Knightdale woman's body found covered with blood, draped with US flag

tmcdonald@newsobserver.com October 16, 2013 

— Someone had draped an American flag over the body of Seanne Winters Barnette when police found her dead in her Knightdale apartment over the weekend, according to a search warrant made public Wednesday.

Police found the body of Barnette, 55, lying face up in a second-story bedroom of her apartment, Knightdale Detective D.W. Ayscue wrote in the search warrant application. Barnette’s body was covered with blood, Ayscue wrote, though authorities have not said how she died.

Investigators have not made an arrest in the case, but Barnette’s 70-year-old brother and roommate, John Wesley Winters Jr., is being held at a detention center in Virginia on charges of stealing her car.

Barnette and Winters are the children of pioneering real estate and insurance company owner John Wesley Winters Sr., who helped to develop Southeast Raleigh and was the first African-American member of the City Council. Winters was elected to the state Senate in 1974 and served two terms.

Police found Barnette’s body Saturday afternoon in the bedroom of her second-floor apartment in the 1020 block of Sappony Drive, near North Smithfield Road, according to the search warrant.

Brother disoriented near D.C.

Two days earlier, passing motorists reported seeing John Winters Jr. stranded on Interstate 95 in Virginia just south of Washington, D.C. A state trooper found Winters inside 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,” said Knightdale Police Chief Jason Godwin.

Winters was taken to Sentara Hospital in Woodbridge, Va., where medical staff were able to identify him and begin looking for family members to notify of his whereabouts and condition. Family members knew he had been staying with Barnette and repeatedly tried to reach her at home, without success. The family contacted police Saturday afternoon and asked them to check on her.

About 3:30 p.m., officers arrived at the apartment and noticed a window partially opened with flies on the screen, according to the search warrant. When officers found Barnette’s body, they backed out of the apartment and declared it a crime scene. Barnette’s neighbors told police that she was normally seen in and around the apartment complex but had not been seen for about a week.

Winters and Barnette are two of seven children born to Marie Montague Winters and their father, who died in 2004.

‘Unusual details’ cause delay

Police are awaiting the results of an autopsy from the state medical examiner’s office in Raleigh to determine the cause of Barnette’s death. Godwin said Wednesday that Barnette’s autopsy results were delayed because of “unusual details about the case.”

“We will meet with the district attorney tomorrow before any new charges occur,” he said.

John Winters Jr. remained in the Prince William County Adult Detention Center in Virginia on Wednesday, said Knightdale town spokesman Brian Bowman. The Wake County District Attorney’s Office would not initiate extradition proceedings to get Winters back to North Carolina until police decide whether to charge him with something besides car theft, Bowman said.

John Winters Jr. was last seen in the public spotlight nearly 30 years ago, when he followed in his father’s footsteps by becoming a developer and running for Congress as a Democrat in 1984. Winters was one of two candidates, along with Howard Lee of Chapel Hill, seeking to unseat incumbent Ike Andrews in the 4th Congressional District.

His real estate license is still active in North Carolina, state records show.

Police have not yet said why he was living with his sister. Four years ago, in April 2009, Winters was evicted from an apartment at 100 Arbor Way in Cary for failing to pay $620 in rent, according to documents filed at the Wake County Clerk of Courts Office.

Staff writer Mechelle Hankerson and news researcher Peggy Neal contributed to this report.

McDonald: 919-829-4533

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