Family still awaits answers on Andrew Winkler’s 2003 death

The family of Andrew Winkler still mourns his death, more than 13 years after it took place, while police and a cold case group renew their call for answers (WTOV).

The family of Andrew Winkler still mourns his death, more than 13 years after it took place, while police and a cold case group renew their call for answers.

A $20,000 reward is being offered for new information on Winkler's death.

Winkler’s 2003 passing was initially ruled a drowning, but information uncovered by a cold case group suggests it was murder. Members of the group -- the Ohio Valley Cold Case Task Force -- also say they can prove it, but are hoping for more information in order for police to make an arrest.

“Fun, outgoing guy. Liked by everyone,” Andrew’s brother, Jonathan Winkler said.

Andrew Winkler’s family wants to know what happened to him on Aug. 27, 2003 in Warwood near a rope swing on the river when he was with a Warwood couple. His body was found floating in the river two days later.

The coroner's office initially ruled it an accidental drowning, but a Wheeling police detective suspected foul play. That officer was called to the military for service, and the case became cold until the Winkler family -- and the cold case group -- began investigating.

The cold case task force is coordinated by retired investigative reporter Fred Connors and is made up of several members of law enforcement who work on a volunteer basis.

"Back then, they didn't have the technology or the training to do this,” Connors said. “So we are picking the slack and trying to give these families some justice."

He says they are working on nearly 50 unsolved cases from Wetzel County to Jefferson County and in between.

And they're hoping the Winkler case is gaining steam.

"Three going down to the river bank and only two came up,” Jonathan Winkler said. “The woman came up the river bank beaten badly and then later the suspect came up."

"We need that person or persons to come forward and say, ‘hey he told me he did this; one night he got drunk and said this. Or one night he was bragging about it,’” said Harry Croft from the cold case task force. “Someone to come forward with the last few pieces of information.”

Croft is retired from the Ohio County Sheriff's Department and has spent hundreds of hours looking for that information.

He says the man with Andrew Winkler the day of his death knows something. He allegedly handed the beaten woman Andrew's belongings and told her, "he wouldn't be needing them anymore."

Croft also says the couple was caught on video leaving the scene without Andrew Winkler, never contacting 911, or anyone until they were approached later after a body was found.

Croft says he believes Andrew Winkler was protecting the women.

"A sexual assault was attempted in that water that day, and that's what happened to our victim,” Croft said. “He stood up for her, and we need someone to stand up for him.”

"We need closure; we need justice out of this,” Jonathan Winkler said. “The person responsible is still on the streets."

If you have any information on the case, you are urged to contact police, the cold case task force (304) 312-7896, or (304) 280-0729, or our anonymous Crimebusters Tipline at 1-800-862-BUST.

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