Suspect in child's sex assault in Richland County previously com - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Suspect in child's sex assault in Richland County previously committed as sexually violent

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RICHLAND CENTER (WKOW) - A suspect in the sexual assault of a girl in Richland County was formerly committed to a mental health institution after being legally classified as a sexually violent person.

John Elder, 47, is charged with sexual assaults of a child when the child was both 12 and 13, causing a child to view/listen to sexual activity and false imprisonment.  Elder's girlfriend, 43-year-old Annette Winger is charged with felony failure to protect a child.  Authorities say Winger arranged for the girl's visits when Elder would then sexually assault the child, in the presence of Winger at times.

Online court records show Elder was civilly committed on March 10, 2006 as a sexually violent person.  Elder had a 1996 child sex assault conviction.

Elder petitioned the Richland County Court for release, and a jury found Elder no longer a sexually violent person on Nov. 27, 2013.  Records indicate Elder was released from his mental health commitment in December 2013.

Prosecutors are using the same, civil process in the case of so-called Halloween killer, Gerald Turner, who completed a prison sentence for murder and sexual assault earlier this year.

Elder is scheduled to make his initial court appearance on the current charges Monday.

Winger appeared in Richland County court Friday without an attorney by her side.


"I know he's supposed to be calling from Madison,"  Winger told the court.

The attorney's call led to a postponement of the hearing until May 11.

A criminal complaint states Winger lied to the child's caregiver about the girl's time with Winger.  The complaint also states Winger watched at times as the girl performed sex acts on Elder.
 

"Winger stated that if (the child) did not do the things ELDER was asking her to do, ELDER would become suicidal,"  the complaint states.
 

After Winger's court appearance, Richland County District Attorney Jennifer Harper declined to answer any questions, including whether child enticement or any other charges were considered against Winger.

Winger's next door neighbor, Jack Sherman, tells 27 News he would see Winger, Elder, and the girl hand-in-hand as they went into their apartment, with nothing appearing unusual.  He's stunned by the accusations, and the harm caused to the child.


"I hated it.  Like everybody else, wish you know what was going on, but I didn't,"  Sherman says.

Earlene Wilson formerly worked with Winger and says there was nothing to indicate Winger would later become involved in a crime against a child.  "She was a nice person,"  Wilson tells 27 News.


Winger has no previous criminal record.

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