December 20, 2014

Elyria
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Stepmom who locked teens in room petitions for early release

Jonna Winkler CHRONICLE FILE PHOTO

Jonna Winkler appears in court in September. CHRONICLE FILE PHOTO

ELYRIA — The North Ridgeville stepmother who locked her two teenage stepsons in a room with nothing but bare mattresses and clad only in their underwear has asked to get out of jail early.

Jonna Winkler, 39, was sentenced in September to seven months in the Lorain County Jail on child endangering and persistent disorderly conduct charges. She will be back in front of Elyria Municipal Court Judge Gary Bennett today.

In the request for early release, filed less than a month after reporting to jail, Winkler’s lawyers wrote that their client was doing well behind bars, leading a Bible study group and working with fellow inmates on art projects.

Attorneys Megan DiVincenzo and Sharlene Ramsey also wrote that Winkler had taken responsibility for her actions and wasn’t implying that the jail sentence was “unduly harsh or unfair.”

“Mrs. Winkler acknowledges the seriousness of her criminal conduct. She has accepted full responsibility for her actions and has not attempted to blame others,” DiVincenzo and Ramsey wrote. “This voluntary acceptance of responsibility is indicative of Mrs. Winkler’s positive attitude and her willingness to become a productive member of society.”

But North Ridgeville City Prosecutor Toni Morgan wrote in a response that Winkler only accepted responsibility after the twin boys, who were 14 at the time, escaped from the Wallace Boulevard home she shared with her husband, Joseph Winkler, in February.

The boys turned up at the North Ridgeville Police Department around 11:30 a.m. Feb. 22 dressed in multiple lawyers of clothing and carrying bags of cat and dog food, which they had taken from their home to sustain themselves after escaping.

One of the boys climbed out of a window after Jonna Winkler took her four other children — two from a previous relationship and two she shared with her husband — to a home school group event. After getting outside, the boy went back into the house and freed his brother.

The two then dressed and fled, only seeking the help of police when they couldn’t figure out how to get to the home of their biological mother, according to police.

Bennett said during sentencing hearings for both Jonna and Joseph Winkler, who will begin serving his own seven-month prison sentence next year, that the two boys were so hungry that they resorted to eating dog food. They were also locked into the room and their dressers with their clothing were kept elsewhere in the house.

By contrast, Bennett has said, the Winklers’ other children had places at the dinner table and had rooms full of clothing and toys.

Police said that when the boys were returned home, they began to strip back down to their underwear and asked the officer to lock them back in their room. When police returned later in the day with Lorain County Children Services, there were fresh dents in a closet wall that appeared to match the head of one of the boys.

Jonna Winkler insisted during her sentencing hearing that she loved her stepchildren, whom she described as commonly getting in trouble.

One of the boys, who both now live with their biological mother, said he felt his stepmother needed to heed the advice Jonna Winkler often gave him.

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

Morgan scoffed at Jonna Winkler’s insistence that she was a better mother for having taken six parenting classes and wrote that despite Winkler’s involvement with Bible study and art projects while in jail, she still needed to face punishment for her crimes.

“No punishment could be more fitting than to confine her to a room with sparse amenities and a lock on the door as she often confined the victim children,” Morgan wrote.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.