ST. LOUIS (KTVI) _ A long and violent relationship may be over. But, the violent emotional roller coaster continues for three local families after a federal judge granted convicted killer John Winfield a stay of execution Thursday. Some family members are encouraged by the news. Others are outraged.
“I saw him shoot and kill Arthea. I saw him shoot and kill Shawnee,” remembered Melody Donald. “He’s on death row for them.”
Donald is one of three people who said John Winfield killed Arthea Sanders and Shawnee Murphy in September of 1996. He actually shot three women in their Vinita Park apartment during an argument with his ex-girlfriend Carmelita Donald. “Carmel” survived her wounds but lost her eyesight.
“The Carmelita we know, she died that night,” Carmel’s baby sister Melody started to cry. “She is nowhere near the same. Nowhere near.”
Winfield was scheduled to be executed June 18, 2014. But, on June 12, a federal judge issued a temporary stay. Winfield’s lawyers sued after hearing a prison employee may have been threatened with disciplinary action by Missouri corrections officials. The employee met with Winfield's attorneys and offered to advocate for clemency for the inmate. That employee said Winfield was a model inmate. Melody was outraged. Shawnee's brother Adam Murphy was confused.
"Remember what the word inmate is,” he said. “There is no such thing as a model inmate."
His voice shook when he said that one night of domestic violence robbed his nieces and nephew of their mother.
"A mother is supposed to love her kids, hug them, and tell them it's okay to cry. [They] didn't get that."
The families said the past 18 years had already been tough. But on the day Winfield’s lawyers won the temporary stay, the Donalds discovered those same attorneys produced a video in May 2014.
"I just feel that no child should have to endure or go through what I have been through,” said Symone Winfield as she looked into the camera.
She is the daughter of John and Carmelita. In the video, asked for clemency for her father based on issues with drugs used in Missouri executions. Adam Murphy and Symone's aunt, Christina Donald who is the middle sister to Carmelita and Melody, are more understanding about this plea for leniency.
“She is only doing the same thing that anyone with unconditional love for their blood would do,” Adam said. “I would do the same thing for mine.”
“She should feel that way,” Christina said. “She should fight for his clemency. But at the same time, we have to do what we need to do to get the justice that we feel is fair.”
A Cole County judge rejected Winfield’s request for a delay of his execution until the Missouri Department of Corrections identified the supplier of the drugs to be used in his lethal injection.
Symone was a toddler when the shootings happened. Her aunt Melody was a teen running for her life, but says she will never run out on her niece no matter where they stand on whether John Winfield should live or die.
“Because she loves her dad, does not make me love her any less.”
Through a corrections spokesperson, John Winfield refused our requests for an interview. Symone Winfield also refused to comment.