Anybody ever hear about Kelly Tibbs? I read about her case years ago and was recently contacted by a friend of hers. I got to thinking about her again. I cant really believe she didnt get the death penalty.
She was a lesbian ring leader in her little town. She and her teenage friends were a little crew of lesbians that hung together and lived together. None had a steady home, all were from broken families somehow torn by substance problems or abuse or just plain neglect.
Kelly was the leader. Her nickname "Turtle" was the name she went by exclusively and all her followers tatooed a tiny turtle on their hands. This group was so odd. They were PeterPans lost boys and Turtle was peter pan. They traveled in packs and found food and lodging when they could. Everything was a game and they frolicked around everywhere they went.
Eventually a new girl came into the mix and began a half-assed relationship with one of the other girls. Emotions flew and she got murdered. Beat to death. Killed for a high school lesbian love affair.
On July 4, 1997, Stacy Hanna came to the City of Richmond from Lynchburg and moved into an apartment on Belmont Avenue, which she shared with Dana Vaughn, Robin Thurkill, Kelly Tibbs, and occasionally Tracy Bitner. Winckler lived nearby and was part of the social circle that included Hanna and her apartment mates. These women were all lesbians. Bitner and Tibbs previously had been romantically involved but had ended the relationship prior to Hanna's arrival in Richmond. Soon after Hanna moved into the Belmont Avenue apartment, she developed a romantic attachment to Tibbs, but Hanna "ended up liking [Tibbs] more than [Tibbs] liked [Hanna]." On July 24, 1997, Tibbs and Winckler had a violent altercation with Hanna, because Tibbs believed Hanna had lied about a romantic relationship between Tibbs and another individual.
On the afternoon of Saturday, July 26, 1997, Vaughn, Hanna, and Tibbs met in the Belmont Avenue apartment with Bitner, Winckler, and Stephanie Cull, another member of Hanna's circle of friends. Winckler, Tibbs, Bitner, and Cull left in Cull's car to pick up Thurkill from her job at a local restaurant. On the way to pick up Thurkill, the women began to complain about Hanna's recent fabrications concerning Tibbs, and they agreed that "they were going to kick [Hanna's] butt, teach her a lesson for lying." Later in the evening, these women, along with Hanna and Vaughn, attended a party at a friend's home, during which Vaughn fell ill. The group left the party in Cull's car. Cull drove the vehicle, while Tibbs and Bitner rode in the front seat; Hanna, Vaughn, and Winckler rode in the back. They proceeded to Marsh Field in Chesterfield County and parked next to a small building. There, all the women exited the car except for Hanna and Vaughn, who continued to feel ill. Tibbs eventually returned to the car and remained with Vaughn while Hanna joined the others, who were standing just a few feet in front of the vehicle. The women had decided to give Hanna a "butt kicking" for lying about Tibbs.
Soon after Hanna exited the vehicle and joined Winckler, Bitner, and Cull, Tibbs also rejoined the group, leaving Vaughn alone in the car. The women walked to the other side of the small building, where Tibbs and Winckler began to hit and kick Hanna. Bitner also joined in the assault. Bitner, Winckler, and Tibbs began to cut Hanna with razor-bladed box cutters. Within minutes, Vaughn observed Hanna's back covered with blood. Vaughn also saw Winckler strike Hanna with a belt and then throw a cinder block on Hanna as she lay on the ground. The assault lasted approximately ten minutes, after which Tibbs, Bitner, Cull, and Winckler returned to the car and drove a "couple [of] miles" away, leaving Hanna at Marsh Field. When the women became concerned that Hanna would report the assault, they returned to Marsh Field. They concluded it was necessary to kill and "get rid of" Hanna.
Upon returning to Marsh Field, Cull told the other women to put Hanna in the trunk of the car because Hanna "was going to get blood everywhere." Winckler and Tibbs did so despite Hanna's pleas to be allowed to ride in the passenger compartment. The women drove away from the scene for a second time, with Hanna striking the interior of the trunk with her hands. In response to Hanna's banging on the trunk, Cull stopped the car; Winckler got out and opened the trunk. Hanna asked to be taken to a telephone so she could call her mother; Winckler said "no," shut the trunk and got back in the car.
The women continued driving and discussed whether they should take Hanna to a hospital. Winckler and Bitner opposed doing so, fearing Hanna would report their actions. Bitner stated that Hanna's "tongue needed to be cut out" so she could not report them; Winckler stated that Hanna's "fingers need[ed] to be cut off" so she could not make a written report. Cull stopped the car along an unidentified back road. All the women except Vaughn got out and opened the trunk for a second time.
By this time, Hanna was "bleeding really bad." Winckler demanded Hanna's rings and watch. Hanna refused at first but finally complied, asking that she be allowed to keep one ring. Winckler refused. During this stop, Cull cut Hanna on the leg with a box cutter and at least one of the women spat on her. After they sealed Hanna in the trunk again, they drove on.
The group finally arrived at Nash Road, where they got Hanna out of the trunk and walked her down the deserted road. Cull cut Hanna on the back with a box cutter, and Hanna fell to the ground. Bitner, Tibbs, and Winckler dragged her approximately 100 yards further and there stopped to remove Hanna's clothes, which belonged to Tibbs. Winckler stabbed Hanna in the chest with a box cutter and held her in the mud while Bitner slit Hanna's throat with another box cutter. Winckler and Bitner returned to the car, Tibbs remaining with Hanna for a few more minutes. Once back at the car, Bitner boasted that she had cut Hanna's throat, stuffed mud in her mouth, and stabbed Hanna "near the heart saying I want your heart bitch, give me your heart, why won't you die." Winckler admitted she stabbed Hanna "over and over again" as well, and Tibbs said she had "stuck a stick" in Hanna's chest. Once the women returned to the car, they left the scene. As they drove away, Winckler announced that if any of them reported what had
just happened, "the same thing could happen to them." The women disposed of Hanna's blood-stained clothes and other evidence in a trash receptacle near Matchpoint Apartments, then returned to the Belmont Avenue apartment and cleaned themselves. Tibbs later told Vaughn that one of them had carved the word "liar" in Hanna's back.
On Sunday, July 27, 1997, City of Richmond and Chesterfield County police officers went to the Belmont Avenue apartment to investigate and later took the women to the Richmond police department for questioning. Chesterfield County Detective Rick Mormando interviewed Winckler and taped her statement. During the interview, Mormando recovered Hanna's watch from Winckler's wrist, and Winckler admitted taking it from Hanna while Hanna was in the trunk of Cull's car. Winckler told Mormando that when she and the other women had opened the trunk for the second time on the previous night, she told Hanna, whom she described as "scared sh--less," to "give me your watch, [and] give me your rings." When asked why she took the watch, Winckler replied, "I don't know. I just liked it." She stated that Hanna was physically incapable of resisting when Winckler demanded the watch and rings. She further stated that Hanna only surrendered the watch and rings because "she was scared sh—-less that [I
was] going to do something else to her." Winckler told Mormando
that she and the other women had already decided to kill Hanna when they drove to Nash Road. She also confessed that she stabbed Hanna in the chest and "tried to push her face in the mud . . . to suffocate her . . . ."
On January 14, 1998, a jury found Winckler guilty of robbery, abduction, and capital murder. The jury fixed her sentence at thirty years incarceration for the robbery conviction, ten years incarceration for the abduction conviction, and death for the capital murder conviction. The trial court set aside the death sentence and imposed a sentence of imprisonment for life on the capital murder conviction.