WHITELAND, Ind. - A triple-homicide in Colorado has an Indiana sex offender behind bars, and his former neighbors in the Johnson County town of Whiteland said they were not surprised to learn the man is in trouble again.
Jaacob Vanwinkle, 31, was booked on charges of first-degree murder, kidnapping and sexual assault of a child after the Sunday night bloodshed in the Colorado town of Canon City.
Police said they found the former Indiana prison inmate asleep in the home with the three bodies after a teenage girl told police that Vanwinkle had raped her at the home.
"It’s terrible. It really is," said Jeremy Buckler, who lived across the street from Vanwinkle in Whiteland.
Buckler said he wouldn’t leave his daughters alone to play in their own yard while Vanwinkle was living nearby.
"We were concerned. We were scared. We knew he was over there, and we knew of his record, so it was scary," Buckler said.
Indiana prison records show Vanwinkle was released in May 2012 after serving time for a 2010 theft conviction. He was a registered sex offender for a 2007 child molestation conviction, as well as a 2004 conviction for the same sort of crime.
"Now three more people have lost their lives because of our lax laws, and it’s pathetic," said Buckler on his front porch Monday night.
Vanwinkle was also arrested in 2011 for hiding the body of his roommate, who had taken him in at that Whiteland home. Deputies found Vanwinkle sleeping in that home, where investigators said he had covered the roommate’s body. An autopsy ruled natural causes so he was not charged in that death.
"What we saw was just a very troubled soul. It was like somebody who was broken," said Jackie Oyler, who lived next door to that home. "I never feared when he was over there, but I always had our guard up when he was over there."
"That didn’t surprise me that he was in trouble again. I mean he was always in trouble or just barely out of it, it seems like. But never to this extent," Jackie's husband, Robert Oyler, said. "I didn’t have any idea that he would do something like this."
Police in Canon City, Colo. said officers arrived to investigate a rape report from a teenage girl who had broken free and escaped to a neighbor’s home. They said they found Vanwinkle asleep in the home with the bodies of his 35-year-old girlfriend and her two children, a 9-year-old girl and a 5-year-old boy.
Police said school counselors were preparing to break the news and handle the grief from classmates of the children.
Autopsies were scheduled for later in the week, when police said they should know more about the causes of death.
"They should have had a better handle on the guy. That goes without saying," Buckler said.
The latest teenage rape victim was recovering under police guard. Vanwinkle was charged with three counts of first-degree murder, as well as three counts of kidnapping and two counts of sexual assault on a child by a person in a position of trust.
Both of his Indiana sex crimes involved victims in Johnson County, according to court records.