Banker accuses slain preacher’s wife of check fraud

SELMER, Tennessee (CNN) — The day before a Tennessee preacher was shot to death, a banker tried to reach his wife several times about an account in her name that was nearly $5,000 overdrawn, a corporate fraud investigator testified Saturday.

When Mary Winkler finally returned the calls to Regions Bank late in the afternoon on March 21, 2006, banker Mary Guest told her she was unable to deposit checks from another bank because there weren’t enough funds to cover them.

“I told her what she was doing was called kiting checks,” Guest testified she told Winkler.

Guest testified she told Winkler the practice could result in criminal charges, and reminded Winkler that she and her husband had an appointment at the bank the following morning to discuss the problem.

“I didn’t seem to detect any distress,” Guest said.

She said the three joint accounts the couple had at Regions had a positive balance.

Regions fraud investigator Amber Brown said that on March 20 and 21, Mary Winkler made 16 fund transfers by telephone.

Winkler, 33, is accused of using a 12-gauge, pump-action shotgun to kill Matthew Winkler in the early hours of March 22, before fleeing to the Alabama coast with the couple’s three young daughters.

Matthew Winkler’s body was found in the parsonage of the Fourth Street Church of Christ in Selmer, Tennessee, by parishioners investigating why he failed to show up for an evening service. He had been shot in the back as he slept.

Prosecutor Walt Freeland has portrayed Winkler as a conniving killer motivated by a need to keep her financial indiscretions secret, while defense attorneys describe her as an abused, belittled and desperate woman.

Police said Mary Winkler confessed to the slaying after her arrest in Orange Beach, Alabama. She is free on $750,000 bond.

Freeland said Thursday in his opening statement that the couple’s finances, which were handled by the wife, were in “shambles.” (Watch Winkler react during opening statements Video)

Mary Winkler, he said, had been cashing fraudulent checks sent to her by con artists overseas. She had set up accounts in various banks and was creating false balances by juggling funds between them, he added.

CNN’s David Mattingly contributed to this report.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Sunday April 15, 2007.
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