Northern Ohio Native Convicted In 2 Deaths

By AMANDA YORK, Associated Press Writer

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - An Ohio native was convicted Wednesday of killing his wife almost seven years after prosecutors say he committed the crime and blamed it on another man he had shot in the head.

Mark Winger, 39, a native of Elyria, Ohio, faces life in prison without parole in the deaths of his wife, Donnah Winger, and Roger Harrington. A sentencing hearing was scheduled for Aug. 1.

Winger stared straight ahead as the jury's verdict was read. He later turned to his family, told them he loved them and shrugged. Members of the victims' family burst into tears after the verdict.

"It's something we've been waiting for for seven years. It couldn't come too soon for us. Justice has been served," Helen Harrington, Roger Harrington's mother, said as she left court.

During the three-week trial, defense attorneys described Winger, an engineer with the Illinois Department of Nuclear Safety, as a family man who loved his wife. They claimed Donnah Winger was killed by a stalker.

But prosecutors said Winger was a calculating killer who beat his wife to death with a hammer and killed an innocent man to frame him for the murder.

On Aug. 29, 1995, Winger said he was running on a treadmill in the basement of his home when he heard a noise. When he got upstairs, he said he saw Harrington kneeling beside his wife, hitting her repeatedly in the head with a hammer.

Donnah Winger had met Harrington, a shuttle bus driver, shortly before her death on a ride home from the airport along with her 3-month-old daughter.

Winger later told friends and co-workers Harrington had been stalking his wife since that encounter.

After finding Harrington in the house, Winger claims he shot Harrington twice in the head, called 911 and then cradled his dying wife in his arms.

For seven years the story wasn't questioned until a former mistress went to authorities with new information. Prosecutors said Winger wanted out of the marriage, so he crafted a plan to frame Harrington for murder.

"This is an obsession. This is passion. This is a man who wanted out," prosecutor John Belz said in his closing argument Tuesday.

Prosecutors say Winger lured Harrington, 27, to his home under the premise that they needed to talk. Instead, Winger killed him.

Donnah Winger came out of the bedroom to see what was happening and was beaten to death, prosecutors said.

Defense attorney Thomas Breen criticized police for not scrutinizing the crime scene more carefully in 1995. He claims DNA should have been taken from Harrington's hands because it would have shown Donnah Winger's blood.

"Seven years later, we can't swab the hand of Roger Harrington and determine that that is a perfect DNA match," Breen said.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)