Winslow witness driven to depression before suicide, family says
- By Adam Foxman
- Ventura County Star
- updated March 10, 2011 at 6:18 p.m.
Read all stories about Greg Winslow.
Kevin Wise was a private person under great stress after being thrust into the spotlight as a key witness in the high-profile trial of his boyhood friend, former college basketball coach Greg Winslow, friends and family said Thursday.
Wise committed suicide Wednesday at his Camarillo home hours before he was supposed to retake the stand in the case. Relatives said in a statement Thursday that attacks on his character stemming from his relationship with Winslow led him to recently begin taking medication for depression.
The successful businessman, who enjoyed spending time with his girlfriend, family, friends and golden retriever Savannah, felt his name was being "dragged through the mud," relatives said.
"For such a caring and private person, someone questioning his character was incomprehensible and heartbreaking," according to the statement read Thursday by Wise's brother-in-law, Alex Gutierrez. "Kevin's family and friends are reeling from this tragedy and heartbroken at the loss of such a wonderful, caring and generous son, brother, friend and person."
Wise, 47, was found dead Wednesday morning in his Camarillo home after he barricaded himself inside the residence in the 2800 block of La Plata in Sterling Hills, authorities said.
The Ventura County Medical Examiner's Office, after an autopsy Thursday, determined Wise died from a gunshot wound to the head and confirmed sheriff's investigators' belief that it was a suicide, said Michael Tellez, a deputy medical examiner.
Wise was a key prosecution witness in the trial of Winslow, a former Ventura College men's basketball coach accused of misappropriation of funds, grand theft, perjury, dissuading a witness and other felonies.
Winslow is accused, among other things, of keeping a secret bank account that he partially used for personal use. Wise testified that Winslow opened the joint bank account using Wise's name and other personal information without his consent.
Other witnesses, however, contradicted some of Wise's testimony, leading the defense to ask him to return to the stand.
Relatives remembered Wise as a sensitive man who helped many and was happy for the opportunity to support his former friend Winslow in Ventura College's basketball program.
"Recent events involving Kevin's longtime friend were such a disappointment to Kevin. Even worse, his friendship with Winslow caused attacks on Kevin's own character that were piercingly felt by a man who so valued integrity. The attacks on Kevin's character and the media's dragging his good name through the mud caused him great stress," relatives said in their statement.
The statement did not give specifics or examples of attacks on Wise's character, and Gutierrez declined to elaborate.
Winslow's attorney, Ron Bamieh, offered condolences Thursday to Wise's family.
"They have nothing but my compassion," said Bamieh, who represents the Ventura County Star on First Amendment issues. Bamieh said he can relate to their grief because he had a friend who committed suicide.
Special Assistant District Attorney Michael Schwartz said his office's sympathies also go out to Wise's family. "Mr. Wise's death is tragic," Schwartz said.
Wise grew up in Ventura County and graduated from Buena High School in Ventura. The youngest of four siblings, he was not married and did not have children, Gutierrez said. Wise enjoyed spending time at a residence at Lake Nacimiento near Paso Robles, said his brother-in-law.
Wise ran a successful tree-trimming and landscaping company but began selling it off last year. In their statement, relatives said Wise was "from the old school of business."
"His word was his bond, sealed with a handshake," the statement said.
Ken Kramer, a friend and fellow landscape company owner, said when he needed advice about a business decision or finances, he would turn to one of two people: his father or Wise.
"He's my business mentor," said Kramer, who graduated from high school with Wise.
Kramer described Wise as a self-motivated, successful man who was private and never asked for the limelight.
"He was a great guy. It's a huge loss," he said. "Who do I turn to (now)? I would turn to Kevin."