Once upon a time, in 1958, a little girl was born, named Shirley. Shirley had three siblings, and sadly a tragedy occurred when Shirley was 8 years old. While visiting her grandmother, there was a carbon monoxide leak from the furnace, believed to be damaged by a dog. Shirley’s siblings; Peter, 11; Joyce, 10; and Lita, 4; are all dead in their beds. Shirley felt considerable guilt over this, as her little sister was supposed to have stayed at the grandmother’s house instead of her.
When she had grown up, Shirley married Ronald Winters Jr. And they began to grow their family. They had two children, Colleen and John they were 3 and 20 months in 1979. On September 11, Shirley’s friend’s home was destroyed by fire and three children lost their lives. The very next day, Shirley’s home had an electrical defect that caused the house to burn down, and sadly both Colleen and John died. After this, Ronald and Shirley separated.
However they wanted to try again. And soon they had another child, Ronald III. In November of 1980, baby Ronnie stopped breathing. Emergency services were called and luckily he was resuscitated and went home a few days later. However on November 21, 1980, Ronnie again stopped breathing, and this time he wasn’t as lucky to be resuscitated. His death was attributed to SIDS.
After all this tragedy the Winters’ trailer caught on fire, four times in as many months. Arson was always suspected, but never proven, except for one time. Shirley plead guilty and was sentenced to psychiatric care and probation. She and her husband had more children, 1984 daughter Joy was born, 1985 daughter Ashley was born, and 1987 son Clayton was born.
It was after the birth of Clayton that Shirley and Ronnie divorced. She lived in a townhome with her children, and sadly that too was engulfed in flames. Shirley was able to escape with Ashley and Clayton, but Joy remained inside. Luckily the little girl, 5 years old at the time, got out on her own; even after her mother told her to stay inside her bedroom – in the burning house.
After this, Shirley lost custody of all three of her children and they were given to her ex-husband Ronald. At least now they were safe. Where ever Shirley stayed fired seemed to follow her. She was later linked to over 17 fires. Homes were destroyed but nobody else would die in fires.
Shirley was arrested various times for arson charges and was sentenced to prison time and psychiatric care. She had also been seeing psychiatrists and therapists since she was young and when her siblings had all died. She had also attempted suicide, and was hospitalized as well.
In 2006, living with some friends, she was caring for their 2 year old son, Ryan. Ryan was found face down in the bathtub, he drowned. Shirley was not immediately suspected.
However all of the fires, child deaths, and circumstances had the police looking at Shirley for answers. They exhumed the bodies of Colleen, John, and Ronnie, and what they discovered was disheartening. Ronnie had not died from SIDS, he had been suffocated. Colleen and John had been bludgeoned in the head before the fire.
Police arrested Shirley, the DA had then presented her with a deal, if she plead guilty to the charges for Ronnie and Ryan, she would never be tried for the deaths of Colleen and John. She agreed and plead guilty to manslaughter and received 20 years for the death of Ryan Rivers and then 8 – 25 years for Ronnie Winters, they are to be served concurrently. It is possible that she could be released on parole in 2027. Shirley Winters is mentally ill, and does deserve to be in prison for her crimes, but she also need support to help her mental illness as well. I hope she will be given that option in prison.
Make good choices and be safe