ELYRIA — Jonna Winkler will serve out the remainder of her seven-month jail sentence for locking her two teenaged stepsons in a room with nothing but bare mattresses and wearing only underwear.
Elyria Municipal Court Judge Gary Bennett on Thursday rejected the 39-year-old North Ridgeville woman’s bid for early release, leaving in place the maximum sentence he imposed on her in September for child endangering and persistent disorderly conduct charges.
Winkler’s attorney, Sharlene Ramsey, had argued that her client has done well in the county jail since she began her sentence Sept. 16, taking parenting classes and being involved in a Bible study group.
She said the incarceration has been a hardship on Winkler’s family, including her husband, Joseph Winkler, who will begin serving his own seven-month jail sentence next year. The case against the couple has cost Joseph Winkler his job, and he is unable to find work because of it, Ramsey said.
She also said that Jonna Winkler has four other children, two from a previous marriage and two she shares with her husband.
“Her major concern is: How does she put her family back together? How do they ever get over this?” Ramsey said.
But North Ridgeville City Prosecutor Toni Morgan argued that Winkler had earned her sentence and needed to serve the full seven months behind bars.
“The two children who are the subject, who are the victims in this case, served years in her custody. …” Morgan said. “From here, she needs to finish her sentence.”
The Winklers came under investigation Feb. 22 after the twin boys, then 14, were left locked in their room while Jonna Winkler took her four children to a home-school event.
One of the boys climbed out a bathroom window and, after letting himself back in the house, freed his brother. The two then dressed and fled the house, taking dog food with them to eat while they tried to reach the home of their biological mother, with whom they now live.
They instead ended up at the North Ridgeville Police Department. Officers there launched an investigation, including returning to the Winklers’ Wallace Boulevard home with the boys. Once they got back to the house, the boys began to strip down and asked the officer to lock them back in their room.
During her sentencing hearing, Jonna Winkler portrayed her stepsons as troublemakers, but Bennett has disagreed. He pointed out Thursday that the boys appeared to have gotten into trouble for stealing food, including eating candy at a veterinarian’s office and doughnuts at a church event.
He said Jonna Winkler would punish the boys, who were reduced to eating dog food because they were so hungry, by making them walk the dog in the cold for hours without jackets.
Bennett said he has stepchildren and that all children in blended families need to be treated the same.
He acknowledged that Winkler’s other children may be suffering because their mother is locked up, but said that in a way, they were victims of Winkler as well.
“They are victims because of her conduct and not because of anything else,” Bennett said.
The judge also said he was heeding the words of one of the victims in the case, who told him in September his stepmother’s philosophy of discipline.
“Even after you ask for forgiveness, you still need to have punishment,” Bennett quoted the boy as saying.