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WFLA weatherman's suicide linked to an affair

His wife and a friend tried to talk him out of ending his life, sheriff's report says.

By ABBIE VANSICKLE
Published May 30, 2007


TAMPA - The final report of a popular meteorologist's suicide shows the turmoil he felt in the hours before his death.

Before he shot himself, John Winter, 39, told his wife he had an extramarital affair, according to documents released Tuesday by the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.

Winter, a weatherman for WFLA-Ch. 8, died April 5 inside his garage at the Lithia home he shared with his wife, Karen Winter.

That day, he called his friend, Bobby Fontaine Jr., a WFLA director who also ran a Temple Terrace production, marketing and advertising company with Winter. He told Fontaine he had an affair with a co-worker at Big U Productions and said he felt ashamed.

"He just basically told me that I was not going to respect him," Fontaine said. "I told him that we are all human beings."

Winter set up a three-way call with his wife and Fontaine, and said he wanted to end his life, Fontaine told investigators. The two tried to talk him out of it, Fontaine said, assuring him they could all get through it.

Winter spoke of his grandfather, whom he called "Pap-Pap." His grandfather committed suicide in 2005, according to medical examiner's records.

"During the conversation, John stated that he wanted to end it all and that if it was good enough for Pap-Pap, it was good enough for him," according to the Sheriff's Office interview with Fontaine.

Deputies went to Winter's FishHawk Ranch home after they received a 911 call from Teresa Brunton, 40, of Pinellas Park. Brunton, who worked at Big U Productions, told investigators that Winter had "threatened to possibly hurt himself."

"He's just been very down, very depressed, full of anxiety and stress," Brunton told the operator.

The Sheriff's Office released a copy of the 911 tape Friday but the caller's identity was not released until Tuesday.

Brunton later told investigators that Winter also threatened to "end it" if she sent anyone to the house. She worried that he had a gun. He initially told her his wife had the weapon but later confessed he did.

"At first she felt responsible because John had threatened her on the phone that if she told anyone or brought anyone to the residence, she would end it," sheriff's Detective Lisa Croissant wrote.

"But she feels that if she did not do something, that he would have harmed himself anyway."

At the suburban house, deputies found Winter's black Cadillac in the driveway. They saw no lights on. No one answered the telephone.

Fontaine, who met them at the house, tried to talk to Winter through the garage door.

Deputies tried to open the garage, but the key code didn't work, so they kicked in the front door. At that moment, they heard a single shot.

Investigators found Winter sitting on the floor of the garage, a .45-caliber gun in his hand, a gunshot wound to his head, according to the report. Nearby, on a weight bench, lay a notice of his grandfather's death.

Winter had taken Xanax before he died, an autopsy found. In an interview Friday, his wife said he sometimes took it for his nerves.

She thanked those who offered comfort in the days that followed Winter's death. "I don't think he realized how much people thought of him," Karen Winter said.

Investigators found a printed suicide note sitting on a laptop computer but did not release its contents.

They also found a Bible on the kitchen counter, opened to John 14, which began, "Let not your heart be troubled."

And in the kitchen, on top of his wallet, they found his wedding ring.

Abbie VanSickle can be reached at vansickle@sptimes.com or 813-226-3373.