Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Murder by the book: Murder by Deception

The Lawsuit

The Winger's kitchen table
The Winger's kitchen table

Mark Winger filed a civil lawsuit against BART for hiring a man as dangerous as Harrington, and against Harrington's estate. He sought considerable damages. However, BART's attorneys hired a forensic blood spatter expert, Thomas Bevel, who turned up evidence that Winger may have lured Harrington to his home to be a fall guy so he could get away with killing his wife. Among the items was the fact that Winger's hand, although it had been bloodied, showed a clean area that suggested he'd been holding something thick, like a hammer. Also, the fact that Harrington had brought a mug and cigarettes into the house contradicted a psychotic rage, and three photographs taken of the scene showed blood spatter patterns the failed to support Winger's story. The investigators surmised that he'd already considered killing Donnah, and the shuttle ride had given him the idea to frame Harrington.

The hammer used in the murders.
The hammer used in the murders.

There were other factors as well that undermined Winger's version of the events. Harrington had told a roommate he planned to go to the residence that day not exactly the act of a madman following the orders of a demon. He had said he had a meeting with Winger, indicating he expected Winger to be in the house at the time. He even left a note in his car indicating his 4:30 appointment.

Harrington's note of Winger address
Harrington's note of Winger address

He apparently had realized that he was in danger of losing his job, so he had hoped to make things better with the Wingers. No one saw evidence that day of the type of psychosis attributed to him at the inquest.

In response to Winger's lawsuit against Harrington's estate, Harrington's parents turned the tables and sued Mark Winger for wrongful death, although they were afraid to speak to reporters about it lest Winger retaliate. They did say they were glad to have the case revisited, as they had never believed their son had attacked Donnah Winger.

As this story came out, so did a statement from a woman who claimed she had been having an affair with Mark Winger at the time of the killings. She had become suspicious due to statements he made to her before and after the incident suggesting his possible involvement.

When Donnah's mother and stepfather learned of this new development, they were devastated. They could not credit the allegation that their son-in-law had set up the whole thing to be rid of his wife. They defended the quality of the couple's marriage and did not believe the woman's allegation.

BART's attorneys asked the court to hold Winger, now remarried and living in another town, in contempt and force him to submit to a deposition.

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