PORTLAND, Ore. (Portland Tribune) — A Clackamas County jury has found a Lake Oswego man guilty of manslaughter except for insanity in the 2019 killing of his wife, who had been diagnosed with terminal cancer.
Michael Winchester, an insurance adjuster from Lake Oswego, killed his wife, Heidi Anne Winchester, with a box cutter knife before turning the blade on himself in January 2019.
Winchester’s attorney Benjamin Kim confirmed the jury’s verdict Friday afternoon. The verdict was first reported by The Oregonian/Oregonlive.
Kim told Pamplin Media Group the Oregon State Hospital may need to evaluate Winchester.
Pamplin Media Group is a media partner with KOIN 6 News
The hospital had previously evaluated Winchester and Kim said he believed the hospital would determine he would not need to be hospitalized following the trial.
“It’s a very sad case,” Kim said. “There wasn’t going to be a happy ending, but this is an appropriate ending to the case.”
The Clackamas County District Attorney’s Office did not immediately respond to requests for comment Friday afternoon.
According to Lake Oswego Police, HeidiÂ Anne Winchester, who went by Annie, was found dead by their then 18-year-old son. Michael was discovered bleeding from self-inflicted wounds.
When police arrived, they found the box cutter lying next to Annie’s body and Michael in the garage, in need of medical care.
Winchester reportedly confessed to the crime, telling police “I did it, I killed her. She had cancer. She’s dead upstairs.”
Winchester reportedly left a note for his sons, in which he said he could not bear to watch their mother suffer anymore.
Winchester was treated at Oregon Health & Sciences University hospital before his arrest. He was eventually released from police custody in June 2019 on $250,000 bail, shortly before his son’s graduation from Lakeridge High School.
In May 2019, ahead of his release, Clackamas County Circuit Court deemed that Winchester was highly likely to prevail based on a defense of extreme emotional disturbance due to his wife’s terminal cancer.
The emotional disturbance defense can lower a murder charge to first-degree manslaughter, which carries a lesser sentence.
A memo prepared by Kim in defense of his bail release also suggested that both Michael and Annie Winchester had undiagnosed mental disorders.
“The defense anticipates that the evidence will show that every person who spoke to Ms. Winchester heard Ms. Winchester speak of the severity of her physical and emotional pain, her desire to die and her wish that she could join her loved ones in heaven,” Kim wrote in the memo. “The people who knew Ms. Winchester were also aware of undiagnosed psychological issues, including the behavior consistent with a manic-depressive disorder.”
Kim argued that Michael Winchester was depressed, noting that he was hospitalized two months before killing Annie after experiencing migraines, slurred speech and the inability to sleep or complete tasks he used to easily perform.
“Although undiagnosed at the time, Mr. Winchester was likely suffering from a major depressive disorder,” Kim wrote. “On Jan. 30, 2019, Mr. Winchester not only caused the death of Heidi Winchester, but also made repeated and credible attempts to commit suicide.”
The judge granted Winchester’s release on bail despite objections from District Attorney John Foote, who argued he was a potential danger to the public.
In October 2020 the court ordered Winchester to report to the Oregon State Hospital for an evaluation in which the hospital would determine whether he had a qualifying mental disorder at the time of the killing.