The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.
In 2018, Sharon Windey was accused of abusing and neglecting her adopted children. Her husband, Donald, and their biological son Steven, were also charged for their part in the abuse.
A De Pere woman and former Wisconsin State Trooper has been charged with several counts of child abuse and neglect of her adopted children. The abuse allegedly went on for over a decade despite reports to police and officials.
Sharon Windey, 54, appeared in Brown County court Thursday on charges of physical abuse of a child; strangulation and suffocation; battery; child neglect; and mental harm to a child.
A 42-page criminal complaint obtained by Action 2 News details years of emotional, physical, and mental abuse inside the Windey home.
The complaint states the investigation found “overwhelming” confirmation that since 2006, there have been Child Protective Services referrals, police contacts and reports from school officials about the three children being victims of physical abuse, mental abuse, child neglect and inappropriate sexual contact in the home on Sullivan Street.
On Feb. 12, 2018, De Pere Police assigned a sergeant to investigate reports of possible abuse at the home where the children lived with Sharon Windey, her husband Donald Windey, and the couple’s 25-year-old son Steven Windey. One of the kids described Steven as a “third parent.”
Investigators started interviewing the three adopted children–a girl aged 15; a girl aged 14; and a boy aged 15.
The kids described being punched, choked, spanked, thrown against a wall, hair pulling, food punishment and exercise punishment.
Both girls said the parents used “excessive feedings of oatmeal” as a punishment. The boy once threw up the oatmeal and the father “made him eat his own vomit and the oatmeal,” reads the complaint. The father told the boy “people were dying in Africa and he needed to eat the puke and oatmeal.”
One of the girls described locks on the freezer, cabinet and pantry.
One girl told investigators that her dad would make her sit on his lap and he would kiss her on the lips. She said he would also touch or grab the girls in other places on their bodies.
She also talked about a punishment in which the kids were forced to strip down to their underwear and kneel in front of a fireplace.
The kids described a shower punishment. If they took a shower longer than seven minutes, they would have to pay money for every minute they go over.
One of the girls said the parents are “very careful” to try not to leave visible marks on them.
The boy described the parents as “delusional … religious freaks.” The boy said his dad hears his guardian angel who tells him what to do.
“They are outgoing and they try to put up the facade of being the perfect family outside of our house,” the boy told investigators. “They will scare us with punishments. They will take things out of our room. For being disrespectful, they will hit them; slap them across the face and stuff. The hitting has happened multiple times.”
The boy described the day of Feb. 11, 2018. He said Donald wanted the kids to go to church but they refused. The father told them to clean everything out of their rooms. One of the girls was denied medicine for not going to church. He said the mom started struggling with one of the girls. During the struggle, the mother was pushed down the stairs. The boy said Steven heard the commotion and charged at him and started to punch him in the head.
The police arrived at the home. The boy said the officers told Sharon and Steven to call the police earlier so it doesn’t escalate to this point. The officers left.
Later there was another fight when when of the girls wanted medicine. After the fight, the kids went to a friend’s home. The man at the home called police to report the abuse.
Neither Donald Windey or Steven Windey have been charged. They are identified by name in Sharon Windey’s criminal complaint.
In 2020, Sharon Windey was sentenced to four years in prison for abusing four children over twelve years.
A De Pere woman was sentenced to four years in prison Wednesday for abusing her adopted children.
A jury found Sharon M. Windey, 56, guilty on eight counts of abusing four children over a span of 12 years.
Her sentencing came a day after Brown County Circuit Court Judge John Zakowski found her husband, Donald A. Windey, 53, guilty of multiple counts of physical, mental, and sexual abuse of the children.
Their biological son, Steven D. Windey, is scheduled for a plea hearing on Feb. 7 in connection to charges related to his role in the abuse.
One of the three children told investigators that police officers who visited the home on Feb. 11, 2018, did not seem to believe the children’s statements that they’d been hit and choked because their home didn’t appear to be a “typical house for abuse,” according to court documents, because the children appeared to be well-fed and went to a good school.
According to the criminal complaints and prosecution statements:
The children were required to do a prayer ritual while standing on one foot wearing nothing but underwear, and were beaten with a belt if they lost their balance and put their foot down.
The girls were forced to strip to their underwear and sit on Donald Windey’s lap and kiss him. They were forced to sleep with Donald Windey in bed when Sharon Windey was away, and he would touch and kiss their intimate parts.
Steven Windey was often the designated enforcer of the physical abuse and put his hands around one of the children’s throat during a Feb. 11 incident.
Donald Windey forced a sick child to eat vomit-covered food after they became ill during a meal.
Sharon Windey used food as a form of punishment — often serving oatmeal for all three meals because the children didn’t like it.
Sharon and Donald Windey locked kitchen cupboards so the children didn’t have easy access to food.
Donald Windey told the children he was “seeing demons” and “hearing voices” who were telling him to treat the children in this manner and that by doing so he was doing right by God.
Sharon and Donald Windey told the children they didn’t like them anymore and that they could no longer call them mom and dad.
Sharon and Donald Windey donated all of the children’s belongings to Goodwill in February, leaving each child with a bed and five days’ worth of clothes.
Donald WIndey was sentenced to seventeen years in prison on more than a dozen convictions of physically, mentally, and sexually abusing his adopted children.
A De Pere man convicted of more than a dozen charges of physically, mentally, and sexually abusing his adopted children is now facing 17 years in prison followed by supervision.
Donald Windey was found guilty on felony counts of repeated sexual assault of a child, being party to the crime of physical abuse, strangulation, or suffocation, and four felony counts of causing mental harm to a child.
As Action 2 News has reported, the criminal complaint said children living with Donald and Shirley Windey were inappropriately touched and kissed, as well as physically hurt and given food punishments.
At his sentencing Wednesday, Windey said he was “very sorry for the ways in which I failed as a father.” He said he was sorry for the times he made the children scared, made jokes at their expense, didn’t provide or know the help they needed, and that they didn’t feel the love for him that he felt for them. He said he had to be strict based on their behaviors.
He pointed out he didn’t have a prior criminal record and was involved in his church for years. He said he and his wife have lost everything, including their home, jobs and reputations.
Sharon Windey was sentenced in January to 4 years in prison.
Brown County Judge John Zakowski said at sentencing, “Don, you are a wonderful person, but you can be mean, too. I have seen it.”
He rejected Windey’s claim that the children conspired to tell a story so they could get out of the Windeys’ home, pointing out the kids’ claims went back years.
Zakowski also said he was irritated that the kids were put in this place. He said the Windeys, who believe in corporal punishment, should not have been allowed to foster or adopt these children.
“This should have been red flagged, and then the Windeys wouldn’t have been put in that situation, the kids would have been spared. The system failed. It’s a tragedy of immense proportions,” Judge Zakowski said.
Steven Windey was sentenced to eighteen months probation.
A De Pere man will spend 18 months on probation for his role in the abuse of his parents’ adopted children.
Steven D. Windey, 28, was often the designated enforcer during the physical abuse, according to court documents.
In interviews with investigators, the children described a February 2018 incident in which one of the children started arguing with their adoptive mother, former Wisconsin State Trooper Sharon Windey, who tried to push the 15-year-old but the child pushed her away instead.
She called for Steven Windey, who lived at the home, and told him the teen had pushed her down the stairs, according to court documents.
According to the children, Windey chased the child, pushed the child down on the couch, and put his hands around the child’s throat.
One of the children said that although Windey took responsibility for what he did by pleading guilty to battery and disorderly conduct, he should be held to the same standard as his parents, Sharon and Donald Windey.
“I’m sorry you couldn’t be strong enough to resist. I know everyone did what they had to do and your way was to become a puppet,” the child said.
Windey was initially charged with intentionally causing bodily harm to a child but that was reduced to the battery charge. A felony charge of attempted strangulation and suffocation was dismissed but read in during his sentencing.
Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.
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