November 24, 2014


Dad gets 7-month sentence for permitting abuse of sons

Joseph Winkler sits at the defense table while his parents watch in the background. He was sentenced for allowing his wife, Jonna Winkler, who is now serving jail time, to lock her stepsons in a room with nothing but their underwear and bare mattresses. BRUCE BISHOPS/CHRONICLE

Joseph Winkler sits at the defense table while his parents watch in the background. He was sentenced for allowing his wife, Jonna Winkler, who is now serving jail time, to abuse her stepsons. BRUCE BISHOPS/CHRONICLE

ELYRIA — Joseph Winkler acknowledged Wednesday that he should have done something to stop the draconian punishments his wife was imposing on his twin teenage sons before they escaped from the couple’s North Ridgeville home in February and sought help from police.

“The punishment went too far. … It was a bad situation and I should have done something to change what happened,” Winkler, 40, said during an appearance before Elyria Municipal Court Judge Gary Bennett.

Joseph Winkler also said during the hearing that he had concerns about the extent of the punishments 39-year-old Jonna Winkler, the boys’ jailed stepmother, was inflicting on his sons but couldn’t stop her.

“I tried to fight against my wife, but she broke me down,” he said.

Those admissions didn’t stop Bennett from sentencing Winkler to seven months in the Lorain County Jail on misdemeanor charges of child endangering and persistent disorderly conduct.

It was the same jail sentence that Bennett imposed on Jonna Winkler last month. Joseph Winkler’s sentence will begin in April after his wife completes her jail sentence. Unlike his wife, Joseph Winkler will be granted work release so he can continue to support his family while he is incarcerated, the judge said.

He also was fined $1,200 and ordered to repay monthly $190 Social Security checks sent to help care for the boys that he continued to cash even after they were removed from his custody when authorities became involved.

North Ridgeville police and Bennett have said that the two twin boys, now 15, were locked inside their bedroom, which contained nothing more than bare mattresses, while wearing only underwear while Jonna Winkler took her four children to a home school event Feb. 22.

Judge Bennett questions Joseph Winkler during his sentencing for being part of the abuse of his children by their stepmom.

Judge Bennett questions Joseph Winkler during his sentencing for being part of the abuse of his children by their stepmom.

One of the boys climbed out of a window and unlocked the bedroom door to free his brother. The two then dressed, packed some dog food and fled the family’s Wallace Boulevard house. They eventually went to the North Ridgeville Police Department when they couldn’t figure how to get to their biological mother’s home in Cuyahoga County.

Bennett said police concluded the teens only came to them out of desperation because their ongoing mistreatment “had broken their spirits.”

North Ridgeville police Officer Joe Roth has said when he took the boys back to their house they started to get undressed and asked him to lock them back in their room.

Roth refused to do so and when he returned later with Lorain County Children Services the beds had been made and the deadbolt removed from the bedroom door. There also was a fresh dent in a closet wall where the boys have said their stepmother slammed one boy’s head into the wall.

During her court appearance in September, Jonna Winkler defended her actions, saying she was trying to rein in the bad behavior of her two sons, which included stealing from one of their siblings.

But Bennett has said that the two boys were so hungry that they were forced to eat dog food to supplement their diet and there was only room at the dining room table for Joseph and Jonna Winkler, their two children and two children Jonna Winkler had from a previous relationship.

Bennett said Tuesday that Joseph Winkler had failed to stand up for and protect his children.

“Out of all the people in the world, you’re the one they should have been able to count on, and they couldn’t,” the judge said.

Neither boy spoke at the hearing, although they had talked to Bennett in his chambers beforehand.

During Jonna Winkler’s sentencing hearing last month, one of them told Bennett about his stepmother’s theory on discipline.

“Even after you ask for forgiveness, you still need to have punishment,” the teen said.

Rebecca Winkler, Joseph Winkler’s ex-wife and the biological mother of the teens, said after Wednesday’s hearing that her sons are now living with her and are doing well both at her home and in school.

She said when she and Joseph Winkler got divorced she ended up moving away from the area for a job and that, coupled with two bouts with cancer, led her to let her ex-husband taking custody of her sons.

But she also said that Joseph and Jonna Winkler did their best to keep her from visiting her sons and she was horrified to learn how they had been treated.

“All I can say is what was done to my kids was unspeakable,” Rebecca Winkler said.

Jeff Brown, Joseph Winkler’s attorney, said after the hearing that his client is genuinely remorseful and has taken steps to become a better father, including parenting classes and counseling.

“He’s doing all the right things, just too late,” Brown said.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or

  • Bonnie Pickett

    Seven months isn’t long enough for what happened to those boys. She could have severely injured the boy when she put his head through a wall. I suppose that she will continue to have custody of her kids when her sentence is up because she didn’t mistreat them.

  • Jennifer Williams

    What cracks me up is on the original report of this story Jonna Winklers friends or people she knew said nope there was no way this woman did this she has watched my kids blah blah blah! Right here ladies is where her husband is saying yes she did and I should have done something about it and she broke me. Sad pathetic man. I do not care what anyone says I said from the begining the lady treated “her Children” with her current husband and her children from a previous relationship normal but his children like animals. Lady should be locked up for a very long time 7 months is not sufficient enough. People disgust me! My child is my child I am a parent therefore I protect mine and my friends children as well. What is there to question? That is our duty as a parent!

    • Don Grantzki

      Haven’t heard the last of this family. After six months in lockup neither will be employed and the other kids will be on welfare. If the spineless guy had tried to oppose his wacko wife’s actions, the story would have been all about his ABUSE OF HER AND her RIGHTS.

  • Alan Pugh

    Would the judge have chastised a woman for “allowing” her husband to commit this abuse? Would the woman have been handed the same sentence as the abuser, or would she have been viewed as another victim of the abuser?

    This case reeks of sexism. Seven months for the actual abuser? There’s no excuse for this.

  • Jesus fan

    No matter what the case may be, both parents should have the fullest coming to them. If the kids get put back in their care that just shows how wacked the system is. No child of any age should have to go through this. As for the dad, why didn’t you stand up for your kids? Who did you love more your kids or the woman with problems. There is no one in this world that is more important then your kids(besides god) and for you to let somebody bring you down like thit. We need to start standing up for ourselves and our children. As soon as we sense something going on you should have gotten help. May the good lord be with these children and her biological children as well.

  • Carl Black

    This guy looks pretty well fed, I wonder what he was eating while his boys were eating dog food in their underwear. Some people don’t deserve the privaledge that the gift of children are. How did he eat and sleep knowing his boys were suffering?

    • Chris

      Amen, Carl! While he was eating a hearty and healthy meal at the table with “his family”, his kids were forced to eat alone, eat dog food, while barely clothed. While he was sleeping comfortably, snuggled up with his monster wife inside his warm comforter, his kids were barely clothed while sleeping on a bare mattress. A man broke down? No, he receives no sympathy from me. You’re right, Carl….children are a blessing. Do you have any idea how many people would love to be that ideal father and mother to these kids? Tons! Wishing the best for the boys and their biological mother.

  • proccw

    I don’t know who could ever be “broken down” so much that you could let anyone treat your kids this way

    • flyboySR20

      Notice it was HIS children from a previous marriage; NOT HER children from her previous marriage.

  • flyboySR20

    These parents need to have ALL of their children removed from the home, not just the two twin boys who were abused. Once some siblings are abused, it’s not far behind that another or more will suffer some kind of abuse. In fact, the siblings who are not physically abused are being abused by their knowing what their brothers suffered at the hands of their parents. And, denying the biological mother visitation access is particularly disturbing because a child should have a relationship with both parents post-divorce. Her illness was held against her. These boys deserve a full life. These two parents should have custody of all of the children removed and should have to pay DCFS child support for placing their parental burdens on the state.