No evidence ever connected Charles D. Winters to one of Augusta’s most notorious homicides, but his association with the men responsible drove him into a deep depression and new criminal charges.
Winters, 41, pleaded guilty in Richmond County Superior Court on Thursday to possession of marijuana and cocaine, speeding and driving under the influence.
Winters was arrested March 14, which triggered a probation violation warrant.
Winters told Judge Michael N. Annis on Thursday that when he got out of prison he found work and was doing great until someone asked what had sent him to prison. Once the stories of his past were found online, he was out of a job, Winters said. It happened over and over again.
In 2001, Winters was indicted with several other men on a racketeering charge that sought to connect them with Ronald Coleman and Carlston Coleman, two unrelated Augusta men who would be convicted of armed robbery and kidnapping in the death of Sam’s Club manager David Holt, 45, in July 1998.
Holt was accosted after closing the store and forced to open the safe, then was taken to a secluded spot across the river in Aiken County where his vehicle was set on fire with Holt locked in the trunk, investigators believe.
According to the indictment and the prosecution’s case, the suspects had banded together in a criminal enterprise that led to the deaths of Ryan J. Singh, 21, and Manuel B. Arroyo, 19, in 1997.
Winters and Jarman L. Harold were not involved in the killings, and in 2007, their convictions were overturned. A plea deal led to their immediate release from prison with an additional 10 years on probation.
Kelli Spencer of the public defender’s office told Annis that the feeling of being a social outcast led to depression that Winters tried to ease with drugs. With the medication prescribed within the past month, Winters has the ability to try to make it again and a relative in another state is willing to help him start over, Spencer said.
Annis revoked Winters’ probation sentence for two years and sentenced him to two years in prison on the new charges. Winters will be referred to an in-house prison drug and alcohol treatment program. If he finishes the program early, he will be released.
Annis added banishment from the Augusta Judicial Circuit as a condition of the remainder of probation to provide incentive for Winters to start over in a new state.