LELAND, NC (WECT) - It's every mother's worst nightmare. On Thursday, April 12, Shawn Winkler shot himself in the head in the garage of his Leland family home.
He died three days later at 30 years old.
"Shawn started out as a very happy, loving boy, " said his mother, Sarah Winkler, in a document she sent to WECT News.
On the day Shawn killed himself, Sarah said he began acting erratically and trashing his room.
"He just went ballistic. He started screaming at me," Sarah said. "He thought everyone was in on a scheme to make him think he was crazy.
"When he stood up from the couch, I noticed a gun flopping back and forth under his arm."
Shawn told his mother he was going to Holly Ridge to kill his girlfriend and five others.
"At that point, Shawn was so mentally unstable I did not know if he would actually use the gun, but I had this maternal instinct, like flags waving and mine were waving big time," Sarah said.
Sarah locked herself in her bedroom. She called 911 and within minutes, eight cops had her home surrounded.
"That's when I heard a pop sound," Winkler said. "It sounded like those plastic poppers at New Year's. The next thing I know, officers were running around everywhere putting up crime scene tape.
"I was told Sean shot himself in the head in the garage. He was still breathing when he got to the hospital. Once at the hospital, he tested positive for marijuana and meth."
With no insurance money, Sarah went the route of direct cremation. By doing that, an obituary isn't prepared for the deceased, so Winkler went on the Internet to write one herself.
"I have always been an honest, open book...blunt type of person. I don't need to sugarcoat anything," Winkler said.
Winkler discovered most obituaries said that in the event of suicide, it's customary to say "passed away suddenly" or "passed away unexpectedly."
"I thought to myself, what a strange society we live in with all the technology we have so readily available and yet where death, regardless of the reason, still seems to be a taboo subject," Winkler said.
So Sarah decided to tell the truth. The first line of the obituary reads:
Shawn Andrew Winkler, 30, took his own life after a lengthy battle with his demons, depression and drug addiction on Sunday, April 15, 2018.
She went on:
Shawn was a troubled soul who lacked a good male role model. The rest of his family though, loved him very much and tried to reassure him of this every day. Unfortunately, meth and the voices that appear to accompany meth use told Shawn otherwise."
The final line may be the most brutally honest, and one Winkler says she hopes hits home to others who are affected by the drug crisis in our area or dealing with a suicide:
In lieu of flowers, and if you want to remember Shawn, please do so by not doing drugs, love your children and kill a drug dealer — OK, maybe not that last one — but you can certainly report any drug dealings you become aware of to your local law enforcement, even if you suspect it’s your own child.
"My hope was that people get some sort of a shock treatment over this, like, 'Whoa, she said it,'" Sarah said. "What I wanted was someone to read that and see other people are going through this. There are people depressed with drug addiction and if they are not getting help, they are committing suicide. It's really going on."
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