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Donald Windey of De Pere found guilty of 8 counts of abusing children


BENITA MATHEW   | Green Bay Press-Gazette

GREEN BAY - A  De Pere man was found guilty Monday of eight counts of abusing his children.

Donald A. Windey, 53, had a six-day trial decided by Brown County Circuit Court Judge John Zakowski, instead of a jury. His wife, Sharon Windey, 56, is scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday after being found guilty of similar charges in November.

The abuse went on for 12 years before the two were charged with abuse of four of their adopted children. Their biological son, Steven D. Windey, 28, was also involved in the abuse, typically as the enforcer, according to court documents.

Donald Windey was also charged with sexually assaulting three children.

Sharon Windey was charged March 8, 2018, and Donald Windey was charged one day after.

Donald Windey was found guilty of one felony count of repeated physical abuse of a child with probability of great bodily harm, as party to a crime; one felony count of strangulation and suffocation; four felony counts of mental harm to a child, as party to a crime; and two felony counts of repeated sexual assault of the same child.

He was found not guilty of a felony count of child abuse causing intentional harm and three misdemeanor counts of neglecting a child, as party to a crime.

De Pere police assigned an investigator to interview the children on Feb. 12, 2018, a day after Sharon Windey called police for a physical altercation in the home after the children refused to go to church the previous day. 

A fourth child, who moved out of the house when she was 18, told investigators about similar behavior when she lived with the Windeys. De Pere police arrested Sharon, Donald and Steven Windey on Feb. 16, 2018. 

One of the three children told investigators that police officers who visited the home on Feb. 11, 2018, did not seem to believe the children's statements that they'd been hit and choked because their home didn't appear to be a "typical house for abuse," according to court documents, because the children appeared to be well-fed and went to a good school. 

According to the criminal complaints 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 kiss him. They were forced to sleep with Donald Windey in bed when Sharon Windey was away, and he would touch and kiss their intimate parts.
  • 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 became 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 and Donald Windey locked kitchen cupboards 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 and Donald Windey told the children they didn't like them anymore and that they could no longer call them mom and dad.
  • Sharon 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 Windey is a retired Wisconsin state inspector and Donald Windey was active in his church.

Donald Windey's bond was revoked, and he was taken into custody Monday. He is expected to be sentenced March 20. He could spend the rest of his life in prison. 

Their son, Steven Windey, will appear for a plea hearing Feb. 7.

Contact Benita Mathew at (920) 309-3428 or bmathew@gannett.com. Follow her on Twitter at @benita_mathew.

2020 Jan 14