Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Murder by the book: Murder by Deception

The Shuttle Ride

Donna Winger
Donna Winger

On August 23, Donnah had scheduled a shuttle to pick her up at Lambert Airport in St. Louis, Mo., to take her home. She was returning from Florida, where she had taken her new baby to visit her mother. Roger Harrington was her driver, working for Bootheel Area Rapid Transit (BART), a Missouri-based shuttle company, and Donnah and her baby were the only passengers that day.

Roger Harrington
Roger Harrington

Apparently Harrington made a number of frightening remarks to her about taking drugs and having wild sex parties, and he reached speeds in excess of 80 mph. Donnah was glad to arrive home safely, and she told several people about her harrowing trip. Mark was on a business trip in Tennessee; after she called him, he urged her to write everything down. She recorded what she could recall and taped her notes to the refrigerator door.

However, the ordeal was not over. Someone called their home and then hung up on several occasions. The Wingers suspected it had something to do with the shuttle driver. They even called the police, who sent extra patrol cars to the neighborhood. Mark complained to BART, and Harrington was summarily suspended.

An investigation of Harrington revealed that he had been charged in 1990 with battery against his wife, and that he had a psychiatric record, but his parents and friends said that he seemed happy and well-adjusted. They were stunned and grieved at the report of his attack on a virtual stranger.

Based on information from a coroner's inquest in September, reporter Jefferson Robbins wrote that Harrington believed he took orders from demons. Springfield Police Detective Charles Cox, who had investigated the case, stated that Harrington was known to have talked about a demonic entity named "Dahm," which had supposedly ordered him to murder, dismember, and plant bombs. Harrington had mentioned this demon to Donnah during the shuttle ride.

He also asked the shuttle company to give the Wingers his phone number, and when Mark called, as he later reported, he noticed that Harrington spoke strangely. Mark asked him to leave the family alone. A few days later, Harrington came over and bludgeoned Donnah to death.

The inquest closed the case...for the moment. Harrington's parents claimed their son was not mentally ill and had never been violent. They were certain that the incident had not occurred as Winger described it, but no one listened to them.

Winger received $150,000 in life insurance from Donnah's death and $25,000 from the state's Crime Victim's Compensation Program. But two investigating officers, Doug Williamson and Charlie Cox, thought he was acting strangely. After the case closed, Winger checked in several times to ask if they were looking at it again. He also asked for the return of his gun. They thought it odd that he'd want such a brutal reminder of his wife's death. For them, this behavior was a red flag, but when they looked for the evidence from his case, they learned it was in the custody of his attorney.

Re-enactment of forensic examination of Winger's gun
Re-enactment of forensic examination of Winger's gun

Winger had instigated a lawsuit against BART. That proved to be his undoing.

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