Mary Winkler alleges abuse

Prosecution says she killed him over financial problems

SELMER, Tenn. — A preacher’s wife accused of killing her husband with a shotgun blast had been depositing bad checks and feared he would find out, a prosecutor said as her murder trial opened yesterday.

The defense told jurors she killed her husband accidentally while trying to protect their child from him.

Mary Winkler, 33, only intended to hold her husband at gunpoint to force him to talk about his personal problems after a situation involving their 1-year-old daughter, Breanna, defense lawyer Steve Farese said. The defense did not describe the situation.

“The morning he did what he did to Breanna, she was going to get his attention — with the very things he had always threatened her with,” Farese said. He said Matthew Winkler had threatened his wife with a gun many times.

A prosecutor described Matthew Winkler as a preacher, a good father, and a man who trusted his wife. Even after she was arrested, Mary Winkler told police her husband was “a mighty fine person,” Assistant District Attorney Walt Freeland said.

The prosecutor said bank managers were closing in on a check-kiting scheme that Mary Winkler wanted to conceal from her husband. He said Mary Winkler had become caught up in a swindle known as the “Nigerian scam,” which promises riches to victims who send money to cover the processing expenses.

“This was beginning to catch up with Mary,” Freeland said. “The house of cards she had set up was falling down.”

But the defense lawyer said Mary Winkler handled the family finances only because she did everything her husband told her. She was abused verbally, emotionally, and physically, Farese said.

“Matthew and Mary Winkler had what appeared to everyone — those on the outside — to have had a marriage made in heaven. But behind closed doors it was a living hell,” he told the jury.

The 31-year-old minister was found fatally wounded at the parsonage of Fourth Street Church of Christ in March 2006. His wife was arrested a day later some 340 miles away on the Alabama coast with their three young daughters.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Friday April 13, 2007.
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