RALEIGH — A Wake County prosecutor said Thursday that John Wesley Winters Jr. told hospital workers in Virginia that he stabbed his sister, who was found dead in her Knightdale apartment earlier this month.
Wake Assistant District Attorney Howard Cummings also told a judge that Winters, 70, was found with a knife that is consistent with a weapon used to stab Seanne Winters Barnette more than 50 times.
Cummings shared that information Thursday during a court hearing, where Winters, 70, appeared to answer charges that he stole Barnette’s car. Bail for Winters was set at $1.5 million and should remain that high because Winters is a suspect in Barnette’s death, Cummings told Wake County District Court Judge Keith Gregory.
For now, though, Winters has been charged only with stealing her car and driving it to Virginia.
Cummings told Gregory that on Oct. 10 Winters was found on the side of Interstate 95, south of Washington, D.C., sitting in his sister’s PT Cruiser. Cummings said that a Virginia state trooper found Winters “disoriented” with a cut on his right hand and in possession of a knife.
Emergency workers transported Winters to a nearby hospital where he told a doctor that he “had been in an altercation with his sister and stabbed her,” Cummings said.
Staff at the hospital began looking for someone in his family to notify that Winters was there. Family members knew he has been staying with Barnette and repeatedly tried to reach her at home. When they couldn’t, they asked police to check on her apartment.
On Oct. 12, officers found Barnette’s body in her bedroom with dried blood on and around her body. She was covered with an American flag.
“It appeared she had more than 50 stab wounds all about her body,” said Cummings.
Cummings said the “excessive number of wounds” suggested that Barnette was the victim of a “crime of passion” by someone who knew her.
Winters and Barnette, Cummings said, “had disagreements in the past over financial matters and other kinds of matters.”
Before Cummings spoke Thursday, Winters told the judge that he lived on his Social Security and would try to make arrangements to hire his own attorney.
“I think that it’s prudent for me to appoint you a court counsel,” Gregory replied.
Winters dropped his head several times while Cummings spoke to the judge. Afterward, Gregory asked Winters if he would like to speak, but then warned him not to mention any facts in the case because anything he said Thursday could be used against him in future court proceedings.
Winters raised his heavily bandaged hand that was treated while he was in the hospital in Virginia and said that he had nothing more to say.
Winters and Barnette were the children of John Winters Sr., a real estate and insurance company owner who was the first African-American elected to the Raleigh City Council in 1961 and was later elected to the state Senate. John Winters Jr. also worked in real estate and tried to follow his father into politics with an unsuccessful run for U.S. Congress in 1984.
Winters was transported from Prince William County, Va., on Wednesday, said Knightdale spokesman Brian Bowman.