Roy Winn could fix almost anything.
Ex-wife Donnita Nyguen-Winn remembered a time the couple was tight on cash and needed a vacuum cleaner. Being highly skilled with his hands, Winn grabbed a broken vacuum from a Dumpster and repaired it.
He was also a devoted father who enjoyed trick-or-treating with his kids and riding his 10-speed bicycle.
Winn was generous. He once bought a homeless person a meal and offered his residence as a place to temporarily store their belongings.
Several days after the untimely and bizarre death of Roy Winn, 35, family members and loved ones are still trying to cope with the passing of a man they remember as a funny, loving father with a generous heart. The erratic way he acted before collapsing at Lodi Memorial Hospital is inconsistent with his character, an older sister of his said.
"I can't believe he's gone, and I don't know if I can accept it," said Annette, one of Winn's older siblings, who declined to give her last name. The Madera resident works in the state's prison system and said she didn't want to draw attention to herself by using her last name.
Winn lived with her on two separate occasions when he was taken out of foster care.
"This is all so shocking; like the way he acted, being so combative. I wonder if he hit his head or was given something to make him freak out," she said.
An unexpected end
Winn died Monday afternoon while in custody of the Lodi Police Department. He had been acting suspiciously before police apprehended him on the 200 block of East Kettleman Lane around 3:30 p.m. Prior to laying down on the street and waiting for cops to cuff him, Winn was running through backyards, garages and homes on Elgin Avenue and Cherrywood Way.
The area where Winn spent some of his final moments features a mix of neatly manicured lawns next to smudges of graffiti on the sidewalks. Vacant homes also pepper the streets.
Winn alarmed residents of the working-class neighborhood when he claimed people were "after him." He caused property damage as he hopped fences in the subdivision and shocked one resident whose home he entered and stayed in for several minutes.
Police arrested Winn for trespassing, prowling and suspicion of being under a controlled substance. Authorities took Winn to Lodi Memorial Hospital before booking him because he had received minor injuries from climbing fences and cutting himself on barbed wire.
But Winn didn't make it to the doctor.
Upon arriving at the hospital, he stopped breathing. Police attempted to save him, but were unsuccessful in administering CPR. Hospital workers were alerted by police to Winn's condition, but it was too late.
The father of two, who bounced around California's foster system as a child himself, had died, leaving family members to piece together his final, puzzling moments from news reports, hearsay and official statements from police.
An investigation into the events is being conducted by the San Joaquin County District Attorney's Office. The results won't be ready for another few months, said deputy district attorney Robert Himelblau.
"I can hardly imagine his last days or what he was going through," said Annette in a phone call, as she briefly broke down into tears. "I see his face all the time. It kills me to think what happened to my little brother."
'Didn't have a chance'
Winn grew up with seven siblings — four sisters and three brothers — in San Jose. Winn's mother wasn't abusive but had a problem with drugs, Annette said. Child Protective Services took him into custody when he was 11 years old.
"Roy was in the system through no fault of his own," Annette said. "But he wanted to be with family. He would run away from a foster home and they'd put him in group home."
The situation was crushing for Winn, Annette said. The foster care system didn't take into account where they were putting kids during those days, and siblings would be separated by large distances.
"If you are close with each other when they push you apart, it's devastating," she said.
As a result of running from foster homes and group homes, Winn started receiving infractions. Throughout the years, Winn would be arrested for minor violations of his probation, Annette said. It made a hard situation for Winn more difficult, she said.
"The older four siblings were all OK; the younger four didn't have a fair chance," she said.
Despite the hardships he endured, Winn kept a sharp sense of humor and lust for life. He'd take his two children trick-or-treating and enjoy the experience as much, if not more, than they did, Annette said.
"He'd just go as himself," she said. "He was just a big kid."
Winn's surviving family
His memory lives on through his children and family.
Winn's 8-year-old daughter shares her father's mannerisms and easygoing nature, his ex-wife said.
"His daughter has the best personality you'll ever come across," Nyguen-Winn said. "She's funny, energetic and happy; just like him."
Their 13-year-old son has Winn's mechanical abilities, and his father's nose and cheekbones.
Both kids inherited another key attribute of their father, Nyguen-Winn said.
"They both have his smart remarks," she said.
Winn and Nyguen-Winn met as high school students in Sacramento through friends. They were married in 2002. Although the marriage only lasted five years, Nyguen-Winn said the couple remained close friends after their divorce in 2007.
"We weren't like typical exes; we weren't cutthroat," she said. "Both of our parents were divorced. We wanted to be friends and not be enemies, and it worked out really well."
While many couples going through a divorce say they want to remain friends, they were able to because they respected each other, Nyguen-Winn said.
Although not originally from the area, Winn had been living in Lodi with a sister. His children reside with their mother in Empire, east of Modesto, and he wanted to be closer to them.
'A kind heart'
Although Winn endured countless hardships during his brief life, his sense of compassion never faded. Nyguen-Winn recalled coming home from work one day in the early 2000s while the couple lived in Woodland and finding a stack of boxes filled with clothing. Winn had encountered a homeless man and offered him a space to store some of his belongings.
"He said the guy didn't have a place to store his things," Nyguen-Winn said. "He had a kind, kind heart. Winn was the type of guy who'd give you the shirt off his back."
Winn also helped his sister cope with the death of her husband several years ago, Annette said. "He let me cry on him," she said. "I can put myself in his ex-wife's shoes; I know what she's going through."
The family is in the process of making final arrangements for Winn, and Annette made it clear that she doesn't blame the police in any way for Winn's death.
"His death has nothing to do with law enforcement," she said. "They had to take him to get looked at."
However, the sudden loss has been hard on the family, she said.
"His son almost broke down last night," Annette said Thursday evening. "He said, 'Daddy was supposed to come back and fix the dryer.'"
Contact reporter Jordan Guinn at firstname.lastname@example.org.