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Police Beginning To Separate Twins Who’ve Confused Officers For Years

August 25, 1986

PATERSON, N.J. (AP) _ A set of identical twins who have a history of trouble with the law have managed to confuse law enforcement officials for several years, but police said Monday that scars and a tattoo are helping them tell the two apart.

Authorities nabbed the wrong twin Sunday on a fugitive warrant from South Carolina, but quickly realized their error and searched for the right one, Paterson police Detective Gene Schnaidt said.

He said Ronald and Ronnie Winbush are identical 22-year-old twins who have confused police partly by not carrying identification.

″And they don’t have middle names. So whichever one you grab, they say you’ve got the wrong guy. They’ve been doing this for years,″ the detective said.

″They’ve been in trouble since I came on the job in 1977,″ he said. ″They try to jive their way out of things. But as they get older, they get into battles, and face to face you can I.D. them by their scars.″

Schnaidt said the brothers had juvenile records and as adults have been arrested on drug and assault charges.

When police picked up Ronald Winbush shortly after 1 a.m. Sunday, they were looking for Ronnie, who was wanted in Marion, S.C., on charges of escape and intent to distribute marijuana, cocaine and a controlled dangerous substance.

Marion County Jail Director Vivian Reynolds said Monday that Ronnie had been in the county jail for two days before he escaped Wednesday by overpowering guards with a razor-type tool used for cutting boxes.

When Paterson police picked up Ronald on Sunday, the twin was telling the truth when he said they had the wrong brother. Police thought he might be right because of a scar on his forehead, but wanted to confirm his identity through fingerprints, Schnaidt said.

Before they had the chance, Ronald pulled out some fixtures in a cell in the city lockup and escaped through an air shaft. But shortly before 5 p.m. he turned himself in and his identity was confirmed, Schnaidt said.

Ronald, who was in custody but not under arrest, told police he fled because he feared he would be held for a long time, Schnaidt said.

″Most of the officers know these kids, and he probably realized that since they were both being looked for, he couldn’t hit the streets,″ the officer said of Ronald, who was charged with damaging municipal property and released on $3,500 bail.

Neither Ronnie nor Ronald could be reached for comment Monday. There was no telephone listing for them in directory information, and Schnaidt said neither is employed.

During their run-ins with the twins, Schnaidt said, police also have discovered that Ronald had his wife’s name tattooed on his chest.

″As long as Ronnie doesn’t go get one, that will help,″ said Schnaidt.

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