Brutally Murdered

  • Brutally Murdered

    The tragic story of a beautiful young woman
    as told by her mother, Barbara Winchell Christian.

    "Nobody knows the trouble I've seen, nobody knows but Jesus!"  How many times have we whispered those words when going through trials that rend our hearts? Yes, Jesus knows what you are going through, and He is there with outstretched arms to help you. However, there are also some of us who know exactly what you are going through. We have been there and walked in your shoes. Yes, we know the pain you carry in your heart, and our hearts empathize with your pain.
    Are you grieving over the loss of a loved one...a child? I have been there, and people ask me how I have survived and can live with it. My story concerns the brutal murder of my seventeen year old beautiful, Christian daughter. Her story is on the internet while her killer has been sitting in death row for 30 years now, hardened and un-remorseful. The story can be found by inserting the name Terri Lynn Winchell into the search engine on your computer. Her killer is Michael Morales whose execution was stopped at the last hour in February, 2006.

    On a foggy night on January 8, 1981, Terri was abducted by two young men who she thought were "friends" and for whom she had prayed each night. Once in the car, Morales who was sitting in the back seat, threw a leather belt around her neck and tried to strangle her. She fought so hard she broke the belt, but he repeatedly beat her head in with a claw hammer and stabbed her 23 times with a butcher knife...while his cousin drove the car to a lonely vineyard between Stockton and Lodi. There, after butchering her, they raped her, threw her out of the car like a piece of garbage, and then drove the car over her, leaving her lifeless body in the cold, foggy vineyard.

    The last words I ever said to her as she walked out the door that night were: "You look beautiful!" All the time she had been missing, from 6pm Thursday to late Friday night around 4am on Saturday morning, I had been alone in my home praying over and over, "Lord keep her  safe!". We had been so close that we knew where each other was all the time. I called the police to report her missing at 10pm.

    My friend, Faye, came over the next morning to stay with me while her daughters stayed at the police station while the police questioned Ricky Ortega, the instigator of the pre-meditated crime. He finally broke down and confessed, and the police sent the SWAT team to pick up Michael Morales and his sixteen year old girlfriend who had washed the weapons and put them in her freezer. As I sat on my couch waiting for the final word and confession, I was numb like a zombie. It was like God had given me a shot of Novocain. I looked at her laundry basket and thought, "This is the last time I will ever fold her clothes!"

    When the police officer came at 4am to tell me they were recovering her body, I could hear the words of the Lord: "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord!"  Then I thought,  "Lord, we are told to praise you in all I will give you praise in my weak way, at this time."  I thought of the scripture that tells of Simeon prophesying to Mary concerning Jesus that "a sword would pierce her own heart!"  Yes, I felt as Mary must have felt at the crucifixion. As mothers, a sword has surely pierced our hearts! Pain unbelievable! I didn't know the details of what all had been done to her. I believe the Lord shielded it from me until I could bear it. I actually didn't find out everything until Morales was due to be executed, and the media had all the details on TV, the newspapers, and the internet constantly. I had reporters and news media from all over the United States wanting interviews. Fox News, Geraldo, Greta Van Sustern and others, CNN, all the local and S.F. TV stations, plus press conferences in Los Angeles and San Jose with Gloria Allred who voluntarily stood by me with great compassion.
    I was very surprised when I went to church about two weeks later. When I entered the church and walked up to the organ, I received a standing ovation. It warmed my heart that I was loved, and that they knew that I didn't blame God for allowing such a thing to happen. I moved to a different location and started a new job two weeks later. I was actually surprised that the manager of Western Electric hired me as his secretary knowing what I had just been through. I felt that people might be uncomfortable around me, so when I went to work, I put a smile on my face and hummed as I walked down the hall. I didn't want my little son to be traumatized over the situation, so I told him that Terri had an accident and wouldn't be coming home. I said, "But Jesus took her with Him and will bring her back, and we will see her again." My son accepted that and never had any emotional problems, thank the Lord!  People told me that I needed to see a psychologist. I said, "No way. The Holy Spirit is all the Counselor I need, and the Lord is with me!"
    So... days, months, years passed, and God has been with me all of the way. His scriptures come to me when needed, and faith in Him sustains me. I keep a song in my heart, and look forward daily to His return and seeing Him face to face in all of His glory. I know that my little daughter will be with Him when He calls for me. So will my eldest son who "crossed over" in my home two years ago. He was taking care of our property and delighted in producing beautiful gardens for me to enjoy. Yes, I really look forward to the day of our Grand Reunion. That is God's promise, and He cannot lie.
    So, my friend, you can make it through any trial the enemy puts you through. If I hadn't had the Lord to hold my hand through all of this, I wouldn't have wanted to go on with life. I told the Lord, "Lord, you don't know how it feels to have your only child tortured and slaughtered like a lamb!" God said, "Yes, I know. I had to turn my eyes when they slaughtered my Son." I said, "But God, your son is alive!" God said, "So is your daughter!".  The country singer, Ed Bruce, made a beautiful rendition of these words in a song called "I Know". It is very comforting.  

    God's word tells us that He knows how much we can bear, and He won't give us more than we can handle. I have been through divorce, stalking, verbal and some physical abuse and many heartaches and trials. God has been there with me through it all, and I know I can say along with Job: "I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth!" Job 19:25.
    We don't know why things happen as they do, or why the good ones are taken before their time, (Isa 57:1). We do know, however, that God knows best. His ways are higher than ours and beyond our understanding. As I was driving to town one day, I was grieving over Terri, and I heard the Holy Spirit say: "You had her the best years."  I had her from birth to 17 years of age, those precious childhood days. I loved being a mother, and she was a soft spoken little angel. Who knows what might have befallen her during her adult life? Yes, her death was horrendous, but it was over in one night. She may have suffered a lifetime for some other reason, and she had such a sweet, tender heart and love for everyone she met. Only God knows. We just have to leave the reasons to Him. It helped me to write her life story and add her pictures and some poems I wrote for her. Keeping busy helps the hours and days pass.
    So, if you are going through some heartbreaking trial, remember that you are not alone. There are others of us who have walked in your footsteps, and Jesus is right there with you each step of the way. Give it all over to Him. The end of your trial is in sight, and the glow of that Celestial City beams from the end of life's pathway. It will be worth it all when we see Jesus, and He can tell us the answers to our questions. Keep a smile on your face and a song in your heart! "Weeping may endure for a night, but JOY comes in the morning!"
    by Barbara Christian~
    Mother, writer, musician


    Morales has never been executed. In February 2006 his execution was stayed one hour before it was scheduled. My three sons were there to see justice served for their sister, but Morales was led back to his cell, reprieved! He refused last rites by a priest and walked out with a sneer on his face. He is still there in San Quentin, 34 years after murdering Terri. I have 'for-GIVEN' him over to God for judgment and justice. I will not allow him to make me a victim also and have released him from my mind. I cast down every thought that comes to mind about him and the horrible murder he put Terri through. She will always be in my heart and mind, and I try to remember only the good times. I was blessed with a precious angel from Heaven, and I thank the Lord for allowing me to have 17 years with her!  

    Also, the reason she was murdered: She was casually dating a handsome young man who we found out later was gay. His 'partner' (Ricky Ortega) was a Latino who had a cousin who belonged to a Latino gang in Stockton called: Little Unity. They were known to be killers. Ricky told his cousin, Mike Morales, he wanted Terri dead, so they both connived with Mike's 16 yr. old girlfriend on how they would do it. They abducted Terri in a car where Mike started the vicious stabbing, strangling and hammering her head. When it was all over they hid the weapons and her purse in Mike's house where the girlfriend washed the blood away. Ricky was picked up for questioning and when he broke down, the SWAT team picked up Morales and his girlfriend and retrieved the weapons and Terri's purse.

    After 3 long years the trial was finally held in Ventura, CA. Morales received the death penalty and Ricky got Life without parole. He has been in Mule Creek State prison in Ione, CA not far from where I live. Although Morales was given the death penalty, he has been given 34 years to live after Terri's murder....twice the length of her brief 17 years. The irony is that within a month after Terri's murder, her so called boyfriend, Randy Blythe, was dating another girl, got married and moved out of state. Last I heard he was living in Modesto and refused to talk to reporters.       

    by Barbara Christian
    Mother, Writer, Musician

    Floyd and Clementine

    Floyd and Clementine

    by Russ Barrie
    Floyd and Clementine were a homeless couple living at the Santa Ana Civic Center around 1990,
    when there were three hundred registered homeless people regularly camped there. The city made little effort to sustain them. They turned off the fountain so the homeless couldn't bathe in public. An attempt to remove all their possessions by tossing everything they had into the dumpsters was met with a lawsuit. The homeless contingency won but the city then passed a "No Overnight Camping In Public Places", law. Many of the surrounding cities soon passed similar laws, forcing Santa Ana to give a year moratorium before implementing it's law, to give the homeless time to find other means of shelter.

    Where then were the homeless go? Big churches and small independent teams converged on the scene to assist the homeless. This included counseling and job offers, as well as offering to send them back to their home town, hopefully to give them another start at living. At the homeless shelter,living conditions were deplorable and an embarrassment to the city. Those who ran the program didn't want the homeless to be comfortable.

    People who registered as homeless in hopes of getting some type of help were loosely controlled. They payed two dollars a month to an organization formed to "benefit" the homeless. Living conditions at the shelter consisted of Mexican families living in one area, Mexican single males living in another area and the common laws living "over there". Everybody else lived in the middle and in the parking garages. Violations were dealt with by the organization,(thugs) and/ or the city police.

    John and I were a small independent team ministering to the homeless in Santa Ana. The thugs approached us about a man named Lenny who had not paid his two dollar rent. So we found Lenny who told us, "I help people make out resumes and job applications for free. The organization does not help with any good. No sirs, I'm not paying and John and you are not to pay for me."  That night the thugs set his tent on fire and Lenny lost everything.  

    Another example of tactics used by the organization was that they knew we gave out clean donated clothes and toys to the homeless. Around Christmas one year they asked if we could bring stuffed animals for the kids. A couple of days after we distributed the stuffed animals we saw those same toys scattered throughout the shelter, with stitches cut and the stuffing removed. Our donated stuffed bears had become little couriers for drug tracking.
    Drug indulgence is a major preoccupation with the homeless. John and I witnessed the tragic struggle that went on as the "poor dealt with the poor" for anything to get their next fix. They were not using quality stuff either; like glue sniffing to cut cocaine. They became amateur chemists by mixing different pharmacy and over the counter pills… creating junk drugs. This is never a good thing and it's how those who use these type of drugs became known as "Junkies". It was out of this environment that God rescued Floyd.
    We met Floyd at the nearby park basketball court. Floyd was a young strapping black man. He could jump high enough to touch the rim… I couldn't even touch the net!  Floyd was tolerant with us even though John and I were both out of shape and would get winded. For about a year and a half, John and I would be there almost every weekend, so we got to meet Floyd and Clementine his partner where they were staying in the common law part of the shelter. Within that time, things got progressively worse for Floyd.

    John and I prayed an agonizing prayer on Floyd's behalf. We wondered if we were doing more harm than good, as this strapping young man was deteriorating right before our eyes due to his drug use. He and Clementine originally came from Louisiana to get in on California's jobs. However Floyd didn't have any luck finding a job, and by only having to pay two dollars rent at the shelter, Floyd and Clementine fell into a trap that many of the homeless fall into. Once they are in the trap all hope is diminished and with little to no work to devote their time to, most of them prowl around at night like moles and then sleep most of the day.

    John and I offered up a plan to Jesus. We would both go in half to buy one way bus tickets for Floyd and Clementine, back to their home town in Louisiana, with an additional fifty dollars for spending money. Floyd and Clementine reluctantly agreed. "We're going." she said, still with a bruise on her eye from where Floyd had hit her. This trip was going to be the following Saturday because Floyd was receiving unemployment money on Friday. So on Friday, before they were to leave on Saturday, Floyd spent all his income on a "last nights binge." Clementine called us to say that Floyd was in no shape to travel and that neither was she being close to nine months pregnant. Had John and I done more harm than good by setting this all up?  It was a desperate time.
    On Saturday, John and I were there to send them off. We talked to Floyd's Mom over the phone asking if she could handle Floyd because he was not the same strapping young man that had left home. She said, "I am aware of my son's condition. You send my son home." Floyd talked to her and said, "Yes Ma'am, yes Ma'am." We hung up the phone. Now Floyd was dirt poor again after blowing his unemployment money on the binge, but he had a plan… or so he thought. Floyd said to his partner, "Clementine, let's go to the Salvation Army and they can fix up your hair." Clementine said, "We're going." Floyd then said to us, "As you know, I'm broke, we'll take the fifty dollars." John said, "You can't be trusted. You're a junky." Floyd then said, "OK, give me the tickets." John said, "We are taking you both to the bus station and handing the driver the tickets." Floyd said that he'd be able to hustle enough money at the gas stations and buy both of them something to eat, on the way.
    Within a month, Floyd's Mom called us to let us know that the trip home for Floyd and Clementine took three days and they were hungry when they arrived. She also told us that Clementine gave birth to a healthy boy. John and I sent them an infant size Anaheim Angels outfit.
    Luke 10:5-6 tells us, "But, whatever house you enter, first say, 'Peace to this house' and if the Son of Peace is there, your peace will rest on it; if not, your peace will return to you." God in His mercy answered our prayers for Floyd. The next time John and I saw Floyd he was "a son of peace", carrying his Bible and as we went on to discover, Floyd had become well versed in it! Through Floyd we were later able to meet many others in need of our Lord, the Prince of Peace.

    Thank you Jesus, Russ