Tuesday, October 12, 2010
The next year, she set a fire that destroyed her mobile home. Again, there was a plea agreement that allowed her to remain free.
On November 12, 1986, a fire broke out in the apartment complex in Marcellus where Shirley lived. She was not considered a suspect at the time, but investigators were not aware of her history.
On that same date in 1989, she set a fire in the basement storage room of the house where she lived. She grabbed her two youngest children, but told 5-year-old Joy to stay in the house. When Shirley ran for help, she said she could not find her older daughter. Fortunately, Joy did not listen to her mother. She was found whimpering on the front porch of the blazing home. Shirley was found "Not guilty" of arson.
Shirley started another blaze on January 6, 1990, in her new home. Custody of her children was awarded to her ex-husband. On March 18, she set another fire in a house she shared with two adults. On September 21, she torched the garage of her aunt's home. On October 5, she set the same place on fire again, this time destroying both the garage and the house. She topped that off the following January by assaulting the officer who arrived to arrest her after she made harassing calls to a neighbor.
In October, 1991, Shirley was sentenced to state prison for one to three years. She remained behind bars until November 1992 when she was released on parole. Except for harassment and larceny charges, her record remained clear until January 17, 1997 when she set a trailer on fire. Then in April, she ignited another blaze in the home of her mother, who had died in an automobile accident two months earlier. This time, Shirley was incarcerated for eight years.
She was the same person after serving time. On November 28, 2006, just three days before little Ryan Rivers would turn 2 years old, Shirley drowned him in the bathtub in the home. He was found flat on his back, fully clothed, in the bathtub. She set fire to a neighbor's trailer on December 31 before her arrest for the homicide of Ryan.
On June 16, 2008, she received a 20-year sentence for Ryan's death. The next day, she received an eight-and-a-half to 25 year sentence for killing her son, Ronald, in 1980. She will be eligible for parole in 2025 when she is 67 years old.
But that's not the whole story of Shirley Winters. Many believe her problems go back to 1966 when she was only 7 years old. She was at her grandmother's house that night when a natural gas leak caused the family home to fill with carbon monoxide fumes. Her 10-year-old brother Peter and her sisters, 4-year-old Liteta and 11-year-old Joyce, died.
After that, her cousins said she would bite, throw things and claw at people with her fingernails. Her classmates called her Squirelly Shirley. She told a psychiatrist that her sexual molestation began after the fire. And the violence escalated.
She was first admitted into a mental health facility in 1978. In all, she has been in psychiatric wards twenty-eight times over thirty years. She's attempted suicide on multiple occasions. She's been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, schizophrenia, disassociative disorder, bipolar disorder, psychogenic amnesia, pyromania and, even once, with anti-social personality disorder.