Mark Winger still insists he’s innocent of soliciting two murders and committing two others during the past 12 years, but two juries say otherwise. And Monday, Winger, 44, was sentenced to 35 years in prison for soliciting the murder of two people while already serving natural life in prison for the murder of his wife and another man in Springfield in 1995.
Mark Winger still insists he’s innocent of soliciting two murders and committing two others during the past 12 years, but two juries say otherwise.
And Monday, Winger, 44, was sentenced to 35 years in prison for soliciting the murder of two people while already serving natural life in prison for the murder of his wife and another man in Springfield in 1995.
Winger, in a 10-minute address to Livingston County Circuit Judge Harold Frobish, said Springfield police detectives lied during his 2002 murder trial in Sangamon County and that an FBI agent and Sangamon County prosecutor lied during his recent Livingston County trial. A jury convicted him of two counts of solicitation of murder on June 13.
“Your life shows, at least since 1995, that you live in your own world and try to make your own rules,” Frobish told Winger.
The judge called Winger “a very dangerous individual and a threat to the public” in giving him 35 years on each count of solicitation. The sentences will be served concurrently to each other and to his natural life sentence, meaning Winger would be 74 if he should get out of prison on the recent conviction, which wouldn’t happen unless his murder conviction is reversed.
Winger claimed his “wrongful conviction (in Sangamon County) is about to be overturned,” but the 4th District appellate court and the Illinois Supreme Court have already denied his appeal.
He has a hearing on post-conviction matters pending Sept. 26 in Sangamon County.
Winger, already serving life in prison without the possibility of parole for the 1995 hammer slaying of his 31-year-old wife, Donnah Winger, and Roger Harrington, 27, an airport shuttle van driver with a history of mental problems he tried to frame for Donnah’s murder, faced up to an additional 60 years.
The former state Department of Nuclear Safety engineer tried to hire out the murders of an ex-girlfriend, who testified for the prosecution in his 2002 Sangamon County murder trial; and childhood friend Jeffrey Gelman, a wealthy real estate developer living in Florida.
Winger’s plan was detailed in a 19-page handwritten note he gave to another Pontiac Correctional Center inmate, Terry Hubbell. The jury also heard a one-hour conversation between Winger and Hubbell in the Pontiac prison recreation yard recorded on June 13, 2005.
The plot involved having Hubbell, serving natural life for the 1983 murder of a 14-year-old girl in Olney, arrange for “hit men” to kidnap Gelman — who had apparently offended Winger when he wouldn’t post his million-dollar bail in the Sangamon County case — then obtain a large ransom in exchange for not harming his family. Gelman and his family were to be killed anyway, and the ransom money was to be used to pay the killer for the deaths of both Gelman and DeAnn Schultz, Winger’s girlfriend at the time he killed his wife.
Hubbell contacted authorities when Winger kept encouraging the plot, and eventually wore a recording device and turned over the 19 pages of notes Winger had given him.
Winger testified that he never intended the plot, which he termed his “fantasies,” to be carried out.
At sentencing, Winger said he fantasized because of his anger and frustration over his murder conviction, and also complained about conditions in maximum-security prisons such as Pontiac.
“They are warehouses of men, but they’re also insane asylums,” he said.
Proclaiming that “educated men get fooled every day,” Winger said he was sorry he shared his fantasies with Hubbell, who he said duped him for his own purposes.
He accused Peter Buckley, special agent with the FBI, of lying about the events leading up to Hubbell wearing a wire on June 13 and said Sangamon County first assistant state’s attorney Steve Weinhoeft lied about the importance of Schultz coming forward in the reopening of the Donnah Winger case.
“This case was too important to lose for some very powerful people, especially down in Springfield,” Winger said.
Without being specific, he also accused Springfield police detectives of lying in his murder case. He said some have resigned “for lying in other cases” while others have “scurried off to retirement” since his conviction.
He admitted to the judge, however, that “my word means nothing to anyone anymore.”
Winger also complained that his prison medical records indicate he has what he termed “adult antisocial disorder,” although he’s never been treated for it.
“I love people,” Winger said. “The only thing I love more than people is more people.”
He said the only thing keeping him antisocial is the state Department of Corrections.
“To satisfy their lust for pain, they have stowed me away at Tamms,” he said, referring to his current incarceration at the maximum-security Tamms Correctional Center in far southern Illinois.
Livingston County first assistant state’s attorney Carey Luckman recommended maximum 60-year sentences for Winger and asked that they be consecutive to each other.
“We’re at the end of a long saga,” Luckman said. “The person convicted in this case hasn’t changed from the cold-blooded killer in that (Sangamon County) case.”
Livingston County public defender Randell Morgan asked for a minimum sentence, arguing that no money changed hands between Winger and Hubbell and that no details of the alleged plot were ever carried out.
Chris Dettro can be reached at (217) 788-1510 or email@example.com.