Couple faces sentencing in crowbar burglaries |

Couple faces sentencing in crowbar burglaries

Sheila Gardner
Joseph Winters

A South Lake Tahoe couple was sentenced Tuesday to lengthy prison terms for their roles in a series of burglaries committed with a crowbar.

District Judge Tod Young sentenced Joseph A. Winters, 49, to 20 years in Nevada state prison, with another 20 years to be served concurrently.

He must serve a maximum of eight years before he is eligible for parole.

Winters’ wife, Jean, 45, was sentenced to 12 years in prison, with another six years to be served concurrently.

She must serve 40 months before she is eligible for parole.

Joseph Winters pleaded guilty to four counts of burglary; Jean Winters pleaded guilty to two counts of burglary and two counts of possession of stolen property.

The Winters, and a third defendant, were arrested Oct. 18, 2013, as they were breaking into the home of their final victim who was on vacation at the time.

The woman testified tearfully Tuesday on the impact the crime had on her feeling of security.

“I didn’t realize I was so emotional about it until this moment,” she said. “It’s obviously very upsetting and so disrespectful for someone to break into your home and destroy your front door.

The victim praised the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office for its work in investigating the crime.

“I assume this gentleman (Winters) is not all bad; and I acknowledge that we’re not all good either, but I don’t know at what point he is going to get his life together.”

The woman said the only satisfaction she felt was that her house was the last to be burglarized.

The couple was ordered to pay the victim $1,081.51 restitution when they are released from prison. They were given credit for 138 days each they’ve spent in jail.

Prosecutor Maria Pence acknowledged that Joseph Winters received a lesser sentence because of his cooperation with authorities.

In a 10-minute inaudible conversation at the bench, she and defense attorney Matt Ence presented what Winters had done to assist with prosecution.

The judge placed their testimony on the record, but said he didn’t want the gallery to hear what they said.

A memo of understanding between Joseph Winters and the district attorney’s office was ordered sealed.

Jean Winters had requested probation.

The couple apologized.

“As a drug addict, I didn’t think about the victims,” Joseph Winters said. “It was a greedy thing. I didn’t think about the traumatization I did upon you.”

Jean Winters insisted she had no idea what her husband was doing until they were arrested.

She admitted she should have asked how he and codefendant Jeffrey Stephens were coming up with jewelry, tools and other stolen property when they were unemployed.

When Jean Winters was arrested, Pence said she was wearing a dead woman’s wedding band that had been stolen from one of the four residences her husband admitted burglarizing.

He’d also given her stolen jewelry as an anniversary present, according to reports.

“She’s living under a piece of plywood because they’re drug addicts, but her husband is giving her diamond jewelry,” Pence said. “It’s time to impose the consequences she deserves. She’s probably a good motivator for these burglaries. She needs methamphetamine and her husband’s got to get it.”

Jean Winters claimed that when she was arrested she was coming down from a methamphetamine “runner” and was groggy the day of their arrest. She insisted that she never entered a house or participated in a burglary.

Pence said when the burglars were arrested, their vehicle was so full of property, Jean Winters was crammed into the seat with a stolen jackhammer.

Winters said her husband told her he got the money from a casino jackpot.

“Maybe I should have known what was going on,” she said. “I want to apologize to (the victim). I didn’t realize how devastating it was to be in someone’s home, and ruin their things. I am truly sorry for my part.”

The third suspect, Stephens, 44, pleaded guilty Feb. 17 to four counts of burglary and two counts of attempted possession of stolen property.

He faces up to 50 years in prison and a $60,000 fine at his sentencing April 15.

The three were arrested on Oct. 18, 3013, at a home in Valley Crest Estates where someone had used a crowbar to break in.

Winters and Stephens admitted to burglaries on Lakeside Drive in the foothill area, Parkview Drive and Valley Vista in Indian Hills.

Stephens also admitted breaking into the Northern Nevada Coin Shop in Minden between Sept. 13-Oct. 19, 2013.

Similar thefts were under investigation by California authorities.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around the Lake Tahoe Basin and beyond make the Tahoe Tribune's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.