Coldspring teen, along with her dad and brother, acquitted in high school janitor's murder in 2004

March 1, 2013 8:03:48 AM PST
Freedom may be on the horizon for a young woman who was just 16 years old when she was accused of a horrific killing. Now the murder conviction and the sentence that put her in jail for life has been tossed.

Megan Winfrey, along with her brother and father, were all initially charged in connection with the murder of a high school janitor. Two of them were convicted, but now several years later, all three have been acquitted.

In 2004, the quiet town of Coldspring was rocked by a gruesome murder. Murray Burr, a high school janitor, was killed inside his trailer.

"He was stabbed and beaten badly, and as far as we know it happened during the night," said San Jacinto County District Attorney Richard Countiss.

Megan Winfrey was just 16 at the time. She, her dad Richard Winfrey, Sr., and her brother Richard Winfrey, Jr. were indicted for Burr's murder. Prosecutors then relied on dog scent, indicating Megan's smell on Burr as their strongest evidence.

"That was the first positive, fixed link that they had between the Winfreys and the murder," Countiss said.

But the Winfreys' defense attorneys say while dog scent may provide some evidence, on its own it's not enough to convict. And the courts agreed. First in Richard Jr's trial, then in appeals for both Richard Sr., and now Megan.

"There was absolutely nothing connecting them to the scene of this offense, and frankly I've regarded the entire proceeding -- all three of them -- as contrived," said defense attorney Shirley Baccus-Lobel.

So for now, San Jacinto County's criminal district attorney says Coldspring will be home to a cold case.

"We do have DNA that was recovered in the home and you know with the advances in DNA it's possible that somewhere along the way we get a hit. But short of that we have nothing to go on," said Countiss.

The state has 15 days to a motion for a re-hearing. If they don't, Megan could walk out of prison in the next few weeks.

We worked on this story through our partnership with Houston Community Newspapers. You can read more in The Cleveland Advocate.

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