“Police were first contacted more than a decade ago about a De Pere couple and their son who are accused of abusing the couple’s adopted children.
The mother, Sharon M. Windey, 54, a former Wisconsin State trooper, was charged Thursday in Brown County Circuit Court with 12 counts of child abuse. The charges include two counts of repeated child abuse with a high probability of causing great bodily harm, one count of physical child abuse, one count of strangulation and suffocation, one count of battery, three counts of child neglect and four counts of causing mental harm to a child.
According to a 42-page criminal complaint, the abuse spanned 12 years. During that time several reports were made by school officials, social workers and others in the community alleging abuse towards the three children at the hands of Sharon Windey, her husband Donald A. Windey, 52, and the couple’s 26-year-old biological son Steven D. Windey.
De Pere police assigned an investigator who interviewed the children on Feb. 12, a day after Sharon Windey called police to the home following a physical altercation in the home after the children refused to go to church the previous day.
The children, two girls ages 14 and 15, and a 15-year-old boy, are in the custody of Child Protective Services.
A fourth adopted child, who left the home the day she turned 18, told investigators that rules got stricter and abuse increased every time police or social workers arrived at the home in the 100 block of Sullivan Lane.
She told investigators she was relieved that the children were removed from the home, and worries that they would “never be safe,” if they are returned to the Windeys.
The criminal complaint states Sharon and Donald Windey eventually banned the children from contacting the older sister because the children were telling her about conditions in the home.
One of the three younger children told investigators that police officers who visited the home on Feb. 11 did not appear to believe their claims that they’d been hit and choked during the altercation because their home didn’t appear to be a “typical house for abuse” and the children looked well-fed and attended a good a school. The children suggested that they weren’t believed because Sharon Windey was a State Patrol officer until her retirement in December and Donald Windey was active in the family’s church.
According to the criminal complaint 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 give him “long kisses on the lips.”
- 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 had become 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 Windey and Donald Windey locked kitchen cupbards 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 Windey and Donald Windey told the children they didn’t like them anymore and that they could no longer call them mom and dad.
- Sharon Windey 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.
Sharon, Donald and Steven Windey were arrested Feb. 16 by De Pere police.
Both Sharon and Donald Windey are being held in Brown County Jail on $75,000 cash bonds. Donald Windey will appear in court again Friday afternoon.
Steven Windey is free on a lesser cash bond. He is scheduled to appear in court March 14.
If convicted of all charges, Sharon Windey could spend the rest of her life in prison.
Her next court appearance is March 15. “