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Woman Leaps To Safety After Being Doused With Paint Thinner

August 3, 1991

BERWICK, Pa. (AP) _ A woman who was doused with paint thinner and held captive by her stepfather jumped from a bedroom window as officers stormed the house and stopped the suicidal man from setting the two on fire, police said.

Police ended the two-hour standoff Thursday by wrestling Wells C. Winn, 45, to the floor and spraying him with fire extinguishers as he struggled to strike a match. Officers said he begged them to let him commit suicide.

His daughter, Dawn Hess, flung her Yorkshire terrier, Peepers, out the window and then jumped out of the second-floor window into the arms of a clergyman and a district attorney standing below. Except for severe irritation from the paint thinner, she was not hurt, police said.

Police Chief Eugene Golla, one of three officers who stormed the bedroom, said the fumes were so strong that the house would have exploded had Winn struck the match.

Winn had barricaded himself and his stepdaughter in the family’s home after nearly a week as a fugitive. Police accused him of kidnapping and assaulting his estranged wife, Paula Winn, last week.

Ms. Hess told police she had returned to the house with her boyfriend to feed the family dogs and get some clothes when Winn jumped from a bedroom closet. The boyfriend, Chris Joline, said he heard Ms. Hess scream and he went inside and saw Winn holding his daughter at the top of the stairs.

″He said, ’You come any closer and I’ll blow us all up,‴ Joline said.

Police surrounded the house and waited.

″The situation had really deteriorated rapidly,″ said police Sgt. Robert McCormick. ″He had poured a flammable liquid on to his daughter and was showing us the matches. That’s when we determined to go in.″

After being arrested, Winn was arraigned on charges involving the alleged abduction of his wife. Bail was set at $145,000, and Winn was taken to Geisinger Medical Center for psychological evaluation.

Police said Winn would be charged later, probably with risking a catastrophe, reckless endangerment, terroristic threats, unlawful restraint and criminal attempt to commit aggravated assault.

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