Multiple agencies combine forces to return 3 children ‘in danger of harm’ to their mother

Composite image with background image by Sheila Paras and overlay image by Caravan Images, both iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — What started as a hotel employee noticing “odd” behavior at a local hotel Monday resulted in multiple law enforcement agencies combining forces to find a suspect who was allegedly armed and had yet to return his children following a scheduled visit.

In this 2019 file photo for illustrative purposes only officers respond to an incident on St. George Boulevard, St. George, Dec. 23, 2019 | File photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

According to the probable cause statement filed in support of the arrest, the incident began when a desk clerk at a local motel reported an experience to her manager about a guest, later identified as 42-year-old Rodney Kevin Winterrose, of Heber City, who was “acting very odd” when he checked out.

Winterrose told the clerk to “ditch all of the children’s and his electronics … (and) then asked her to gather his items in his room and meet him somewhere else so that he could get his items back,” the report states, adding that the motel manager found a Facebook post for the guest that stated he was attempting to take his children to Hurricane. At that point the manager requested a welfare check for the children.

The responding officers then received a call from emergency dispatch advising there were possible custodial interference issues related to the suspect and that authorities in Utah County were looking for Winterrose.

The officer was also contacted by LaVerkin Police attempting to locate the suspect after a visitor at Zion National Park called police reporting a man acting oddly and asked if officers could respond to perform a welfare check on the man’s children.

When officers reached out to Utah County, they learned that Winterrose picked up his three children from their mother’s house on Saturday for a scheduled visitation and was to return them 24 hours later, as stipulated in the custody decree filed with the court.

When the children didn’t return home Sunday, the suspect allegedly told his ex-wife that he and the children had gone camping and his vehicle broke down. When Winterrose’s ex-wife told him she would come and get the children, the suspect then gave varying accounts of what had happened during the visit, and “would not tell anyone where the children were,” the officer noted in the report.

Winterrose had also purportedly hired a private investigator to expose his ex-wife, who the suspect said was attempting to sell the children into sex trafficking. According to the report, the investigator had been in communication with law enforcement and said Winterrose “needed to be located by police.”

In this 2020 file photo LaVerkin Police respond to an incident just south of River Rock Roasting Company, LaVerkin, Utah, March 11, 2020 | Photo by Ron Chaffin, St. George News

Officers also received information that the suspect had stopped at a firearms shop in St. George and was attempting to purchase an AR-15 assault rifle, the report states, adding that Winterrose told the owners he would be back later and that he “needed to ditch his old vehicle and purchase a new one so that he could hide.” The owners said he told them the FBI was after his ex-wife for attempting to sell the children and he needed the rifle to keep them safe.

Shortly thereafter, the suspect was located by officers in Washington City as he was trying to test drive a vehicle. Winterrose had allegedly requested to test drive a new SUV and then began removing items from his Chevrolet Tahoe and packing them into the new vehicle, which the lot owners said led them to believe the suspect may attempt to take the new vehicle.

When Washington City Police arrived at the dealership, the suspect was sitting near the rear of the vehicle reportedly reaching for a firearm. He was handcuffed and detained by police.

Based on information gathered from multiple agencies on the events that had transpired after failing to return the children to their custodial parent, the children were determined to be “in an unsafe situation and in danger of harm,” the report states.

A St. George Police sergeant arrived and picked up the children who were taken to the Family Center to wait for their mother who was on her way to pick them up.

While processing the suspect’s vehicle for impound, officers found two firearms that were within reach of the children, along with two unlabeled prescription bottles, one of which contained a controlled substance.

The suspect was uncooperative during the arrest, police say, other than to tell them his ex-wife was selling the children for sex trafficking, which is why he could not leave them.

By Monday evening, Winterrose was booked into Purgatory Correctional Facility facing second-degree felony possession of a controlled substance, as well as three counts of causing a child to be exposed to a controlled substance, and one count of possession of a firearm by a restricted person – each a third-degree felony.

The suspect also faces one count of custodial interference and failing to keep a controlled substance in its original container – each a misdemeanor.

The firearms charge was submitted after officers found a controlled substance and the firearms in the vehicle at the same time.

Ed. Note: A new Utah law generally prohibits the release of arrest booking photos until after a conviction is obtained.

This report is based on statements from court documents and law enforcement officials and may not contain the full scope of findings. Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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