CLEARFIELD – A jury deliberated for around 20 minutes Thursday afternoon before finding an area man not guilty of choking and assaulting a woman.
William R. Winkelman, 48, of Cherry Tree was found not guilty of felony strangulation and misdemeanor simple assault following trial.
Jurors were sent into their deliberations around 2:37 p.m. and returned with their verdict at around 2:59 p.m.
The trial was prosecuted by Clearfield County Deputy District Attorney Trudy Lumadue; Winkelman was represented by defense attorney Thomas M. McKinley of Pittsburgh.
On March 11, 2020, a woman said she arrived at the Punxsutawney state police barracks to report several incidents of domestic abuse against Winkelman.
On April 9, 2020, state police were contacted by medical staff at Penn Highlands Elk, in St. Marys, because the woman had presented for treatment of throat pain from an alleged assault.
The woman testified that she had been physically assaulted and strangled by Winkelman two weeks earlier on March 26, 2020.
She said they were arguing over neighbors coming over and she fled towards the attic, but as she ran upstairs, she was two steps from the top when he caught her ankle.
She said that Winkelman dragged her back down by her leg, then started hitting and choking her on the kitchen floor.
The woman alleged that Winkelman used his knees to pin her arms down, as he continued to squeeze her throat.
“I didn’t think I’d live,” she testified. “He told me: ‘this is the day you’ll die.” She said she managed to get on her stomach and “army crawl” into a corner.
As she cowered there, she said he raised his fist as though he would strike her again, but didn’t. “He must have been satisfied with what he’d done.”
She said she suffered bruising about her arms, back and legs, in addition to throat pain from the incident.
The woman said she left their home to stay with friends but eventually went back and on April 4, 2020, Winkelman became aggressive towards her again.
Because she still had throat pain from the previous incident, she said she called a friend and asked him to come get her. She said she hid for two hours until he got there.
Because of research she’d done online about her throat pain, she decided to report to the emergency room on April 9, 2020 for evaluation and treatment.
Trooper Craig Hooven said he took the woman’s initial report March 11, 2020, and was amid the investigation process when he was contacted by PH Elk.
He said he requested a trooper from Ridgway-based state police to respond to the hospital and conduct an interview with the woman.
Hooven said medical information – provided to him – indicated the woman was discharged with a diagnosis of strangulation.
Under cross-examination, Hooven admitted that during his initial interview March 11, 2020, the woman appeared antsy and he suspected she was under the influence of methamphetamine.
On April 9, 2020, the woman was seen by Penn Highlands Emergency Physician Dr. Gerald Smith and recently-retired PH Radiologist Dr. Richard Williams.
Both said she likely suffered a thyroid cartridge injury near her Adam’s apple at the front of her throat, an injury they said was consistent with the woman’s report.
However, both admitted to jurors that the woman’s discharge diagnosis heavily relied upon information from the woman’s report.
In closing, McKinley argued that the commonwealth left the jury with “tons of questions and doubt.”
He said they basically only heard the woman’s testimony because it just got repeated by troopers, doctors, etc.
McKinley said the woman described what was supposed to be a violent assault, but there wasn’t any evidence or visible injuries to support her story.