Murderer dies while awaiting execution

James Delano Winkles, who was on death row for murdering two Pinellas County women, died Thursday of what appeared to be natural causes, the Florida Department of Corrections said.

Winkles, 69, was convicted of the 1980 murder of Elizabeth Graham, a 19-year-old dog groomer, and the 1981 murder of Margo Delimon, 39, a Clearwater real estate agent.

Winkles, who lived in Pinellas Park at the time of the murders, abducted the women and raped them over several days before killing them.

The murders went unsolved for almost two decades, until Winkles confessed. Serving a life sentence for the 1982 kidnapping of a woman in Sanford, Winkles contacted Pinellas sheriff's detectives in 1998 and offered to provide information about the two murdered women.

He pleaded guilty to both killings. His lawyers asked for a life sentence instead of the death penalty, arguing that he was in poor health and would soon die in prison.

Winkles had boasted that he abducted, raped and killed 62 women, including 41 in Pinellas, information that detectives were never able to corroborate.

In interviews with the St. Petersburg Times in 1998, Winkles said he contacted detectives about the Graham and Delimon deaths because he was feeling guilty.

"I got away with stuff for so long," he said. "Things I've done make Ted Bundy look like a choirboy."

The families of the murdered women could not be reached for comment Saturday.

Lt. Michael Madden, who was a homicide detective at the time, said Winkles continued to contact detectives even after the Graham and Delimon cases were over.

"He would tell us that he was ready to talk. We'd go visit," Madden said. "He would put us off and say he wasn't ready."

That went on for years.

"There's still an amount of frustration because we believe that he was involved in other homicides that we still have questions about that he would never answer," Madden said.

Winkles bragged about his killings but asked for mercy for himself when it came time for a judge to decide if he should be executed for the murders of Graham and Delimon.

He told the judge in 2003 that he wasn't the same person and didn't expect to live long anyway because he was suffering from heart problems and high blood pressure.

"I've grown morally," he said. "I wish I could turn back time and undo what I have done."

Winkles, who was imprisoned at Union Correctional Institution in Raiford, died at 6:25 a.m. Thursday, said Gretl Plessinger, a spokeswoman for the Department of Corrections. A medical examiner will determine the cause of death, she said.

No one had claimed his body by Friday, she said. If Winkles' body is unclaimed, he would be buried in the inmate cemetery at the correctional facility.

Waveney Ann Moore can be reached at wmoore@sptimes.com or (727) 892-2283. Kameel Stanley can be reached at kstanley@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8643.

Murderer dies while awaiting execution 09/11/10 [Last modified: Sunday, September 12, 2010 12:35am]

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