Fishers murder suspect had history of setting fires

Max Winkler (Provided Photo/Fishers Police Department)

FISHERS, Ind. (WISH) — New documents reveal new details about the troubled past of Max Winkler, a Fishers teen accused of killing a 73-year-old man.

The Fishers Fire Department reports say Winkler intentionally set three fires from 2005-2011.

Records show in 2005 and 2006 Winkler started other fires in his neighborhood. In at least one incident, Winkler said he took a lighter from the cabinet when his parents weren’t watching. In 2011, firefighters responded to the school and found Winkler had started a fire using a battery, wires and cardboard.

Parents in Fishers say these incidents should have caught someone’s attention, before Winkler was accused of killing Henry Kim.

“The first thing that goes through my mind is what are the warnings signs? Who missed them? Where are the reports, the paperwork, is anything being tracked?” said Fishers parent Oliver Ramiro.

One fire department report said a nanny told firefighters Winkler is autistic, and in the next report a firefighter references the doctor that’s treating Winkler’s autism.

Court documents show another possible warning sign. The charging document says about two years ago Winkler had a “bucket list” that spoke about killing and destruction. Still, he remained a student at HSE High School.

Court documents show the Fishers Police Department knew about the bucket list two years ago. 24-Hour News 8 reached out to police about that list on Friday. Fishers PD said they were looking into it, but no one got back with 24-Hour News 8.

Hamilton Southeastern said it couldn’t release further information on any of these incidents because of privacy laws. The school sent the following statement to parents Friday afternoon:

Dear Parents and Students:

As this difficult week comes to a close, we wanted to follow up with you to provide further information regarding the events of this week.

There have been important questions about when the district knew about the suspect’s identity. The police advised the district Monday (Nov. 3) after school had been dismissed. We subsequently learned of the suspect’s arrest the following morning (Nov. 4) during the Fishers Police Department’s press conference.

The safety of our students, teachers and staff is paramount and a shared responsibility. We ask that everyone in the HSE community continue to share information when they see or hear something that concerns them.

We also want to remind you of the services our counselors can provide to students and staff, who may need further assistance. We appreciate your support on this matter. We will continue to monitor the situation and will follow up with you should we have more information to share. The unity and strength of our community has been incredible.

Sincerely,

Dr. William Carnes
Interim Superintendent
Hamilton Southeastern School Corporation

We took some of the parents’ and neighbors’ questions to Chuck Hibbert, President of Hibbert Safe School Consulting. Hibbert has a background in law enforcement and school policing, and consults with schools on a variety of school safety issues around the country.

He’s not involved in this case, but spoke from his experience with similar situations.

“From what I’ve seen from the fire department reports, there are some disturbing ongoing behaviors that clearly seem to be escalating over the years. Again, we don’t know what the school was doing. My guess is, is that they were very active behind the scenes, and are prohibited by statute, from commenting in regards to that,” said Hibbert.

“The question often is asked, ‘Why weren’t we successful? Why didn’t someone see these pieces of the puzzle and put them together?’ I would often say that the pieces have been put together. It’s just that the resources or effectiveness of the resources, or the depth of the emotional problem, may be so great the actions weren’t effective at this point in time,” Hibbert added.

While we don’t know what other steps were taken in these cases, Hibbert says the community should always know – what to look out for.

“When you see these bucket lists, when you see things on social media, in general. All those should be signs, for everyone: the family, the school, and the community, that they need to work together, and reach out, and find something to help this child, who is obviously crying out for help.”

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