Staff of the Ellis County Sheriff’s Office, Waxahachie Police Department and Hill County Sheriff's Office are mourning the loss of a former colleague whose long battle with cancer ended on Nov. 28.
Jeffrey “Jeff” K. Winningham died at 47 after 23 years in law enforcement.
“Jeff was always fun to work with, and he had a tremendous sense of humor,” Waxahachie Police Department Assistant Chief Joe Bill Wiser said.
Winningham started his career in law enforcement in 1996 as a patrol deputy with the Ellis County Sheriff’s Office.
He worked with the Waxahachie Police Department from 1999 to 2009, taking on various roles.
“Jeff was a patrolman with us, and he did serve on our department’s SWAT team,” Wiser outlined. “Jeff was also assigned to our Street Crimes Unit, and he also served on the Narcotics Task Force.”
Winningham returned to the Sheriff’s Office in 2009, where he also wore many hats, including criminal investigator, patrol officer and corporal. He left in 2017 to work as a criminal investigator with the Hill County Sheriff’s Office, where he stayed until his recent passing.
"As a colleague, he had exceptional interrogation skills," said R.D. White who retired earlier this year as Hill County's chief deputy. "His ability to develop a comfort with people he met allowed him to put them at ease. It is that ability that allowed him to elicit information and confessions that aided in clearing cases... Jeff was part of a team in Ellis County that aided in the decline of major crimes in Ellis County by over 40 percent."
White and Winningham shared a friendship that spanned 10 years. They also worked together at Ellis County.
"As a friend, he provided comfort when his friends were in need," the retired deputy chief added. "He was sensitive to his family. Even in his time of decline, he worked to ensure he took care of as many details as possible to reduce any burden on his wife and family. He was always joyful in gatherings with his friends and always brought a laugh... I certainly will miss him."
As the youngest of four children and the only boy, Winningham's eldest sister, Judy Winningham-Steele, remembers him as the baby of the family.
“He was baby to all of us because there was a big age difference between us,” Winningham-Steele laughed. “He was also a premature baby and weighed 3 1/2 pounds when he was born. We all spoiled him.”
That premature baby grew up to be a formidable force in law enforcement and the rock of his family.
“My brother was a bright light in my life. He was always there when I needed him, and I could always depend on him," expressed his big sister with pride. "He had a calming effect because he had the gift of analyzing a situation in a rational way and telling you how to handle the situation. He was so smart and very talented.”
The tough criminal investigator also had a penchant for cooking and photography – and he was skillful at them. His sister said he was the designated chef in his home. He and his wife operated a photography business. You can check out his beautiful work on the Facebook page, Jeff Winningham Photography.
Winningham also had a sense of humor.
“They called him The Dos Equis Man because he drank Dos Equis and favored the guy in the commercial, and did the pose,” Winningham-Steele reminisced.
The long-standing first responder died in Waxahachie where he spent his whole life. He attended Waxahachie High School and Navarro College at Waxahachie.
A wave of friends and wellwishers took to the Waxahachie Police Department’s Facebook page to express condolences as news of his passing spread on social media.
“Jeff was such a sweet man and I enjoyed his quirky smile and friendship,” Mesheial Graham posted. “Prayers for the family and his law enforcement family.”
“He was a great guy and a great officer,” Guila Jackson recalled. “He definitely will be missed. Yes, he had a way of making people smile.”
“Prayers for his family, both blood and blue,” Donna Sosinski Segura added.
Winningham battled colorectal cancer, a type of cancer that starts in the colon or rectum. It is also called colon cancer or rectal cancer. The overall five-year survival rate for colorectal cancer patients is between 64 and 67 percent, according to the American Cancer Society.
Winningham is survived by his wife, Jessica; mother, Irene Winningham; sisters, Judy Winningham-Steele, Jan Kelly and Brenda Huddleston; children, Nicholas Winningham, Hailey Winningham-Sanchez and Lanese Feroli; and many nieces, nephews, cousins and grandchildren.
“During his last few weeks, we would hug and cry together, and he would be the one to console me and tell me everything would be all right as he hugged and patted me,” Winningham-Steele shared. “I loved him dearly, and he can never be replaced.”
The family encourages friends and wellwishers to make donations to the Heroes of Midlothian Foundation in Winningham’s honor. Visit http://heroesofmidlothian.org.