Many people have accused Mrs. Winters of hurting her stepdaughter—of abusing her to death, of conspiring to murder her to cover up an affair. But she's not the member of the family most often described as violent in the press.
Long before his daughter disappeared, Dr. Winters faced assault charges for punching his landlord in a dispute over rent. Long after the search sputtered to a halt, he was charged with a drunken hit-and-run accident, a local paper describing him as a "notorious local police character."
Many times during the search, Dr. Winters showed his temper to police and press—both groups attempting to assist him find his daughter—by threatening to hit whoever interfered with him. This odd snippet from February 1914 is typical:
"Dr. Winters denied a story which was sent out from Springdale to the effect that he planned to shoot the man who spoke about his first wife. He said he had a gun with him but he carried it only for his own protection."
While Mrs. Winters would find the evil-stepmother stereotype impossible to shake, Dr. Winters—whether a drunken blusterer or a genuinely dangerous hothead—showed a knack for alienating those who wanted to help him.