Doctor Says Mary Winkler Claims Abuse

Psychologist Says Tenn. Preacher’s Wife Says Husband Abused Her, Forced Her to Have Sex

SELMER, Tenn. – A preacher’s wife accused of murdering her husband told a psychologist that he often threatened her with a shotgun and forced her to have sex, the psychologist testified Tuesday.

Dr. Lynne Zager said Mary Winkler also told her that, on the day of the fatal shooting, her husband tried to stop their 1-year-old daughter from crying by placing his hands over the baby’s nose and mouth.

Prosecution witnesses have described Matthew Winkler, a 31-year-old preacher at the Fourth Street Church of Christ in this west Tennessee town, as a good father and husband.

But the defense says he terrorized his family and criticized his wife’s every move.

Matthew Winkler was found fatally shot in the parsonage where the family lived in March 2006. A day later, Mary Winkler was arrested on the Alabama coast 340 miles away, driving in the family minivan with her three young daughters.

The psychologist said Mary Winkler suffered from mild depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, which started at age 13 when her sister died and got worse because her husband abused her. She could not have formed the intent to commit a crime because of her compromised mental condition, Zager said.

Winkler May Take The Stand

Mary Winkler, 33, could be sentenced to up to 60 years in prison if convicted of first-degree murder.

Her attorney, Leslie Ballin, said the defense would wrap up its case Wednesday, and that Mary Winkler was going to decide overnight if she would testify.

The defense has said Mary Winkler intended to hold her husband at gunpoint only to force him to talk about the incident involving their 1-year-old daughter Breanna. The defense said the shooting was accidental.

Several witnesses for the prosecution said they never saw any sign that Matthew Winkler was abusing his wife. The couple’s 9-year-old daughter, Patricia, testified Monday that she had a good father and she never saw him mistreat her mother.

Pinched and Shoved

But Mary Winkler told the psychologist that her husband criticized her for putting on weight and regularly pinched and shoved her, Zager said. “The summer when she was out of jail was the first time she could wear shorts because of all the bruising,” Zager said.

Doctor Says...

Last week, prosecutors played an audiotape in which Mary Winkler acknowledged shooting her husband, telling investigators her “ugly came out.” She told authorities that her husband criticized her constantly and that she got tired of it and just “snapped.”

Tabatha Freeman, Mary Winkler’s younger sister, said Tuesday she noticed changes in her sister after she got married in 1996. She said Matthew Winkler controlled everything his wife did, preventing her from making any decisions and isolating her from her family.

“A very bubbly, outgoing sister became very subdued,” Freeman said.

One defense witness testified he saw Mary Winkler with a black eye in 2003, when Matthew Winkler was youth minister at a church in McMinnville, about 65 miles southeast of Nashville.

Rudolph Otto Thomsen III, who let Mary Winkler live with his family in McMinnville while she was free on bond, said Mary explained that she was playing with her girls and one of them accidentally hit her in the eye.

Behavior Changed

That didn’t strike Thomsen as suspicious, and the defense offered no proof that Matthew Winkler gave his wife a black eye. But Thomsen said Mary Winkler’s behavior often changed around her husband.

“It was like you’d thrown a switch. Her head went down, her hands went together,” Thomsen said.

The church secretary in McMinnville, Lori Boyd, testified that Matthew Winkler seemed nice at first but became demanding and cruel, treating other church staff members as “people lower than him.”

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Religion News Blog posted this on Wednesday April 18, 2007.
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