SELMER, Tennessee: A jury is expected to begin deliberations Thursday to decide if a Tennessee preacher’s wife was an abused woman who accidentally shot her husband, or whether she blasted him with a shotgun on purpose.
Mary Winkler testified Wednesday that her husband abused her physically and sexually, but she said the shotgun fired accidentally as she pointed it at him in their parsonage bedroom.
The prosecution called the notion of an accidental shooting “ludicrous” and asked the jury to convict her of first-degree murder.
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If convicted of first-degree murder, Winkler, 33, could be sentenced to as many as 60 years in prison, but the jury could decide to convict her of a lesser charge.
Defense attorney Steve Farese said in his closing argument that the prosecution “absolutely, positively” did not prove Winkler intended to kill Matthew Winkler — something required for a conviction of first-degree murder. But Farese left open the possibility that she could have been guilty of a lesser crime.
“Have they proven any crime? Well — and this is hard for me to say — maybe,” Farese said. “Maybe she was negligent.”
Mary Winkler testified that she just wanted to talk to her husband when she went into their bedroom that day in March 2006, but that she was too terrified. “He just could be so mean,” she said.
Winkler said her husband punched her in the face, kicked her at times, refused to grant her a divorce and forced her to perform sex acts.
But, she told the prosecutor, her husband did “nothing” for which he deserved to die.
Mary Winkler’s depiction of her marriage was at odds with the description by the prosecution, whose witnesses described Matthew Winkler as a good father and husband. The couple’s 9-year-old daughter, Patricia, testified that she had a good father and that she never saw him mistreat her mother.
Matthew Winkler, 31, was fatally shot in his back. A day later, his wife was arrested 340 miles (550 kilometers) away on the Alabama coast, driving the family minivan with her three young daughters inside.
Mary Winkler said she planned to return to Selmer but wanted time alone with her daughters. She also said she still loved her husband.
A psychologist testified Mary Winkler could not have formed the intent to commit a crime because of her compromised mental condition. She suffered from mild depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, which started at age 13 when her sister died and was worsened by her husband’s abuse, Dr. Lynne Zager said.
Mary Winkler said she remembered holding the gun but not getting it from the closet. She said she heard a “boom” but said she did not pull the trigger, prompting prosecutor Walt Freeland to ask her later whether she understood how a trigger worked.
“You know that pulling a trigger is what makes it go boom?” Freeland asked.
“Yes, sir,” Mary Winkler replied.
Farese said in his closing remarks that, “If you look up spousal abuse in the dictionary, you’re going to see Mary Winkler’s picture looking back at you.”
But the prosecution said in closing arguments that there was no medical evidence of abuse.