Knightdale police investigate death of woman, 55: brother, 70, charged with stealing her car

tmcdonald@newsobserver.comOctober 18, 2013 

PHOTO COURTESY OF PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY POLICE DEPARTMENT

— Investigators hoped that an autopsy report from the state medical examiner Tuesday would contain a “treasure trove” of information to lead them to the person responsible for the death of a 55-year-old woman found Saturday in her home.

Instead, Knightdale Police Chief Jason Godwin learned on Tuesday that an autopsy report for Seanne Winters Barnette was not complete. Investigators continued to gather pieces of information and conducted interviews with family members.

Police have not made an arrest in the case, but Barnette’s brother and roommate, John Wesley Winters Jr., 70, is being held on charges of stealing the woman’s blue 2008 Chrysler PT Cruiser.

A search warrant released Wednesday said Barnette was found in her bedroom with dried blood on and around her body. She was covered with an American flag.

The warrant said that when police arrived at the scene, a window was open. Neighbors told authorities they often saw Barnette around the complex, but they had not seen her for several days.

Police seized 34 items from Barnette ’s car and home.

State records show the siblings are the children of John Wesley Winters Sr., a pioneering real estate and insurance company owner, the city’s first elected African-American councilman and a state Senator.

Knightdale Police found Barnette dead inside her second-floor apartment at 1025 Sappony Drive on Saturday at 3:15 p.m., according to an incident report made public Tuesday.

Investigators determined Barnette was a homicide victim, though the incident report indicated no signs of forced entry into her home.

Godwin, the police chief, declined to say Tuesday if there were signs of a struggle inside Barnette’s home.

Godwin on Tuesday explained the circumstances that led to police findingBarnette’s body.

Winters, who was living with Barnette, was reported by passing motorists as a stranded driver on Interstate 95 in Virginia on Thursday. A state trooper who arrived to investigate found Winters inside of the vehicle.

“The trooper reported that Winters seemed disoriented because of a medical issue,” Godwin said.

EMS workers transported Winters to Northern Virginia Medical Center in Woodbridge, Va., Godwin said.

Winters was released from the hospital, charged with the theft of his sister’s car and booked into the Prince William County Adult Detention Center.

Knightdale’s public information officer, Brian Bowman, said Winters’ extradition will be determined by the district attorney. He said it is unlikely that Winters will be brought back to North Carolina before Knightdale police decide if they are going to bring any more charges against him.

Medical staff at the hospital were able to identify Winters and looked for family members to notify. Family members knew he was staying with Barnette and repeatedly tried to reach her at home. The family asked police Saturday to conduct a “well-being” check at her apartment. Officers found the woman’s body inside.

News researcher Peggy Neal and staff reporter Mechelle Hankerson contributed to this report.

McDonald: 919-829-4533

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