MEMPHIS — A minister’s wife convicted of killing her husband has filed an appeal to try to regain custody of her three young daughters.
Mary Winkler asked the Tennessee Court of Appeals to stop efforts by her husband’s parents to terminate her parental rights and adopt her children until a juvenile court judge hears her petition for their immediate return.
After Dan and Diane Winkler filed a termination-and-adoption petition in Carroll County Chancery Court on April 24, Juvenile Court Judge Christy Little ruled she had no authority to continue with the hearing requested by Mary Winkler for the immediate return of her girls.
“As a result of the suspension of the Juvenile Court proceedings, the three minor children continue to be withheld from their mother without just cause resulting in substantial mental and emotional harm to mother and her children,” Winkler’s attorney Kay Farese Turner wrote in court papers.
Winkler, 33, was convicted of manslaughter April 19 of shooting her husband, Matthew, at their Church of Christ parsonage in Selmer on March 22 last year.
Their children — Patricia, 9, Mary Alice, 7, and Breanna, 2 — have been in the custody of the grandparents since their mother’s arrest the day after the shooting.
Her attorneys say Mary Winkler agreed to let the grandparents have temporary custody of the girls until the murder case was resolved.
Now she is asking that temporary arrangement be set aside on the basis of “fraud, misrepresentation and misconduct” by the grandparents and their attorney Jake Adams, according to court papers. Adams could not be reached for comment on Friday.
Since Winkler’s arrest, the grandparents have denied her contact with the children with the exception of a visit last June in the McNairy County Jail and another visit in September.
The Winklers, who filed a wrongful death suit against their daughter-in-law in March, testified in April they refused to allow her to visit the children because she lied to the oldest daughter when she told her she did not kill their father.
Winkler, who has been free on $750,000 bond, faces three to six years in prison and would be eligible for parole after serving a third of the sentence. She will receive credit for the five months she already spent in jail.
Winkler, who is scheduled to be sentenced next Friday, could have faced life in prison if convicted as charged with first-degree murder.
She testified at trial that her husband was emotionally and physically abusive and she did not remember pulling the trigger of the shotgun.