De Pere couple charged with mental and physical abuse of adopted kids

Published: Mar. 8, 2018 at 5:20 PM CST
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A De Pere couple has been charged with several counts of child abuse and neglect of their 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 causing mental harm to a child.

On Friday, charges were filed against Windey's husband, Donald. He appeared in court on charges of physical abuse of a child; strangulation and suffocation; child neglect; and causing 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.

On Feb. 15, the De Pere Police Sergeant interviewed Sharon and Donald Windey. At one point, Sharon said Donald saw a clown and demons next to one of the girls on the couch. "Donald said that was from the 'IT' movie," Sharon explained.

Sharon said the children also see things. "Donald said he don't know if there is evil hanging around them so he wants to be on the good side," reads the criminal complaint.

The sergeant asked if the children get social security money. Sharon says they are a special needs adoption and get a stipend. "Sharon said you could not pay her enough money to take these children again," reads the complaint.

A 19-year-old woman who had been adopted by the Windeys and had left the home also detailed years of abuse at the hands of her parents. She said the kids would "tell counselors, therapists, and teachers of what was happening in the house hoping for help."

The complaint reads, "But each time CPS or police came and they were left in the house the rules and abuse just got worse on the kids and Donald and Sharon became more in charge."

Steven Windey has not been charged but is named in the criminal complaint.

Action 2 News will continue to follow this case.