9-year-old preacher’s daughter heard father’s fatal shooting

Prosecutors in the murder trial of a Tennessee preacher’s wife accused of shooting her husband asked the couple’s 9-year-old daughter Monday what she remembered from the morning of the shooting.

“Well, at first I heard this big boom, or something, and it seemed like somebody fell on the ground,” Patricia Winkler said. “I went to mama and daddy’s room to see what had happened. I saw daddy laying on the floor face down.”

When Patricia sat down at the witness stand, Assistant District Attorney General Walt Freeland asked for her name and birthday. She gave it, then looked over at her mother, Mary Winkler, and started crying. Her mother and several jurors also began weeping.

Matthew Winkler, a 31-year-old preacher at the Fourth Street Church of Christ in Selmer, was found dead in the church parsonage March 22, 2006. One day later his wife was arrested on the Alabama coast, some 340 miles away from Selmer, driving in the family minivan with Patricia and her two younger sisters.

Prosecutors have described Matthew Winkler as a good father and husband. But the defense has said the evidence will show he was a dictator at home who terrorized his family and criticized his wife’s every move.

Patricia told theprosecutor she had a good father and she had never seen him mistreat her mother.

Defense attorney Steve Farese asked Patricia if she had enjoyed visiting with her mother in September _ while she was out on bail _ and Patricia said she did. Then Farese asked her why she didn’t get to see her mother again.

“Because I didn’t want to see her,” Patricia said. And then after a long pause she added, “Well, I mean, I still love her,” and burst into tears.

The defense has said Mary Winkler, 33, intended to hold her husband at gunpoint only to force him to talk about his personal problems after a situation involving their 1-year-old daughter, Breanna. Thedefense did not describe the situation. Her lawyers also say Mary Winkler didn’t know how to load or fire a shotgun, and that the fatal blast was accidental.

A forensic pathologist testified Monday that Matthew Winkler was shot in the back.

Staci Turner, who conducted the autopsy on Matthew Winkler’s body, said shotgun pellets fractured his spine and ribs, damaging multiple organs. Turner said she removed 77 pellets from his body.

“The aspiration of the blood indicates he did take breaths after he was shot,” Turner said. “He did receive wounds to several vital organs. I would expect him to die within minutes.”

The shotgun was fired fromabout 1 to 4 feet away from Matthew Winkler, Turner said.

Mary Winkler has acknowledged shooting her husband, telling investigators that her “ugly came out.” She also told an Alabama Bureau of Investigation agent on the audiotape that her husband constantly criticized her and physically threatened her.

“It was just building up to this point. I was just tired of it. I guess I just got to a point and snapped,” she said.

The prosecution has said the Winklers were in financial trouble that that bank managers were closing in on a check-kiting scheme that Mary Winkler wanted to conceal from her husband.

One juror was excused Monday because ofa “clerical error,” court spokeswoman Sue Allison said, without giving any further details. “There was no impropriety. There was nothing improper,” Allison said.

The trial is expected to last another week or longer, and the defense has hinted that Mary Winkler could also take the stand.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Monday April 16, 2007.
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