A woman accused of having an inappropriate relationship with a student apologized to the court for missing her last scheduled court appearance.
Marisela Mendoza Winn apologized after the court asked her why she had failed to appear for her Dec. 18 pretrial hearing, stating a misunderstanding between herself and her attorney led her to believe she did not have a hearing on that date.
The state in response underscored how the incident on Dec. 18, wasn’t the first time Winn had missed a scheduled hearing. In fact, the prosecutor stated Winn missed the hearing before the December hearing as well.
Winn was arrested and booked on Jan. 10, 2018, in connection with allegations she was having an inappropriate relationship with a 16-year-old student who she taught the year before, while she was a teacher at a McAllen IDEA school.
Winn, 41, a native of Edinburg now residing in Los Angeles, told the court she takes the case very seriously and was sorry for missing the hearing.
State District Judge Luis Singleterry admonished Winn and advised her to be more careful about future court hearings, and assured her miscommunication and misunderstandings happen, but needs to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
The former McAllen school teacher faces a second-degree felony charge in connection with allegations that she engaged in an inappropriate relationship with a student that included messages between the adult woman and the teen, and instances in which the minor was at the woman’s residence where they allegedly engaged in sexual acts.
The criminal complaint filed against Winn states it was the alleged victim, in the early hours of Oct. 30, 2017, who told his mother about the relationship; seemingly while under the influence of an unknown substance; weeks before the victim’s mother would report it to authorities.
“(Victim’s mother) stated her son went up to her and confessed that he had been having a relationship with his teacher and that he was no longer a virgin,” the document states. “Her son also confessed to her that on one of the occasions in which he had gone to be with his teacher at her apartment, he was caught trying to sneak back into her apartment.”
In addition to the confession from the teenager, referred to in the complaint with the pseudonym “Fernando,” the woman stated her son mentioned moving in with his basketball coach, referring to Winn.
More than three weeks later, on Nov. 22, 2017, the teen’s mother told authorities her son came home with Winn, an argument ensued, and the teen’s mother called police.
“(Victim’s mother) stated that her son threatened to leave and go live with his teacher or he would kill himself if she did not allow him,” the record shows.
Before calling the police, the teen’s mother stated Winn attempted to convince her to not call the police to no avail, as police and an ambulance arrived and transported the teen to a local hospital. Winn refused to speak to officers at the scene, or in the days after, and eventually hired an attorney, the document states.
In subsequent interviews with investigators, the teen first denied the relationship with Winn.
“Fernando stated he does not know what he told his mother about having a relationship with his teacher because he was intoxicated,” the complaint states.
An investigator, who was given permission to search through the teen’s phone, discovered roughly 5,000 pages of text messages between the teen and the then 38-year-old woman.
“One of the texts from Fernando to (Winn) read as follows: ‘In the summer I completely forgot u (sic) was my teacher the year before.’ The following text from (Winn) to Fernando was, ‘He was like she was all over my (expletive) she’s the kinda teacher, miss who would (expletive) one of her students,’ the document states.
The teen allegedly also admitted the relationship to the emergency medical technician who helped transport him to the hospital on Nov. 22, 2017.
“(EMT) stated that Fernando said, ‘I’m plumbing my teacher,’ (the EMT) stated she asked him what that meant to which he admitted that it meant sleeping with her,” the record shows.
According to court records, Winn noted she had been employed with IDEA schools since Aug. 2015, but after the teen’s mother reported the alleged relationship, IDEA schools stated they placed Winn on administrative leave and eventually released her from her position.
A Hidalgo County grand jury returned a formal indictment against Winn on April 19, 2019 — for one count of improper relationship between educator/student, a second-degree felony.
The state’s prosecutor noted that unlike Winn, the victim’s mother has appeared for all of the court proceedings and wanted the court to be made aware of that fact.
Singleterry asked the woman to identify herself and then advised her of court services that could help her with coordinating future court dates, so she’s not endangering her job showing up to all the hearings.
The court set a subsequent pretrial hearing for Winn, who remains free on a $60,000 bond, for Feb. 24, records show.