Police investigate death of Knightdale woman

tmcdonald@newsobserver.comOctober 15, 2013 

— Investigators hoped that an autopsy report from the state medical examiner Tuesday would contain a “treasure trove” of information to lead them to the person responsible for the death of a 55-year-old woman found Saturday in her home.

Instead, Knightdale Police Chief Jason Godwin learned on Tuesday that an autopsy report for Seanne Winters Barnette was not complete. Investigators continued to gather pieces of information in the death and conducted interviews with family members ahead ofa planned meeting with the county’s district attorney later this week.

Police have not made an arrest in the case, but Barnette’s brother and roommate, John Wesley Winters Jr., 70, is being held in connection with her death on charges of stealing the woman’s blue 2008 Chrysler PT Cruiser.

State records show the siblings are the children of John Wesley Winters Sr., a pioneering real estate and insurance company owner who helped to develop Southeast Raleigh and was the city’s first elected African American councilman. He was elected to the state Senate in 1974.

Police found Barnette dead inside her second-floor apartment at 1025 Sappony Drive on Saturday afternoon at 3:15 p.m., according to an incident report made public Tuesday by the Knightdale Police Department.

Investigators determined Barnette was the victim of a homicide although the incident report indicated that there were no signs of forced entry into her home.

Godwin, the police chief, declined to say Tuesday if there were signs of a struggle inside Barnette’s home or where in the apartment police found her body.

Godwin on Tuesday explained the circumstances that led to police findingBarnette’s body and the subsequent criminal charges against her older brother.

Winters, who was living with Barnette, was reported by passing motorists as a stranded driver on Interstate 95 in Virginia on Thursday. A state trooper who arrived to investigate found Winters inside of the vehicle, which has a personalized North Carolina license plate that reads, “SAEJESUS,” according to the incident report.

“The trooper reported that Winters seemed disoriented because of a medical issue,” Godwin said.

The state trooper summoned emergency medical service workers who transported Winters to Sentara Hospital in Woodbridge, Va., Godwin said.

Winters was released from the hospital, charged with the theft of his sister’s car and booked into the Prince William County Adult Detention Center. A detention center spokesman reported that Winters did not contest extradition at a hearing Tuesday.

Medical staff at the hospital were able to identify Winters and looked for family members to notifyof his whereabouts and condition. Family members knew he was staying with Barnette and repeatedly tried to reach her at home, without success. The family contacted the police Saturday afternoon and asked themto conduct a “well-being” check at her apartment. Officers found the woman’s body inside.

The siblings’ family could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

News researchers Peggy Neal and staff reporter Mechelle Hankerson contributed to this report.

McDonald: 919-829-4533

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