October 11, 2021 – Lexington, SC Sheriff’s Dept. officials picked up Dr. Mark Anthony Winchell of Savannah from the Chatham County Jail on Friday, after he agreed to extradition to that county on two warrants for his arrest.
He is a well known orthopedic surgeon in Savannah.
On his arrival there, he was served with two warrants presented in Magistrate Court on Sept. 22 and Sept. 23. Dr. Winchell then bonded out of custody on personal recognizance. He had been held in the Chatham County Jail for a week on an out-of-state hold.
The first warrants states, Oon or about 8/14/21, Mark Winchell did commit the offense of Attempted First Degree Sexual Exploitation of a Minor in that he knowingly use, employ, seduce, coerce, encourage, or facilitate a minor reasonably believed to be 14 years of age to engage in sexual activity or in a state of sexually explicit nudity or for the purpose of producing material containing a visual representation of such activity or nudity through the use of a computer or computer related media. During an electronic chat, Winchell asked what he believed to be a 14 year old minor, who he also solicited for sexual activity, to trade naked photos with him. This occurred at 521 Gibson Rd, Lexington, SC in the county of Lexington. This is supported by saved chat logs, Kik Messenger subscriber information, Comcast records, Yahoo records, personal photos sent by Winchell, and photos obtained from Winchell’s public Facebook profile.”
The second warrant states, “On or about 8/14/2021, Mark Winchell did commit the offense of Attempted Disseminating obscene material to a person under eighteen by knowingly disseminating material he knew or reasonably knew to be obscene to a person believed to be under the age of eighteen. Winchell, who was 49 years of age at the time of his offense, disseminated two photos of a nude, erect, adult penis to a person he reasonably believed to be 14 years of age via Kik Messenger.” The incident date and documentation in the second warrant is the same as the first.
Lexington County, SC has been involved in a significant sting operation targeting online predator during September. Last week, Sheriff Jay Koon of Lexington County announced that more than a dozen law enforcement agencies had worked together on a month-long operation targeting adults accused of contacting children online for sexual activity. Seventeen men have been arrested as part of the operation. And, “another man is wanted on charges stemming from messages exchanged with law enforcement officers posing as minors on social media apps,” according to the department’s press release.
“We, along with the Lexington Police Department and the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office, served as the host agencies for this operation,” said Koon. “Officers pretended to be underage teenagers as the suspects messaged them through apps. Some even had phone conversations with officers. After the suspect asked to meet with ‘the child,’ detectives were staged at a predetermined meeting spot to arrest them.”
Most of the messages featured sexually explicit language and images, according to Koon.
“The intent of these suspects during these communications is clear,” Koon said. “They were trying to persuade, entice or coerce someone they reasonably believed to be under the age of 18 to engage in sexual activity.” No children were ever used or placed in danger during the operation, according to Koon.
“This operation is the result of strong relationships among law enforcement at the federal, state and local levels,” he added. “I’d like to thank Attorney General Alan Wilson for making members of his office available for this operation as part of his continued commitment to local law enforcement.”
As members of the state’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, the FBI, Homeland Security Investigations, the U.S. Secret Service, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, the U.S. Marshals Service, the Cayce Department of Public Safety, the Mount Pleasant Police Department, the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office, the Orangeburg County Sheriff’s Office, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office and the Aiken Department of Public Safety also participated in the operation, according to Koon.
Dr. Winchell, an Orthopedist, is the owner of Savannah Bone and Joint, an active surgery practice located in Savannah on McAuley Dr. He is affiliated with multiple hospitals in the area, including Memorial Health University Medical Center and St. Joseph's Hospital-Savannah, and received his medical degree from St Louis University School of Medicine and has been in practice for more than 20 years.
According to the practice’s office manager, “patients are just being pushed back. No other doctor is filling in right now. That’s all we know,” she told the Savannah Business Journal last week.
A spokesperson for St. Joseph's Candler released the following statement on Thursday, Oct. 1, when his arrest by Chatham County became public knowledge: "Dr. Mark A. Winchell is an independent practitioner who is a member of the Medical Staff at our hospitals. Medical Staff leadership is aware of the matter and takes this very seriously. While they are unable to provide further comment, as with any matter of this nature under investigation, any and all necessary action will be taken in accordance with the governing documents of the Medical Staff."