LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Imagine marrying a man you thought was perfect, raising four kids together and later discovering he killed his previous wife and another person. It's a dark chapter of a Louisville woman's story who is breaking her silence for the first time more than two decades after the crime was committed.
Rebecca Simic and her children will share their story on ABC's 20/20 special on Friday, April 16 at 9 p.m. Simic sat down with her brother Steve and talked to WHAS11's Senait Gebregiorgis about how she has turned her pain into purpose.
"I'm still embarrassed and I'm 48-years-old and I still don't like to talk about it," Simic said.
She was 23-years-old when she first met Mark Winger in Springfield, Illinois while looking for a nanny job.
"It just felt like Bailey was the one that really needed me the most like she had been through so much already at the age of three months," Simic said.
In 1995 police concluded that Bailey's mother Donnah, Winger's wife, was killed by a driver who took her home from the airport. Winger told police he acted in self-defense when he killed the driver in their home.
"[Winger] was called a hero and I was just like what an opportunity to make a difference in this little girl's life," Simic said referring to babysitting Bailey.
Simic became Bailey's nanny and later married Winger.
"I became pregnant with my daughter Anna and the kids just kept coming after that," Simic said.
She and Winger had three more children together. About four years after Donnah's murder, investigators reopened the case. Winger was named a suspect.
"He was always very good to me and very good to my children I mean we just never saw any reason to doubt him as far as how he treated us," Simic said.
In 2001 Winger was sentenced to life in prison for the murders of his previous wife Donnah and the driver who brought her home from the airport.
"I didn't find out a lot of those things I saw for the first time at trial," Simic said.
Simic's brothers welcomed her to Louisville to start a new chapter with her four children that she was raising on her own after Winger was convicted.
"[My kids] were strong for me," Simic said. "They were just four amazing kids regardless of what their dad did, regardless if he was innocent or guilty they were these awesome people and why should they be held back in any way, shape or form."
Simic's children went on to attend JCPS schools, played sports and are now young working adults to students in college.
"My kids and I were on the outside and we were trying to live our lives and rebuild, go to new schools, new doctors, new places and I had to get a job." Simic said. "There were just so many things that we were working on and we couldn’t be in prison with [Winger], we couldn’t be in both places."
Simic eventually changed her children's last name to hers.
"We were ashamed before and [Winger] was associated with very bad things and we couldn’t be proud of it," she said. "I got four Simics!"
Today Simic and her kids volunteer at Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Kentuckiana to help other children with imprisoned parents. To learn more about the organization's mission, click here.
"It's very important for those children to grow up with that confidence and know that they can reach their potential," Simic said. "Every crime there's a kid involved and there's an innocent child that's getting attached and is guilty by association."
One of her goals is to raise awareness about young victims of crime and to show them that they're not alone.
"You're not responsible for someone else's actions, you can't carry that burden and you can't carry that shame...it's exhausting," Simic said. "There’s a lot of women out here that are fighting this battle and I want to support them and I want to be a voice for them."