By Tamas Mondovics
After months of waiting, praying and hoping for the best, the support and loyalty of family and friends of the man now known as the Valrico doomsday prepper was unshakable, even as they braced themselves and then heard the verdict during a sentencing earlier this month.
Following his arrest in August, Martin Winters, 55, pleaded guilty to creating destructive devices resulting in his recent sentencing by U.S. District Judge Virginia M. Hernandez Covington to 30 months in federal prison as well as three years probation along with 200 hours of community service. He gets credit for nearly six months already served in county jail.
While hoping for a better or different outcome, Winters’ daughters are thankful for friends and family that stood by and continue to support their dad, who was facing the possibility of 20 years behind bars along with a $250,000 fine.
“The support means a lot to us and to him,” said Winters’ daughter Melinda just days after the ruling. “We had hoped to see him come home now, but we are thankful as things could have been worse.”
Addressing the judge, Melinda reportedly drew attention to her dad’s generosity saying that her dad only asks for donations from those that can afford it, and that those who can’t, they take what they need like food items.
Winters’ attorney, Ellis Faught, reportedly called the sentence “fair” considering what was facing his client, following the incidents including a two-day manhunt that led to his arrest by the FBI, adding that Winters did not hurt anyone.
According to the FBI, Winters ran a small group of doomsday preppers called the River Otters out of his Valrico home. An undercover agent infiltrated the group. Further investigation reported the illegal purchase of as many as 50 weapons, and threats to kill federal agents if they tried raiding Winters’ home to take his guns.
During his sentencing, Winters apologized to all present for his actions and told the court that his talk of wanting to hurt law enforcement personnel, which reported by an undercover agent included to “snag officers on fishhooks and shoot them,” was nothing more than just talk.
Winters sentencing comes after an investigation, arrest and subsequent sentencing of four other members of the River Otters.
While rendering a lower sentence due to his charitable work, Covington did not let Winters off the hook for his words against law enforcement officers, without some strong words of her own.
As for Winters’ family as well as friends and neighbors, the support continues to make itself clear by means of signs posted at dozens of homes throughout the community that read “This Home Supports Marty Winters” and will likely stay until his return home.