Sharon Windey testifies in her defense at child abuse trial
After hearing five days of testimony from witnesses, victims and the defense, the jury has not yet come to a verdict in the trial against Sharon Windey.
Windey, who lives in De Pere and is a former Wisconsin state trooper, is charged with abusing and neglecting her adopted children.
Sharon Windey took the stand on the fifth day of her jury trial in Brown County court.
After deliberating for almost three hours, the jury decided to come back fresh Monday morning.
Windey, 55, is charged with 12 counts, including abuse, strangulation and suffocation, and causing mental harm to a child. On the stand, she tried to paint a picture of a loving household.
"Did your kids show you affection?" the defense attorney asked her.
"Yes, very loving. Every morning, every night I would get a hug and a kiss from all my kids," Windey testified, crying. "Whoever lived in the house, we got a hug and a kiss."
Sharon Windey, at times tearful, 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," she said.
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.
"As a parent, there's going to be rules?" the defense asked.
"Absolutely," Windey said.
"And there's consequences for not following the rules?"
"That's how you treated your house?"
The prosecution asked pointed questions referring to specific incidents.
"That's just it, Ms. Windey. It was you who was deciding when they could pee, isn't that true? On the hour, at the hour?" Deputy District Attorney Wendy Lemkuil asked.
"I think that's pretty reasonable that if you have to go to the bathroom they could come and talk to us about it," Windey answered.
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.
Lemkuil added that 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?"
During closing arguments, prosecutors focused on three charges of causing mental harm to a child, citing instances where the victims contemplated suicide.
"Why do you think I asked about anxiety? Each of the kids, depression, withdraw and, interesting, I think Mrs. Windey, Sharron was trying to testify to outward aggressive behavior, but guess what, she’s proven my count if you believed any of that.," said Lemkuil during her closing arguments.
The defense told the jury during his closing arguments that the Windeys had strict rules in order to establish structure and stability and attempted to discredit the prosecution's allegations of physical and mental abuse.
"You think with all those pictures the state had, if she had any signs of abuse that she would have put it up in front of ya? She absolutely would have, absolutely, unequivocally, it would have happened…but it didn’t, you didn’t see that," said Windey's Attorney John D'Angelo.
Her 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.