Jury convicts De Pere woman of physically and mentally abusing adopted children

BROWN COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) - A jury has convicted a De Pere woman of physically and mentally abusing her adopted children.

Sharon Windey testifies at her child abuse trial in Brown County on Nov. 15, 2019 (WBAY photo)

Sharon Windey put her head on a table and cried as a Brown County judge read the jury's findings of guilty to the felony counts against her.

The jury of five men and seven women returned guilty verdicts on eight of 12 counts, including Child Abuse-Intentionally Cause Harm (three counts); Causing Mental Harm to a Child (four counts), and Strangulation and Suffocation (one count). The charges are felonies and could put Windey in prison for up to 70 years.

The jury found her not guilty of three misdemeanor child neglect charges and one disorderly conduct charge.

She showed far more emotion than when she testified on Friday, where she told the jury her adopted children were lying about 12 years of abuse, including being punched and choked, having food locked up and forced to complete exercise as punishment.

Windey at times turned and looked towards some family and friends seated behind her. She appears to mouth the word "How?" to them.

The rest of the courtroom sat stoic and quiet. The four victims, who are now in their teens, showed little emotion during the entire 20 minute proceeding.

Despite a plea by prosecutors, the judge is allowing Windey to remain free on $75,000 bond until her sentencing on Jan. 13 at 1:30 p.m. She is required to wear a GPS monitoring bracelet.

None of the attorneys or victims wanted to speak after court.

Windey took the stand on the fifth day of her jury trial in Brown County court. At times tearful, Windey sat on the stand for more than three-and-a-half hours. Her attorney asked her questions about life in the Windey house raising two biological and four adopted children.

Your life can be taken away from you in a minute, just like that, because people say things and that's it, no evidence," Windey said.

Windey described the adopted children, who are now in their teens, as disobedient, disrespectful and needing discipline.

She described punishments like making them door push-ups or stair runs, writing essays, taking the doors off their bedrooms, and giving many of their belongings to Goodwill after a fight.

"You can't just discipline without love," she said. "These children are very manipulative, and they know how to use things against each other."

When the case began last year, the children described to police that they were punched, choked, spanked, thrown against a wall, being forced to kneel or sit for hours and enduring food and exercise punishments.

On the stand, Windey told the jury she would never intentionally hurt her children.

Prosecutors spent more than an hour asking about testimony and statements to police from the children alleging the abuse. The state said the discipline and punishments were excessive, and Child Protective Services even told the Windeys it was too much.

Assistant District Attorney Wendy Lemkuil said the kids were ordered not to talk about what happened in the house.

"(If the children) told anybody on the outside what had happened on the inside, they could be punished?"

"Possibly," Windey testified. "It depends on what it was and who it was."

Windey repeatedly told the jury that statements to the police and some testimony earlier in the trial by the children weren't true.

The prosecutor asked, "If all the kids are consistently saying this happened through the years -- years! -- they're lying?"

"Some of the things they're lying about," Windey replied. "There's some threads of truth to it, but a lot of this stuff was just being fabricated."

"All four children interviewed separately, alone, they're lying?"

"Yes."

CLICK HERE for full coverage of Sharon Windey's testimony.

Sharon Windey's husband, Donald Windey, and one biological son, Steven Windey, are also charged with child abuse but their cases are going through the courts separately. Donald Windey was also charged last month with repeated sexual assault of a child.

A probable cause statement accuses Donald Windey of sexually assaulting a child between the years 2009-2016. The 2018 criminal complaint filed against Donald Windey in the child abuse case says underage victims stated Donald would rub their legs and touch them inappropriately. They said he would also make them kiss him and make them sit on his lap. One victim said he would have "kissing sessions" with her. At random times Windey would make the victims take off their clothes, according to the complaint.

CHILD ABUSE ALLEGATIONS AGAINST THE WINDEYS

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.

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. Donald 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.

"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."

On Feb. 15, a 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 adoptive 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."

CLICK HERE for more information from the criminal complaint.