LO murder suspect released to attend son's graduation
A Clackamas County judge has released Michael David Winchester, accused of murdering his wife Heidi Anne Winchester this past winter, on $250,000 bail.
As first reported by The Oregonian, the Clackamas County District Attorney's office argued against Winchester's release at a Monday, June 3 hearing, where Judge Douglas Van Dyk agreed to allow Winchester to be released on bail ahead of his youngest son Blake's graduation from Lakeridge High School Tuesday evening.
According to court documents, in a May 29 hearing, the court found that Winchester had killed his wife Jan. 30, 2019. However, the court also found that Winchester was "highly likely" to prevail on a defense of extreme emotional disturbance — Heidi Winchester had terminal cancer — which would reduce a charge of murder to manslaughter in the first degree under Oregon law, one of the few instances where a person charged with murder in the state of Oregon can be considered for release.
In a memo to the court regarding Winchester's pretrial release order, District Attorney John Foote argued that bail should be set at $1 million and Winchester should only have supervised contact with his children Michael and Blake.
"Under the circumstances, the state has serious concerns about the safety of the public, Mr. Winchester's children, and the danger Mr. Winchester poses to himself if released," Foote wrote. "The state believes, and it appears the court has found, that the defendant has the capacity to experience stressful circumstances and act out violently against himself and others."
Ignoring the district attorney's urging, Judge Van Dyk set bail at $250,000 — of which only 10 percent must be paid, totalling just $25,000.
Under the conditions of his release, Winchester must submit to GPS tracking, surrender all weapons or firearms, remain within the geographical confines of Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties, and be home by 10 p.m. each night. He is allowed unsupervised contact with his children.
The order for pretrial release stated that the court considered statements from Michael and Blake Winchester before making the ruling.
Police were called to the Winchesters' home near the intersection of River Run Drive and Bass Lane shortly after 4 p.m. on Jan. 30 by Blake Winchester, who told dispatchers that his father had killed his mother and then tried to commit suicide with a utility knife.
Winchester allegedly confessed to killing his wife while police investigated, court documents show, telling an officer that "I did it, I killed her, she had cancer. She's dead upstairs."
Police searched the house and found Heidi Winchester dead in the home and Michael Winchester in need of medical attention in the garage.
Winchester's statement was included in a probable cause affidavit filed before he was arrested at Oregon Health and Sciences University in February, where he was being treated for self-inflicted wounds.
According to the affidavit, Winchester also left a note to his sons in his office. In it, he describes his wife's suffering from terminal cancer and his emotional state and said, "I could not (bear) to watch mom suffer anymore."
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