Can Accused Killer Seth Winder Stay Sane Long Enough to Stand Trial?

For the friends and family of Richard Hernandez, justice seemed imminent -- until his accused killer's medically induced competence slipped away.

"I knew they were all, how do I put this, into each other," she says. "Girls and girls, guys and girls, guys and guys." Winder lived with Sweeney for a year and a half. When she retired and moved to New Mexico, he moved in with his father.

At 19, Winder got a job unloading semis at a Walmart in The Colony. Eventually he graduated to cashier. At four years, it was the longest he'd ever hold down a job. He bought a car and moved into an apartment with his girlfriend.

"It looked like he was doing OK," his father, Rodney Winder, says. "He was living like a normal person." It didn't last. His girlfriend dumped him because he lacked ambition, his dad says. Winder quit his job and cashed out his 401k. He drove to New Mexico to stay with Sweeney, but after a few weeks, he begged his mother for a bus ticket back to Texas.

Seth Winder coated the lawn of his dad's home in The Colony with coal dust and hung snakeskins on the fence.
Brandon Thibodeaux
Seth Winder coated the lawn of his dad's home in The Colony with coal dust and hung snakeskins on the fence.
Richard Hernandez
Richard Hernandez

He became paranoid, Sweeney remembers. "There's nobody following us," she told him. "He got spooked and said he had to go, and that's the last I saw of him."

At 24, he moved back in with his dad. Rodney chafed at having his adult son at home, but he also feared for him. Winder held a succession of fast-food jobs that rarely lasted longer than a week or two. He oscillated between frenetic peaks and catatonic valleys. He could sit in his room, staring into space for hours. Sometimes he stalked through the house, brandishing a pool cue and raving about some nebulous "they." He talked about some unseen entity named "Max" who apparently spoke to him. During a short stint working at Taco Bell, he fled the restaurant, bare-chested and bare-footed, claiming green Lilliputian creatures were pursuing him.

By 2004, Rodney had had enough. "You can't do anything, so you got to join the Army," he told him. "The Army will make you into a man so you can live." Winder completed his GED and, in August 2005, he was shipped off to basic training. After three months the Army washed him out because of his mental illness.

Winder was despondent. He crashed from couch to couch, staying until his welcome was worn out. He began using methamphetamines. He called his mother, Nanci Rolbiecki, and asked her to meet him at a nearby IHOP. Winder looked terrible that day. His skin had a gray, sickly pallor, and his eyes darted around the restaurant. (Rolbiecki declined to speak on the record for this story.)

Rolbiecki and Winder's stepfather took him to the Medical Center of Plano. As Rolbiecki waited with her son in the examination room, he tore off his hospital gown and threatened to leave. Rolbiecki asked him to stay. The doctors, she told him, would make him better. She started to leave the room, but Winder called out to her. "Mom." She turned and he leapt at her, gripping her throat with both hands and bashing her body against the wall.

Before she lost consciousness, her husband rushed in, pulled Winder off of her and pinned him to the floor until help arrived. Rolbiecki declined to press charges, and Winder was committed to the state hospital in Terrell for roughly two months of treatment. The doctors said he had suffered a psychotic break. Later, when asked about the attack, he said he couldn't remember it.

Rodney took his son in after he was discharged from the hospital. Worried his son might get violent again, he slept with golf clubs propped against the door of his bedroom. He saw Winder come home drugged, his pupils so dilated they swallowed his bright blue irises. For a while Rolbiecki put him up in an apartment in Far North Dallas, just off of George Bush Turnpike. She wanted to help him get back on his feet, but Winder couldn't keep a job. When she stopped paying rent, he was evicted.

He was 27 now, and homeless. He started camping near his father's house in The Colony. Though he was no longer allowed inside, he showed up on Rodney's doorstep, asking for food, to use the phone or to store his ever-growing collection of found or stolen detritus — canoe paddles, satellite dishes, furniture, DVD players — in his garage.

Then his father would watch him leave, trudging over the uneven sidewalk to a clearing a few hundred yards away. He'd walk beneath huge transmission lines, past wood privacy fences and swing sets and barking dogs, to a campsite deep within a wooded area on Army Corps of Engineers property. "He got dirtier and skinner," Rodney says. "He'd spend a lot of time walking. Just walking. It's so sad."

Winder became known around town as "the walking man," because he was often seen hiking down Hebron Parkway or some other main thoroughfare, shouldering a backpack. He also gained a reputation with police as a troublemaker. Among other things, he was picked up for stealing a laptop in March 2008 and spent five months in jail.

He got out and returned to his campsite, but getting locked up only made things worse. Rodney found chopped lengths of rotting snake strewn across his garden. He discovered a glass jar filled with some putrefying carcass hidden in his shrubs. Winder coated his lawn with coal dust and hung snakeskins from the fence. "He thought he was putting a spell on the house," his dad says.


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11 comments
What the?
What the?

I may have read this wrong, but does anyone know why the maintenance man would have entered the apartment one day and claimed only to see a little red dirt on the carpet. Then the next day when confronted by the police he admitted seeing some blood in what the officer described as like a Stephen King movie?

thejman7
thejman7

Wow. Too bad Law & Order isn't on anymore as I would have loved to see how they handled this scenario.

Cindy
Cindy

Such a sad example of our flawed mental health and justice system. He was insane when he committed the murder but can't remember it but if he can stay medicated he can be prosecuted and sent to prison where he will have no mental health care. Where is there any justice here?

Rodster
Rodster

The book: Slipping into Madness -The Seth Winder Story is available online at Amazon.com and other online bookstores.

VivlianWozz
VivlianWozz

I am a 27 years old doctor,mature and beautiful. and now i am seeking a good man who can give me real love, so i got a sername Andromeda2002 on Agedate.СòM, a nice and free place for younger women and older men,or older women and younger men, to interact with each other.Maybe you wanna check out or tell your friends.

Silvermoondog1
Silvermoondog1

I beg to differ with Derek Adame, the book didn't cause the trial delays. The proesecution wasn't ready, they delayed it over and over again after May of 2010.

bongkongcory
bongkongcory

@What the? I was the maintenance man that was interviewed by the homicide detectives in the first 48 " the guy with no shirt " I wanna say none of us were ever let in to the apt until the detectives asked for the victim's apt key I then was asked to get it & walk them to the apt but was not let in! They took the keys and opened the door saying he could still be in there. As they went in the apt I stood on the other side of the breezeway . There was alot that was not covered in the episode but being as the show was an hour long they put in enough for the common person just watching the show to know. All I remember was the small smeared bloody hand print on the corner of the window you could see from outside. We never saw the unit until it was aired on tv.... Poor guys! Both of them!!

My prayers go out to both sides of the family! May they find peace!!

Cindyray2012
Cindyray2012

How gross of you to try and capitalize on your son's insanity!!!!

 
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