A Colorado mom and her two children -- a 5-year-old boy and 9-year-old girl -- were found dead at their home after the woman's teenage daughter called police to report that she had been sexually assaulted. Cops say the teen ran to a neighbor's house to call 911 and that when help arrived at the family's home, they found the rest of her family slain. The suspect was also found inside their home and was immediately arrested. He is being identified as a 31-year-old man who is a convicted sex offender and was a friend of the mom's who had been living at their house with them.
Jaacob Harding Van Winkle is being held without bond for possible first-degree murder, two counts of first-degree murder of a victim under age 12, and sexual assault of a child under 15. A judge says possible penalties include life without parole or even the death penalty.
This is obviously not the first time Van Winkle has faced trouble with the law. He was sentenced to nearly six years in prison in 2004 for child molestation and sexual gratification and then an additional two years and nine months in 2007 on the same child molesting case. Then, in 2011, Van Winkle was arrested on a parole violation after cops found him living in a tent in the woods in Indiana and questioned him about the mysterious death of his landlord, who had been renting the man a room in his home.
And the list of charges against him go on and on. He was sentenced to 6 months in jail after moving to Colorado for domestic violence charges. Then, one year later, he had an order of protection taken out against him by a 22-year-old woman, who also filed a complaint against him for child support.
It's sad and disgusting that this mom and her two young children may have suffered at the hands of someone who was receiving a warm home to live in and the trust -- whether deserved or not -- of a mother. We don't know the details of her relationship with Van Winkle or whether she was aware of his past convictions, so it's difficult to pass judgment on her for allowing him to live with them.
One thing that is clear is that the poor teenager who made that initial call to cops now has to live a life without her mother and siblings. I hope she's receiving the support and love she needs from other relatives and friends.
Would you allow a friend to live with your family if you knew he had been convicted of child molestation?
Image via Alan Cleaver/Flickr