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Former prison inmate gives back by helping to educate others

(Karl Winsness)

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Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

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DRAPER — Raunie Linberg was 8 years old when her father, a school teacher, was arrested in a case covered by all the news media in Utah.

“The stress and the sadness it brought upon our family, I wouldn’t wish that upon any other family,” Raunie said.

Nearly a decade later, Ronald Linberg still sits in the Draper prison, serving time for raping two of his teenage students.

“Not having a father in the home, it’s a big part of your life and definitely life-changing without him,” Raunie said.

Raunie said she made the decision at a young age to focus on school. But with her father in prison, her family struggled financially.

Her parents divorced, and her mother and three siblings moved in with their grandmother.

“I knew kinda starting out in school and starting out in high school, I would have to work toward scholarships and anything that helped me through school,” Raunie said.

Raunie is now a senior at Salem Hills High School and maintains a 4.0 GPA. She plans to attend Snow College in the fall and recently found financial help through an unlikely source — a plumber.

Help from an unlikely source

Karl Winsness of Kearns owns Karl’s Affordable Plumbing. He can relate to kids like Raunie.

“They’re just the innocent victims of their parents’ bad choices,” Winsess said.

In 1988, Winsness was convicted of shooting and nearly killing a Salt Lake County sheriff’s deputy as authorities tried to serve a no-knock search warrant at his home.

Utah Prison Statistics

Utah's prison population includes:

  • 3,120 male inmates at the Utah State Prison in Draper
  • 1,519 male inmates at the Central Utah Correctional Facility in Gunnison
  • 1,487 male state inmates in county jails around Utah
  • 500 female inmates at the Timpanogos Women's Facility (a standalone section of the Utah State Prison) in Draper
  • 109 female state inmates in county jails around Utah

Source: Utah Department of Corrections

“I fired two warning shots. They kept coming. I fired two more shots in retreat, an officer got shot,” Winsness said.”

Winsness spent nearly 20 years in prison for his crime, and during that time he saw the effects on his two daughters.

“My oldest daughter was struggling with work and school and full-time employment, and there was nothing I could do for her, making 40 cents an hour,” Winsness said.

He's been a free man since 2004 and is paying it forward — literally. He started the Willy the Plumber Scholarship for kids with inmate parents.

“The idea came to me out when I was in the pen myself,” Winsness said.

In the past two years, he’s awarded $7,000 to eight deserving kids whose parents are currently in prison. He works with the Community Foundation of Utah and receives some donations but most of the money comes out of his own pocket.

“Each year, you’d be surprised at how fantastic these applications are; it’s hard to decide,” Winsness said.

Raunie is one of this year’s recipients. She got the news on April 18, her 18th birthday.

“I was just so excited I was jumping up and down in my house, and I was like, ‘Thank you! This is the best birthday present anyone can get,’ ” Raunie said.

Sharing the news with dad

Ten years after he went to prison, Raunie still has a relationship with her father.

“I couldn’t be more grateful,” she said. “It’s empowered me so much and he’s taught me more lessons than anybody in my whole life.”

Ron Linberg is currently in the sex-offender program, so Raunie hasn’t been able to visit him. On May 12, she saw her father for the first time in the past year.

Immediately after her visit, she met with Winsness outside the prison. The two hugged, and Raunie shared with him her father’s reaction to the news she got the scholarship.

“He’s like, ‘that’s probably the greatest gift I can give you from being in here’ and he just got up and gave me a big hug and was so excited,” Raunie said.


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Sandra Yi


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