Preacher's Wife on Stand for Murder
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    Default Preacher's Wife on Stand for Murder

    Preacher's Wife on Stand for Murder: Husband Forced Me to Have Sex, Refused Divorce

    SELMER, Tenn.
    A preacher's wife accused of murdering her husband testified Wednesday that she doesn't remember picking up the shotgun or pointing it at her husband, but she said she not pull the trigger. She heard a "boom" as the shotgun fired, she said.

    "Something went off," Mary Winkler said, crying on the witness stand.

    She said she just wanted to talk to her husband, Matthew, when she went into their bedroom, but she was terrified. Her husband was physically and sexually abusive, she said. That day, she said, she just wanted to stop him from being so mean.

    Her depiction of her marriage contrasts radically from the description by the prosecution, whose witnesses described Matthew Winkler as a good father and husband.

    Matthew Winkler, 31, was found fatally shot in the parsonage where the family lived in March 2006. A day later, his wife was arrested on the Alabama coast 340 miles away, driving the family minivan with her three young daughters inside.

    Earlier Wednesday, Mary Winkler testified her husband punched and kicked her, forced her to have sex she considered unnatural and refused to grant her a divorce.

    The defense showed the jury a pair of white platform-heel shoes and a wig she said her husband wanted her to wear during sex.

    Mary Winkler talked quietly with her eyes downcast. She identified pornographic pictures as those she saw on her husband's computer, and those photos were entered as evidence. She said he wanted her to look at pornography before sex.

    Matthew Winkler was a smart and talented man, his wife testified, but she said he could also be mean.

    Shortly after they were married, "he just got me down and told me that I was his wife and we were family now, and he just screamed and hollered," Mary Winkler said.

    She testified that he once kicked her in the face during an argument, and that he also hit her in the face, pushed her down and hit her with a belt.

    "I just wanted out," she said.

    She said he kept her away from her family and criticized her appearance: "I was fat, hair wasn't right. With the girls, if something went wrong, it was my fault. If it rained, it was my fault," she said.

    Mary Winkler, 33, could be sentenced to up to 60 years in prison if convicted of first-degree murder. But a psychologist who testified for the defense said she could not have formed the intent to commit a crime because of her compromised mental condition.

    Dr. Lynn Zager testified that Mary Winkler 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.

    The disorder made it more likely that Mary Winkler would have "dissociative episodes" in which she lost track of her ability to think and feel, as though she were living in a fog, Zager said.

    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, and that the shooting was accidental.

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

    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 that she had a good father and she never saw him mistreat her mother.

    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.
    "Watch what people are cynical about, and one can often discover what they lack. -- Gen. George S. Patton

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