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The Tampa Tribune
By ELLEN GEDALIUS and ELAINE SILVESTRINI
Published: May 30, 2007
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TAMPA – On the day he fatally shot himself, popular meteorologist John Winter told his wife, Karen, he had been having an affair, according to records released Tuesday by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.
Winter, 39, also shared his secret with his close friend and business partner, Bobby Fontaine.
Fontaine told Winter that he could get through it. Karen Winter also was on the line.
“Everybody’s human, and that’s what I told him,” Fontaine said Tuesday. “I was more concerned about Karen at the time. Karen said they could work it out.”
But Winter seemed to be without hope – and also deeply affected by his grandfather’s suicide about a year and a half earlier.
Last month, the News Channel 8 morning weatherman committed suicide at his Lithia home.
Fontaine, the TV station’s technical director, told deputies that Winter “felt that he was an embarrassment and that his wife would not forgive him,” according to records.
Karen Winter did not return a call for comment Tuesday evening.
Fontaine said he had seen signs that Winter might be involved with another woman, but when he initially asked him about it, “he said there was nothing going on. Emphatically,” Fontaine recalled Tuesday. “I give people benefit of the doubt.”
In a separate call, Winter and Fontaine were talking when Winter told Fontaine that the police were there so he had to go, Fontaine told sheriff’s deputies. When deputies got inside Winter’s house, they heard a gunshot and then discovered him dead in the garage with a .45-caliber pistol lying in his lap. His right hand was partially on the gun, according to the records.
He had struck his right temple, the report says.
Winter left a note. An open Bible rested on the kitchen counter. Also on the counter were his watch, wallet and wedding ring.
He was wearing a gray T-shirt, green shorts, white socks and black Nike sneakers.
A funeral notice for his grandfather was on a weight bench in the garage.
Fontaine said he was called by another employee at the production company he and Winter owned together, Big U Productions. The employee said she had just hung up with Winter, and he sounded suicidal. She called 911 from Pinellas County.
During the call, the woman repeatedly told the operator that she didn’t know whether she was doing the right thing by calling. She wanted to keep the call as private as possible.
“He just seems very down, very depressed, very full of anxiety and stress,” the caller said.
The call lasted about eight minutes.
Fontaine decided to go to Winter’s house. On his way there, he was called by Karen Winter, who asked him to go to the house. Then he was called by Winter, who wanted to make a three-way call with his wife.
Fontaine told deputies that Winter said he wanted to end it all. Fontaine and Karen Winter tried to talk him out of it and told him he could get through it, the report says. Winter talked about his grandfather, “Bop-bop,” who had committed suicide a year and a half ago, and said “if it was good enough for Bob-bop, it was good enough for him,” the report says.
In an interview Tuesday, Fontaine said he knew how close Winter was with his grandfather. After his grandfather’s suicide, Fontaine said, Winter talked about death.
Winter seemed more anxious, Fontaine recalled.
Fontaine said his son died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, he said. He does not characterize it as suicide. Winter “knew Mr. Fontaine’s feelings on suicide and that’s why he was trying to talk him out of it,” the report says.
The autopsy report reveals that Winter was on four medications: sleep aid Sonata, anxiety drug alaprazolam, antidepressant lexapro and pain medication hydrocodone.
“A combination of a lot of medication probably didn’t help the situation,” Fontaine said Tuesday.
He said he misses his friend dearly.
Reporter Ellen Gedalius can be reached at (813) 259-7679 or firstname.lastname@example.org.