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Winters

Joshua Winters makes his initial appearance Wednesday in Natrona County Circuit Court. Winters is accused of kidnapping a 5-year-old boy from a Casper bowling alley and sexually assaulting the child.

A 5-year-old boy who was abducted by a man at a Casper bowling alley was sexually assaulted by the suspect, recently filed court documents allege.

Joshua Winters is accused of taking the boy Monday evening from the arcade at the El Mark-O bowling alley on the city's west side, officials have said. A woman found the boy crying and alone about two hours later. The boy later told police Winters sexually assaulted him, according to the court documents, which were filed Wednesday in Natrona County Circuit Court.

Winters’ name is redacted in the court documents. However, his name was read in open court and a prosecutor confirmed Winters' name. 

Winters, 33, appeared before a judge Wednesday afternoon for his initial hearing. He faces charges of aggravated kidnapping, first-degree sexual abuse of a minor and second-degree sexual abuse of a minor. Winters faces life in prison if convicted. Circuit Court Judge Steven Brown set his bond at $250,000.

During the hearing, Winters said “None of this happened, your honor, with the exception of the first part.” Brown asked Winters to stop talking about the case before Winters could elaborate on what he meant.

Prosecutor Brett Johnson told the judge Winters had lived “all over the place” because of his job and that police were checking several areas for possible criminal history.

Winters requested a public defender.

According to the court documents, Winters worked for a carnival at the fairgrounds as a food vendor.

Winters told police the child's brother stole money from his wallet while at the arcade, the documents state. Winters said he and a child left the arcade in order to recover the missing money. However, the boy jumped or fell into the North Platte River and Winters went in to save him from drowning.

Winters was being held Wednesday in the Natrona County Detention Center.

Police began investigating the kidnapping about 7 p.m. Monday after the victim’s mother reported the boy had walked to the arcade with two older brothers and another child, but had gone missing, the court documents state. 

At about 8:15 p.m., a woman brought the victim to the Mills Police Station, according to the court documents. She said she had found the boy at an intersection, which is redacted in the documents, and the boy had been alone and crying.

Police said Tuesday the boy had been found near the Central Wyoming Fairgrounds.

The boy’s clothes were wet and his left cheek appeared to be swollen, the documents state. He also had a large amount of sand on his clothing, arms and legs. When asked by police if he was alright, the child said “I’m not OK,” the documents state. He said he left the arcade with “the guy that gives me things.” He also said he and the man went “by the river so the man could show me his camp.”

When officers asked the boy if anything happened at the river, the boy said the man touched him inappropriately, according to the documents. The child also said the man told him if he screamed or told anyone what happened, the man would kill him, the documents state. 

Authorities arranged for the victim to be interviewed at the Children’s Advocacy Project, the documents state. During the interview, the boy said he had been “stolen” by a man he did not know. He also described how the man sexually assaulted him.

The boy was taken to Wyoming Medical Center and was seen by a sexual assault nurse examiner, according to the documents.

Officers were able to identify Winters as a possible suspect through employees at the bowling alley, according to the documents. He had bowled a game with a group of carnival workers and had also purchased drinks at the bar and had showed the bartender an ID card, the documents state. Police contacted the manager of the carnival workers and were able to locate Winters.

A breathalyzer test indicated Winters had a blood alcohol concentration of .02 percent at the time he was arrested, the documents state.

Three carnival workers who were with Winters at the bowling alley said they saw Winters playing games in the arcade with a child, according to the documents. One of the witnesses said they saw Winters leave through the parking lot with a kid and that the child appeared to be leaving willingly.

One of the boys who was with the victim at the arcade told authorities they had spent all their money and were getting ready to leave when a man approached them and offered them money to play more games, the documents state. The children told the man they had to return home to check in and the man told them to return to the arcade when they were done. The man also “stated in a stern voice for the boys not to tell their mother,” the documents state.

The boy said he was in trouble when he returned home because he was late and that he was not sure if the victim made it home, according to the documents.

During his interview with police, Winters said he had been at the bowling alley drinking since the early afternoon, the documents state. He said at one point he picked up his wallet off a bench in the arcade and realized money was missing from it. He said he asked a nearby child where his money was and the kid said his brother had taken it. Winters told police the kid said his brother had his money “by the river.”

Winters said he walked by the river with the child following, according to the documents. He said the child went into the water and he jumped in after the child and pulled the child back to the bank. Winters said he yelled to a woman on the nearby jogging path to call for help and then he passed out. He said when he awoke the child was gone.

When shown a photo of the victim, Winters said he did not recognize him, according to the documents. 

The documents state Winters initially denied giving the kids money, but then said he may have given one of the children a dollar. He also said he did not kidnap the boy and that “he could have gone the other way at any time,” the documents state.

Police viewed security footage, which showed a man fitting Winters’ description being followed by a “male” fitting the description of the victim, according to the documents. The documents do not state where the security footage came from.

Officers also searched parts of the river bank matching the description of the area the victim described, the documents state.

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Follow crime and courts reporter Lillian Schrock on Twitter @lillieschrock.

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