. But Williamson wanted to investigate further. His bosses turned him down.

The case stayed closed, until a shocking revelation years later.


Part 2: A Witness Comes Forward

By Mary Jayne McKay

(CBS)  Everyone in Springfield, Ill., knew Mark Winger's story. An intruder named Roger Harrington bludgeoned his wife, Donnah, to death. Mark had interrupted the attack and killed Harrington.

Winger's story was heroic and heartbreaking, but Det. Doug Williamson didn't believe it.

At first, Williamson couldn't even persuade his own partner, Det. Charlie Cox, that Winger was a killer.

But Cox says he became suspicious when Winger kept showing up at the police station.


It started a few months after the murder when Winger came by to ask for his gun back.

"I released the gun back to Mark and we sat and talked for about a half hour," Cox says. "He was wanting to know how the case was going. As far as I was concerned, he should have just accepted it was closed."

Winger denies it, but Cox remembers him dropping by a second time, to say he was getting remarried to his daughter's new nanny, whom he had hired just five months after Donnah died.

"He kept coming in. I kept feeling like he was trying to find out if we were checking into anything," says Cox. "I went back to Doug and said, 'Something's wrong here. Big time.'"

Cox was beginning to believe that his partner was right all along. And now, he wanted the case reopened.

For three years, their bosses prevented them from reopening the case. And during that time, Winger and his new wife, Rebecca, adopted Bailey and had two other children.

Then DeAnn Schultz, Donnah's best friend, came forward with new information.

For four years, Schultz had been keeping a secret that was making her sick.

What she was finally ready to say would change everything.

She told police she and Winger had been having an affair that began a month before Donnah's death and continued for several months after it. She also said Winger wanted out of his marriage so badly he even had talked about killing Donnah.

"He mentioned that it would be - easier if - if Donnah died," says Schultz.

She said that Winger suggested that she play a role in the murder, and that he talked about the van driver, Roger Harrington.

Winger admits having the affair but calls Schultz's other allegations "a horrible, horrible lie."

"I was a good husband to Donnah," says Winger. "I made a mistake, I'm human, it was stupid and it was wrong."


The case was finally reopened and detectives, going through the files, found yet another surprise - three Polaroids taken by Officer Barringer on the night of the murders, before Donnah Winger and Roger Harrington were moved to the hospital.

The photos showed the placement of the bodies, something that police say blew Winger's version of events out of the water.

"It was over," says Williamson. "Roger Harrington's head and feet were in the opposite way of what Mark told us had happened."

The three snapshots, which the detectives didn't see during the original investigation, were now the centerpiece of the case.

How did that happen?

"Got overlooked," says Cox. "And in a case that was closed as fast as this one was, it was never thought of again. This thing was closed by the 10:30 news that night, for all practical purposes."

After making the painful admission that they had botched the investigation in 1995, police set out to prove who the real killer was.

Police believe Mark Winger began methodically plotting the double murder immediately after Donnah's bizarre ride with Harrington on the way home from St. Louis.

"He's the perfect guy to seize on, to make it look like an intruder had come in and killed his wife," says Williamson.

In 2001, Winger was arrested and put in jail awaiting trial. And the detective who once called Mark Winger a hero was now intent on proving him a cold-blooded murderer - and vindicating Roger Harrington.

"I hurt the Harrington family a lot," says Cox. "They buried him as a murderer."


For years, Sarah Jane and Ira Drescher, Donnah's parents, had accepted the awful fact that Donnah Winger was stalked and killed by a madman named Roger Harrington.

Now, nearly seven years after Donnah's death, they've come to Winger's trial, knowing that the evidence against him is strong - but still clinging to the hope that something would exonerate him.

The prosecution team, led by John Schmidt, said Winger lied from the beginning, even during his 911 call in which he denied knowing who Harrington was.

Ray Duffy, owner of the airport van company, testified that Winger called to complain about Harrington's behavior during the ride and afterwards and "wanted to talk with the driver direct." This was a crucial link for the prosecution.

Duffy said that was unusual: "Usually, when people have a complaint, they just call the office," he said. He also testified that Harrington was eager to work things out and told Duffy to give Winger his phone number.

Police believe Winger planned for everything but couldn't anticipate that Harrington would have in his car a note with Mark Winger's name, his address, and 4:30 p.m. marked on it.

Williamson points out that Harrington also had in his car a tire iron fashioned as a weapon. "If he was going to bludgeon someone, he had a weapon in his car," the detective says. "Yet he chose a weapon from inside the house that he would have no idea was there?"


Untangling the evidence in the seven-year-old case was a huge job for jurors, three of whom sat down to talk to 48 Hours Mystery.

The defense told them that, unlike Winger, who was a successful and respected member of the community, Harrington had a troubled, violent past.

The defense also pointed out that at the time of the murder in 1995, detectives had the Polaroids, the note in the car -- in fact, they had all the same evidence that they now found so incriminating against Winger.

Schultz, who was given immunity, provided the only new evidence - testimony that Winger had talked about killing his wife. But she had attempted suicide four times and had undergone electroshock therapy - so the defense called her unreliable.

But the jurors, who heard nearly two weeks of testimony, knew what was at stake.

By now, Winger and his new wife had four children, including Bailey.

But Harrington's family wanted justice.

Next, did the murder happen the way Mark Winger said it did?


After nearly two weeks of testimony, three families anxiously wait for jurors to decide Mark Winger's fate.

Did he kill Roger Harrington in self defense, as he has said for seven years, or was Harrington an unlucky pawn in Winger's plot to murder his wife, Donnah?

Donnah's mother and stepfather are now convinced that Winger is a murderer.

However, Winger's mother, Sallie, and his family are still convinced that he is innocent. "What reason would he have for hurting Donnah?" says Sallie Winger.

After deliberating for 13 hours, the jury reaches its verdict. Winger's parents, who had spent a small fortune defending their son, were stunned by the verdict. Mark Winger was guilty.

Ultimately, the jurors say the case against Winger was clear. They were convinced that Harrington did not just show up at the Winger's house with murder on his mind.

"If you're going to go over to kill somebody," says Karen, a juror, "you don't bring a pack of cigarettes and something to drink. And just hope that the murder weapons going to be there."

And while the defense tried to play up Schultz's past psychological problems, the jurors thought her troubles made her more credible. "I think she was sincerely telling us the truth," says Karen, another juror.

But jurors say the state's best evidence was the first evidence police ever collected – the three Polaroids.

Mark Winger, who never took the stand at his trial, was sentenced to life in prison. He now says the paramedics had moved the bodies before the Polaroids were taken, something the paramedics had denied at the trial.

Yet Winger still can't explain the note: "I can't offer you any answers to why Roger Harrington had 4:30 written on a note."

When Winger was convicted, another man - Roger Harrington – was exonerated, and this has given his family a measure of comfort.

But knowing the truth is little comfort for Donnah's parents, Sarah Jane and Ira Drescher. They are left with only their memories of a happy daughter and happier times that ended violently.

"I have no idea why he did it," says Donnah's mother, Sarah Jane. "I will never understand why he did it. And I think it's a question that will never be answered in my mind."


Since 48 Hours last reported this story, an Illinois court rejected Mark Winger's appeal of his murder conviction. He's serving his life sentence at the state penitentiary in Pontiac, Ill.

Mark and Donnah's daughter, Bailey, now 9, is being raised by Mark's second wife, Rebecca, who has now filed for divorce.



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