Judge sets trial date for Winrods

Church leader and his children try for third time to have charges dismissed.

Springfield News-Leader/July 21, 2000
By Kelly Heierman

Gordon Winrod, the outspoken leader of Our Savior's Church in Ozark County, and two of his children will face a Sept. 11 trial date on child abduction charges.

Circuit Judge Theodore Scott, appointed by the Missouri Supreme Court after Circuit Judge John Moody recused himself earlier this month, set the trial date Thursday. Jury selection begins Sept. 8 in Gainesville, when 12 jurors will be chosen out of a pool of 160.

Winrod, 73, his daughter Carol Winrod, 27, and son Stephen Winrod, 33, are charged with abducting six of Gordon Winrod's grandchildren. The three were arrested May 17 after an investigation led officers to Winrod's farm near Gainesville.

Following the arrests, the children, ages 9 to 16, barricaded themselves on the farm for four days before being persuaded by Gordon Winrod to come out.

The Winrods are in the Ozark County Jail on $500,000 bond each.

In court Thursday, the Winrods, who are representing themselves, filed their third motion in an attempt to get the charges dismissed.

"Because the prosecution has failed to provide proof of compliance with the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act," the charges should be dismissed, Gordon Winrod wrote in the motion.

Ozark County Prosecutor Thomas Cline said the act does not apply in criminal cases like the Winrods' but rather applies to family law cases.

Cline filed a motion Thursday requesting that Gordon Winrod and others on his behalf be prevented from mailing any information concerning the case, the victims or witnesses.

The motion cites a document circulated in Ozark County this week alleging that Moody, Judge John Jacobs, Sheriff Steve Bartlett, Chief Deputy John Russo and Cline are members of a "Jewish child sex ring." A June 13 issue of the Winrod Letter is also cited in the motion.

"These documents are being received by members of the public at large whom ... will comprise the jury pool for this defendant and his co-defendants' trial," the motion says. "The obvious intent and effect of (the) defendants ... is to affect the minds and prejudices of prospective jurors, with the result that obtaining a fair and impartial jury may be impossible in Ozark County."

Cline said he is ready for the trial to begin and is contacting witnesses and making arrangements for their arrival. According to court documents, Cline has 28 witnesses scheduled, including Tim and Joel Leppert, the fathers of the six children.

Another of Winrod's sons, Daniel Winrod, 36, of Watertown, S.D., faces tampering charges for allegedly trying to sneak onto the farm during the standoff. Judge Robert Heller was appointed to Daniel Winrod's case and set a preliminary hearing for Aug. 14, and reduced his bond from $100,000 to $50,000 with restrictions. Represented by a public defender, he remains in custody.

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