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Why do you think the public was captivated with this story? It was something that was so totally unexpected. Someone had broken into the home, killed Matthew with the gunshot, and then took Mary and the girls and left. A church pastor is dead, and his family is missing at this hour. When you add religion to murder and then sprinkle in abuse, everyone's in shock and no one knows who to believe. This This is pretty telling. The killer unplug the phone. Yes. So no one could call anywhere for help. People were frantic, thinking that there may be a killer on the loose. Most important thing to them right now is to find Mary Winkler and find the three girls. So how does that missing wife and mother go from lost to found? Ma'am, get out of the vehicle. Get your hands out of the vehicle, ma'am. Widing up in a police investigation. I have nerve now, and I have self So my ugly came out. I guess my ugly came out. What does that mean? We could not have fathomed what actually did come out. Not in our wildest, wildest thoughts. This is stuff that doesn't happen to church folks.


The ugly side came out. Somebody ended up shot dead. It became one of the biggest, most talked about stories in the entire country. And it all started here in the heart of the Bible Belt in this small church in the tiny town of Selmer, Tennessee. Matthew Winkler would preach to his congregation every Sunday morning here about right and wrong and about living your life in the service of God. On March 22nd, 2006, everyone was gathering at the church ready for the Wednesday night's service. Matthew Winkler was pretty new at being the new head preacher, so he certainly didn't miss any services. It's unheard for the preacher, his wife and his daughters who are there every week, and they don't show up. But even though they kept watching the door, waiting for him to come through it with apologies and messages of love for the congregation. It never happened. Overcome with worry and concerns, some of the members of the congregation take a five-minute drive to the church parsonage behind me. It's where the minister, Matthew, his wife, and three children lived. Once inside, the church members make a shocking discovery. We were knocking on the windows, knocking on the doors.


At that point is when I felt that something was wrong because the key was on the inside of the door. The TV was on, and there was no answer. At some point, they go inside the home, walk through, calling his name, calling Mary's name, calling for the girls. Yelling, Is anyone in here? Can anybody hear us? They looked around. No Mary, no little girls. Everything looked normal. Nothing looked out of place. But the master bedroom door was shut. They walked over and opened it, and all their nightmares were answered. So Matthew was laying there on his back. A foam was protr from his mouth and nose. We knew pretty obviously that he was dead at that time. So we called 911, and then we all gathered in the living room and held hands and prayed for Mary and the children because we had assumed that they had been abducted. Church members couldn't fathom who would kill their preacher. This is a man who, in fact, was considered religious royalty here in Tennessee, coming from a long line of distinguished ministers. Matthew Winkler is the son of a preacher and the grandson of a preacher and a great-grandson of a preacher.


The only one who could ever reach me was the son of a preacher man. It's in his blood, literally. Was the son of a preacher Mary grew up in a Church of Christ family also. Mary was raised in a strict household in Knoxville, Tennessee. At South Doyle High School, she was known as a reserved student with a good sense of humor. She didn't draw a lot of attention to herself. That's also true of many women in the Churches of Christ Church. They don't want to bring a lot of attention on themselves. Mary was cute as a button. She was always ready with a smile and a touch on the hand. And she just was the perfect embodiment of a church of Christ woman. Mary and Matthew met at free Harteman College. It's a college affiliated with the Church of Christ. And Mary has said that initially they were just friends, but then they started dating. And apparently, Matthew must have liked her because three months later, he asked her to marry him. Both Matthew and Mary dropped out of school because they couldn't afford it anymore. Then Matthew got work as a youth minister in Mcminville, Tennessee.


How would you How does that describe the Church of Christ to someone who's not familiar with it? It's very conservative, a Bible-based church. We say we have no creed but the Bible. They believe in the literal interpretation of the Bible. And there are scriptures in the Bible that says that a woman is subservient to the man. Board of elders, the preacher, all of those in the leadership positions are men. Tell me about Matthew His temperament. Gregarious. Somebody who could go into a room of strangers and make friends within minutes.Magnetic personality.Magnetic personality. Your impression of Mary. Mary seemed like a frail and vulnerable woman. She had a downcast look. She would not make eye contact, and she was walking three or four steps behind Matthew. Matthew had this feeling he couldn't measure up to his father. He bristled under just being a youth minister. He wanted to be the preacher of his own church. It was in January of 2005 that Matthew and Mary Winkler moved here to the town of Selmer. Matthew had just landed his dream job named the Head Pastor here at the Church of Christ. Selmer is a sleepy little town in Tennessee, right by the border with Mississippi.


It is a place where people sit out on their porch drinking sweet tea and talking with their neighbors as they walk by. It's very Southern in so many ways. One of Elvis Presley's first outside of Memphis performances was here in this county. The highway going through Selmer to Elvis's home is called Rockabilly Highway. What is this town like? Small town. Close unit family. Pretty religious? I see a lot of churches here. Yes. Almost every corner, you'll find a church. True happiness is found in God's word. True happiness is not only found in God's word, it's found by living the way God says to live in that word. The Winklers found a wonderful church in Selmer, Tennessee, and the people of the community and congregation embraced them and welcomed them. It seemed It's like the perfect scenario. That is, until March 22nd of 2006, when that beloved young minister was found dead on the floor of his bedroom. Was it a kidnapping? And it just went wrong. Someone definitely intended to kill Matthew Winkler. In a small town, people were frantic, thinking there was a killer on the loose. And where were Mary and the girls?


Had someone unknown come into the home, killed Matthew, and gone off in the family van with the three girls and Mary, holding them captive. On March 21, 2006, in the small town of Selmer, Tennessee, Matthew and Mary Winkler, along with their three little girls, girls settled in for a quiet evening at home. They order pizza and watch the animated movie, Chicken Little. The sky is falling. The sky is falling. But somehow this everyday peaceful family activity would turn into a gruesome crime scene with seemingly deadly intention. Matthew Winkler was shot in the back with a twelve gage shotgun. 12 gay shotgun is either used to hunt or personal protection, and it's used to kill. My initial thought was, someone definitely intended to kill Matthew Winkler. Members of the fourth Street Church of Christ find their beloved Minister, Matthew Winkler, dead in his home, just minutes away from the sanctuary. They immediately call the police. Where were you when you got the phone call? I was at home, of course, in bed, getting ready to go to bed. Then I immediately started reaching out to the agents and the crime scene team to get them to start responding to this location.


When the police came into the house, they cleared all the church members out, but they interviewed them as well and started picking apart the scene, looking for anything that could give them information. They would have started with the interior, taking photographs, taking measurements. Nothing was out of place. It wasn't ramsacked, looking for valuables. But what would stand out is when you got to the back bedroom. There were blood stains on the pillows. There were blood stains on the floor. Matthew was laying beside the bed, and that's where he was found. But you think he was shot while he was still in bed? Yes. He would have rolled over. Investigators were thinking of a lot of things that this scenario suggested. You have someone fatally wounded. No one else is around. Is this some type of robbery that had turned into murder? Was this a vendetta or was it a kidnapping? And it just went wrong. At that point, you don't know? You don't know. I mean, it's a mystery. What do we have here? This is actually the bed. This is the bedroom? That would have been where he was sleeping. Could have been shot from here or from here?


Well, probably from this side. He was shot on the bed. So that tells you that the shooter had no confrontation with him. There was no defense that Matthew could have put up, being that he was shot in In the back. And this is the shotgun shell. It's actually the round that killed him. Over here, this is the bird shot. That's some of the bird shots.Recovered from his body.Correct. This is the actual shotgun? Yes, sir. Can you show it to us? That's a twelve gage pump. What damage can it do, close up? Lots of damage. A twelve gage shotgun shooting birdshot. When it makes impact, it's going to explode with all of these pellets. And Matthew had somewhere over 70 pellets in his back. And for investigators, each crime scene tells its own story, and this one would reveal a chilling detail. It seemed that the perpetrator wanted to seal Matthew's fate with absolute include certainty. They were very disturbed when they noticed the telephone clearly placed in a position that was out of Matthew's reach, and it was disconnected from the wall, Jack. So the killer Unplug the phone. Yes. So no one could call anywhere for help.


That's what we believe. Even if he was able to survive or even live long enough to reach up and grab the receiver and hit zero, it wasn't going to work. There is breaking news that we've been following all day out of Selmer, Tennessee. It is a case of tragedy in a small town. A church pastor is dead. While investigators were combing through the crime scene, news of the death of the much beloved preacher, Matthew Winkler, shook Selmer to its core. It's just shock. Everybody's just in shock about it. This is the fourth Street Church of Christ here in Selmer, and all day long, church members have been coming and going. You can see it in their faces how distraught they are about the death of Pastor Matthew Winkler. Who would have done something like this? Everybody loved him from what we understood. People were frantic, thinking that there may be a killer somewhere in their community. And do police have a motive? They're working on any theory here. Now, they are telling us very, very little about this. Matthew was often approached by people who had a addiction problems or financial problems. What if Matthew turned one of those people away?


What if they have come back in anger? An Amber alert is issued for three little girls. Police need to find Mary Winkler, one-year-old Brianna, six-year-old Mary Alice, and eight-year-old Patricia. They, along with their gray minivan, were missing. Were they in danger? An Amber alert is issued for three little girls. They disappeared from their home in Selmer, Tennessee. Their mother is missing as well. Church members found their father, Pastor Matthew Winkler, dead. With a young minister found dead in his bedroom, the community of Selmer was on edge. There was a possibility this could have been a burglary. They turned into murder. Who is here in our community would do that? This person's loose. People were worried. Take a look at the van the mother and the children may be in. It is a 2006 gray Toyota Siena. The most important thing to them right now is to find Mary Winkler and find the three girls. Almost 24 hours after the discovery of Matthew's body, there's a sighting of a gray minivan matching the description of the Winkler's missing vehicle. It was spotted in the seaside community of Orange Beach, Alabama. That shoreline is particularly spectacular. They call it the Gold Coast of Alabama.


I was traveling Westbound on the road directly behind us. That's it. 10,4. How's the vehicle? And this van pulled right out in front of me, a Toyota Ciena minivan matching the description of the van we've been looking for. 10,4. We're pulling in the parking lot. 10,33. Knowing that there was a possibility that Mary and her girls had been kidnapped, they were extremely cautious approaching that vehicle. They had their guns out. Ma'am, get out of the vehicle. Get your hands out of the vehicle now. Step out of the vehicle. Put the vehicle in the parking. Step out. There she was, Mary Winkler in a pink jumps, looking as innocent as anybody walking down the street could look. With no supposed kidnapper behind the wheel. Walk back. Walk back. Keep walking. Mary Winkler goes from being a potential victim to a suspect in her husband's death. She got out, and she never asked why she was stopped, why there was officers pointing guns at her or anything. She made no really expression on her face, and she was detained. Hi, girl. How are you doing? After we detained her, we ran to the minivan to check the welfare of the children.


They just kept repeating, What's going on? Where's mommy going? Is it my mommy's? Shortly after Mary's arrest, police search the minivan, and they make a stunning discovery. It was soon after Mary was apprehended by the Orange Beach Police Department. A shotgun was found in the minivan. You've heard the term, We found the smoking gun. Well, that's exactly what we thought. We had found the smoking gun, and it was just our job now to put the facts and the details together. Back in 2006, Stan Stabler was a corporal with the Alabama Bureau of Investigation. I received a call from Orange Beach Police Department that evening. They requested that I come in to interview Mayor Winkler. It's March 23. It's about 9:55 PM. We're at Orange Beach PD on to meet you, PD. I'm staying stable with ABI. If you would just speak your name for me, please, ma'am. Mary Winkler. When we first started, I got a lot of background information about her, their marriage. How long have you been married? Nine years, eleven months. How was your marriage? Good. We talked about the children. I met your daughters. And very sweet girls. Had McDonald's, they eat, and they're wrapped up in blankets, warm, watching a movie.


Thank you. I wanted to build a rapport with Mary where she felt comfortable with me. Want something to drink? That water is fantastic. Okay. Sitting across from him is this eerily calm mother of three, 400 miles away from home. Stan Stabler wondered why did Mary Winkler drive her girls all the way to Orange Beach, Alabama. They've never been to a beach that they remember. This is just my last time to be with them. I just wanted to be with them before they had bad days. Have a happy day. She wanted to spend some time with the girls because she felt that she would not be seeing them after she was caught. I asked her about anyone else involved, an affair. You all didn't have any major problems going on? No. Anybody else involved in either party? Oh, no. She was not as emotional as a person should be if they learned about the murder of their spouse. Just go step from step and tell me what happened. I just came. Why can't she talk to us? Is it me? No. She was very strong will not to disclose a lot of detail. I want to hear your side.


I appreciate. I feel like you have genuine concern, and I do appreciate you. Tell me why a mother of three, a wife of over nine years, almost 10 years, what would make you do this? Why? No comment. It was a very, very strange interview. Has he ever hurt you? Not physically. She said she did not want to talk about Matthew because she didn't, quote, want to smear him. No matter what, in the end, I don't want him smeared. All we are seeking the truth. And we're not here to smear anybody. Corporal Stabler asks Mary about that shotgun that police suspect act she used to kill her husband. Did you load it? I messed it up and put it back out. Where was it? We're keeping the top of the closet out of reach. The truth started coming out. Mary admitted she was holding that gun. She didn't admit that she pulled the trigger. Said she didn't remember that. How many times she just shoot? Just one time? Surely not. How? Surely not. How do you know you didn't shoot more than once? I don't. And then finally, after almost two hours of questioning a possible motive.


I love you dearly. But gosh, you could just nail me in the ground. I have nerve now, and I have self-esteem, and So my ugly came out. When the ugly side came out, somebody ended up shot dead. Hey, I'm Andy Mitchell, a New York Times bestselling author. And I'm Sabrina Kohlberg, a morning television producer. We're moms of toddlers and best friends of 20 years. And we both love to talk about being parents, yes, but also pop culture. So we're combining our two interests by talking to celebrities, writers, and fellow scholars of TV and movies. Cinema, really. About what we all can learn from the fictional moms we love to watch. From ABC Audio and Good Morning, America, pop Culture Mom's is out now wherever you listen to podcasts. We've got the exclusive view, Behind the Table. Every day, right after the show, while the topics are still hot, the Ladies go deeper into the moments that make The View, The View. The views behind the table podcast. Listen wherever you get your podcast. For almost two hours, Corporal Stan Stabler prods Mary Winkler about her relationship with her late husband, Matthew. Mary Winkler, eventually, during that interview in Alabama, did tell investigators that he picked on her.


What she was describing as someone who was abusive. How would he run you down? Just chewing on you. Just fussing at you, nagging all the time. His mistakes. And some well-deserved by all means. I think it's old. But gosh, I don't want to talk about that now. I love you dearly. But gosh, you could just nailed me in the ground. My judge took it like a mouse. Didn't think anything different. I never spoke up. She told me he was a good man. He was a good father. He was a good husband. She said, at times, he would get mad. She related it to blood pressure problems. But he was so good. He was so good, too. A lot of times, he had high blood pressure, but he'd never go enough to the doctor to get medicine for him. There's no sense I can't just say the lady was a moron evil woman. She said she had had thoughts in the past about killing him. Yeah, I didn't just get up and say, let's see how this thing works. I've been battling it not to do that for him, and I don't know why. Was he chewing on you when it happened?


I don't even know. Mary had said that she got a job. Then she said her self-esteem started coming out, and then she started speaking up about things she didn't like. I have nerve now, and I have self-esteem. And so my ugly came out. When the ugly side came out, somebody ended up shot dead. So that's what Mary's ugly side is, the side that shoots her husband in the back with a shotgun. Mary waived her right to an extradition hearing and willingly went back to face justice in Tennessee. While in Tennessee, investigators from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation take another statement from Mary, which she initials. And this time Mary drops a few bombshells about the morning Matthew was killed. While she never admits to pulling the trigger of the shotgun, Mary does tell TBI agents she heard a loud boom, white blood from Matthew's mouth, and told him she was sorry. It became real obvious that there was only one thing for the police in Tennessee to do, and that was to charge her with murder. The startling account of a pastor's wife accused of killing her husband becomes big national news. This is Good Morning, America.


That murder mystery that has stunned everyone. A popular minister in Tennessee gunned down in his home, and the confessed killer is his young wife. Why? People were like, What? The preacher's wife? That's who killed him? Once a Minister's wife, now accused of murder. As Mary sat in jail, hundreds packed in the fourth Street Church of Christ to mourn the loss of Matthew. We want to, first of all, thank all of you for the love and care you've shown for the Winkler family. As for the Winkler's three daughters, they're in the care of Matthew's parents. The girls are going to need a lot of care and attention, and now we turn 100% of our attention to them. As the news of Mary Winkler's arrest spread like wildfire through this tight-knit community of Selmer, there were rumblings that her husband, Matthew, may have had a darker side. There had to be a good reason, some speculated, for Mary to pick up that shotgun and then shoot her husband in the back. People were wondering what would cause them to have their ugly come out. Knowing Mary the way I did, I knew that he had to do something to push her over.


Mary's sisters say they saw a change in Mary once she got married. I I don't remember hearing her laugh. She was not a happy person. Mary's other sister, Amanda and her father, Clark, say they saw bruises on Mary. I didn't say anything because if I was to say Who gave that to you? And that would make her mad. I wouldn't see her again. I saw terrible bruises, the heaviest of makeup covering facial bruises. So one day, I confronted her and I said, Mary Carol, you are coming off as a very abused wife. And Mary Carol would hang her head and say, No, dad, everything's all right. Everything's all right. And several times. I talked very seriously to her about leaving him, and she just did not want to. I feel so bad about this. I feel like I have a part in it. I should have talked more to Mary Carol There were people who said that they did see a short temper in Matthew. According to the neighbor, their dog had gotten into the Winkler yard, and Matthew yelled at the neighbor. He said, Keep that damn dog out of our yard or we'll shoot him.


He had a temper on him. I've never met a preacher like him. This never rose where it was ever a bottle to encounter with somebody. It was just being stern like the dog. Hey, please do this. I've warned you. As investigators dig deep into the Winkler's lives, they come to believe that Matthew's killing may actually have been about money. That's what was the root of the evil in this whole situation. According to them, Mary was knee-deep in financial fraud. And investigators suspect that weighing heavily on her mind was an upcoming trip to the local bank. The bankers set a meeting for Mary and Matthew to meet at the bank on March 22nd. I think she was desperate and afraid. Mrs Winkler is set for arraignment before a McNair County judge. After Matthew's death, Mary appeared in a Selmer courtroom trading in her Sunday best for an orange jumpsuit. It was somewhat of a shocking vision because she just does not look like anyone who could do anything like shoot her husband. State of Tennessee versus Mary Winkler, you're charged under Tennessee, covered with first-degree murder. After pleading not guilty to first-degree murder, Mary is led away in shackles.


Outside of the courthouse, church members stood in solidarity with the preacher's wife. We had a special prayer for her at church last night, and we forgave her. It's in God's plan, but there has to be a reason, because if we can't believe that, we cannot go on. Mary Mary supporters believe that her years of alleged abuse culminated in the accidental shooting death of her husband. But investigators say the real motive in this case was money. Early on in the investigation, TBI was interviewing local banks, and they more or less came to the TBI and said, We got to tell you what's going on here. Investigators have learned from bank officials that Mary was in over her head financially. After they say she got caught up in a so-called lottery scam, which was sweeping the country. A lottery scam is when you get email or even a letter that tells you that you have won a lottery. Here's how it works. The scammer sends a counterfeit check for an initial payment worth thousands of dollars. Now, in return, you're supposed to send them money to cover the processing fees. The scammers make money off what you send them.


Meanwhile, all you get is a worthless check. Mary had entered all sorts of things. So when she got this saying that she'd won $250,000, she believed it. What do we have here? These are bogus checks. So Mary Winkler got these checks in the mail? Yes. And she thought, Wow, $4,880, $4,900. You're going to receive a lot more once you send us the money. But she did not send the money back. She kept all the money. Back in those days, if a person deposited a check or cash to check, they would actually receive the complete amount of money because it immediately went into your bank account. Back then, you just didn't have the automation like you have today. So it could take weeks for the checks to come back as counterfeit. So when that happened, the banks wanted their money back from Mary over $16,000. And that is when investigators allege Mary cooked up a scheme of her own to cover her losses. She was actually writing checks for one bike to cover checks at another bike. What investigators say Mary was doing is call check kiting, floating funds between banks. And that's where the kite comes in.


And in doing so, she knew that she didn't have the funds in that bike to cover the charges. And that is an illegal act. It's easy to see how desperation can lead you down that path where you're trying to find a way out and you don't know what to do. Was there any evidence that Matthew, her husband, the Minister, was in on this or knew about it? We have no evidence because he never went to the bank. He never had his name on anything. His other accounts was in her name so he wouldn't have access to her accounts. According to investigators, Mary went to great lengths to conceal her alleged financial crimes from Matthew. They say she opened up a personal account out of town, changed her mailing address to a PO box, and she even tried to remove Matthew's name from their bank account. But investigators say Mary's alleged financial scheme fell apart after one late deposit sent her bank account into a tailspin. I think it got a little out of hand because she got, at some point like $5,000 overdrawn, which is a really bad position to be in. $5,000 in 2006 on a small town pastor's pay and a substitute teacher, you might as well say $100,000.


Things came to a head on March 21st, 2006. That day, Mary Winkler was working as a substitute teacher here at Selmer Elementary School. She receives an urgent call from the bank asking her to come in the very next day to clear up her overdrawn account, and they tell her to bring her husband, Matthew, along. Call. In fact, in this statement to TBI, Mary admitted to having a heated discussion with Matthew about their finances the night before the shooting. She says, I had gotten a call from the bank, and we were having troubles. Mostly my fault. Bad bookkeeping. And then she goes on to say that the two were upset with each other and that she got to a point and snapped. Do you think this is why she killed him? Oh, yes. That somebody's going to have to face the music, and it was going to come back on her. There must have been a lot of pressure on Mary to keep that away from Matthew. It was going to be embarrassing for the Church of Christ congregation. It was going to speak very loudly that something's amiss in this family. It's a reflection of the church.


It's a reflection of God. How's Mary feeling? Prosecutors might think this is an open and flood case, but as Mary's murder trial gets underway, no one could imagine the twists and turns to come. Mary Winkler had what appeared to everyone a marriage made in heaven, but behind closed doors. It was a living hell. Ms. Winkler, go come forward, please, ma'am. And when the demure preacher's wife takes the stand, dark and lured details would soon come to light. Did it hurt you? Yes, sir. Oh, my goodness gracious. This is stuff that doesn't happen to church folks. Preachers why does not wear this suit. Had there been a quiet rage brewing? We could not have fathomed what actually did come out, not in our wildest, wildest thoughts. The only one who could ever reach me was the son of a preacher man. The only boy who could You go inside the house. What do you see? He never knew what was coming. They're talking about the spiritual leader of the community. And now he's got a halacious shotgun wound in his back. His wife wants you to believe that she was driven to it. She certainly wasn't acting like someone who shot her husband in the back.


I don't know that anyone anywhere had any idea of what was to come in this trial. So it got heated in the jury room. How are you going to defend yourself? He threatened me with a shotgun many times, putting it in my face. Mary Winkler appeared to have had a marriage made in heaven, but behind closed doors, it was a living hell. When they brought out the shoe and the wig, there was a gasp in the courtroom. If you want me to wear it? To dress up. Dress up for what purpose, Mary? Sex. Oh, my God. Wow. That if you looked up, spouse or abuse in the dictionary, you're going to see Mary Winkler's picture looking back at you. Was Mary Winkler a victim or a villain? Will the real Mary Winkler please stand up? A grand jury had indicted Mary Winkler on a first-degree murder charge for the killing of her preacher husband Matthew Winkler. She pled not guilty and went back to Mcminville after her father posted her $750,000 bond. Mary's three girls continued living with Matthew's parents, whom they'd with since Mary's arrest. Everywhere, everyone was covering the story of Mary Winkler.


When you put the story in a nutshell, this preacher's wife shoots her husband in the back while he's sleeping and then takes her daughters to the beach. That sounds outrageous. Absolutely outrageous. How can you not follow that story? Well, people were wondering what would bring someone to this breaking point? What would cause them to have their ugly come out? And I think that was the big question. And the fact this happened in the heart of the South, in the Bible Belt, was fascinating to people because it wasn't supposed to happen. These are supposed to be godly people. Well, godly does not mean perfect. And Mary proved that very well. So this is the Cleaners where Mary worked? Yes. We're at the dry cleaners, dry cleaning Express, where Mary worked during her bond supervision. I would have to come and check on her. What were your impressions of her during that bond period? She was just real quiet, reserved. We all just really loved her, and we got to be good friends. We've picked up a lot of new customers from her church that has decided to do business here because they I want to be supportive of Mary.


But one question dividing the people of the town following the case at the time, was Mary actually the quiet preacher's wife everyone thought they knew, or was there another side to her? Like the one Libby St. John and her husband at the time saw one night at a restaurant in Mcminville. Well, we had been in there sitting at the bar, and Mary came in, and she was chain smoking cigarettes and drinking. It just seemed like she was so carefree that evening. It just shocked me. I almost wanted to go over there and say, Listen, this isn't a good idea for you to be doing this. The owner of that establishment said while she was out on bond, she'd been there to celebrate several different occasions, and her birthday recently. She'd been there several times. This just wasn't a one-off. You don't usually see Church of Christ Preachers' Wives smoking. She certainly wasn't acting like someone who shot her husband in the back. And your husband at the time starts taking pictures. He took them with his cell phone. The pictures made quite a splash when they came out. These cell phone pictures, first obtained by Action News 5, are the talk of this quiet town.


I remember the bar pictures, the very things that seemed completely out of character from what anybody had seen. She was not supposed to be drinking. Well, I think that basically it was not excessive alcohol. I think that's what was on the bond. But it didn't look good. No, I'm sure it didn't look... No, it probably didn't look good. It didn't sit well with people. The way this came to us, this was like walking into a Kafka novel. Nothing lines up with logic. Her wife was taking some strange turns that didn't make any sense. Her outward appearance changed, her clothing changed. It was like someone flipped a switch. When she started hanging out at night, there was a feeling that this was a little quick. Why are you doing this? Maybe, were you that the whole time? And it just gave people pause. Will the real Mary Winkler please stand up? Is she the quiet, docile minister is she the preacher's wife, or is she something quite different? With the trial gearing up, everyone was about to hear a tale they never expected from the preacher's wife. Yeah, I don't know that anyone in Selmer, and few people anywhere had any idea of what was to come in this trial.


Mary's murder trial began on April 9, 2007, with the prosecution pushing for a first-degree conviction. Mission. The case was one of the biggest things the small town of Selmer, Tennessee, has ever seen. The media put this tiny courthouse right in the middle of the public's attention. Television stations from Nashville, from Memphis, some from Huntsville, Alabama, were there in the courthouse because this was such a big story. What was interesting was Mary Winkler arriving with her attorneys, appearing about as meek as you could appear. Inside, the courtroom was packed, and the crowd included members of both families. You had Matthew Winkler's parents there. Mary Winkler's family was there, her father. We may We're going to begin with opening statements. The statement may proceed first. Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Walt Freeland. I'm an assistant district attorney. My strategy, like in every case, is to put on all my facts because facts are stubborn things. You have to set aside whatever you think might have happened and just listen to the facts. There is no good reason why Matthew Winkler was murdered by Mary Winkler. The jurors are about to hear Mary's interrogation tape where she says she snapped because of Matthew.


He would knock your self-esteem down? No. Just chewing whatever. And that's the problem. I have nerve now, and I have self-esteem. So my ugly came out. Just got to a boiling point. Just boil over. There's no sense, you know. Just say the lady was a moron evil woman, and let's go on with it. Prosecutors bring out that big, powerful shotgun that was used to kill Matthew. The point being to show the jurors that this could not have been an accident. You couldn't just pick the gun up and pull the trigger unless it had been racked. Could you prime it or pump it or whatever it takes to get it in a functioning position? Could you do that? Yes, sir. By racking the shotgun, it This is a shotgun shell in the chamber so it can be fired. The fact that she did tells me she had already had thought in her mind what it was going to be like to shoot that shotgun. All that leads me to believe premeditation. But to rebut the prosecution's theory of premeditated murder, the defense will call their star witness. The defense calls the defendant, Mary Carroll Winkler. The only person alive who knows exactly what happened the day Matthew was killed.


Absolutely. The fruit, the whole fruit is so heavy, John. Yes, I do. The most important witness in this trial, the one that everyone anticipated, takes the stand. She testifies It's just some pretty shocking stuff. The jury has just heard audio of Mary Winkler's interrogation, where she seems to imply that she suddenly snapped because of her husband, Matthew's, treatment of her. I have nerve now, and I have some mistakes. So my ugly count. Prosecutors tell the jury that Mary's real motive for the killing had nothing to do with Matthew's treatment of her. Instead, they say that the motive was about that alleged financial fraud they claimed she was knee deep in. This was a premeditated act because Mary Winkler was in control. Although investigators believe that the money was the motive in this case. They never charged Mary with any financial crimes. She was the one that handled the finances. The finances were in shambles. A bank investigator testifies that Mary had allegedly been scamming banks out of thousands of dollars by writing checks to herself and then floating money from one account to another. These deposits were drawn off of the same bank, First State Bank, and were deposited within days of each other into the ATM at Regions.


So this check from Mary Winkler to Mary Winkler for $2,000 was deposited in the Mary Winkler personal account on March 20th, 2006. Correct. March 22nd, 2006, Mary Winkler and her husband, Matthew, were supposed to go to the bank and explain where the money came from, where the money went, and how they were going to pay it back. The house of cards which she had set up was falling down. March 22nd was the day it ended up that he was shot. The prosecution claimed that Mary killed her husband, Matthew, because of the deep financial hole that she had dug for herself. But when it was the defense's turn, they painted a very different picture of Mary, claiming she was the victim in this case, and Matthew was the villain. Mary Winkler appeared to have had a marriage made in heaven, but behind closed doors, It was a living hell. The proof will show that Mary was his whipping boy. Part of the defense strategy was to put Matthew on trial. They put on the stand a church's secretary Mary, who claimed she overheard some really harsh words coming from Matthew to Mary. The tone, the sounds were of anger, berating.


What did you say to Matthew? Those are things that a husband shouldn't say to a wife. You are to be a leader by example and not by force. Another witness to take the stand was Mary's own sister, Tabitha. And she said Mary complained that Matthew tried to keep her away from her family and control her every move. How would he act to her? He pretty much dictated anything that she did. She wasn't allowed to make any decisions for herself. She would have to say, I have to check with Matt, and it was usually no. There was testimony from the defense about how Matthew could act aggressively, but there was not a lot of information. And the jury may have thought, Well, if he was this awful man, wouldn't more people have seen more? Defense ready to call us next witness. We are your witness. But the defense then called Mary herself, and she testified in explicit detail. The defense calls the defendant, Mary Carroll Winkler. About exactly what she said happened behind those doors. Ms Winkler, if you'll come forward, please, ma'am. As she took the stand, all eyes in the courtroom were riveted on Mary.


Mary Winkler was up there, appearing meekerer than you would think anyone could. For much of the testimony, it appeared to be her head was down in shame. Now, remember, the state argued that Mary intentionally killed her husband to cover up a messy web of alleged fraudulent check kiting. But on the stand, Mary had a simple answer. Matthew made her do it. Who directed those deposits? Matthew told me where to put them, and I put them in the bank. Mary also testified that Matthew knew that the banks were demanding answers over the financial issues with their accounts. He was upset, and I just tried to continue encouraging him if he would please go in and do that. Did he say he would? He said he would, but he had been saying that for weeks. Mary explained to the jury that she didn't stand up for herself because she was so afraid The fate of Matthew's volatility, his temper. How did he act when he yelled and screamed at you? He flared. He just was all over. He would just be furious. He went from certain threats to more serious threats. Can you be specific to the jury about any threats?


He told me one time that he was going to cut the break lines out of the van. He threatened me with a shotgun many times, putting it in my face. He told me if I ever talked back to him, that he would cut me into a million pieces. Dan and Diane Winkler sat through a trial where they heard some awful things about their son, and it had to be very difficult for them. Their faces were stoic, but you could also see how it was affecting them, too. When I asked her about abuse, I said, Well, did he physically abuse you? And she said, Oh, no. I believe her to this day that he never abused her. There was no indication from any of the people interviewed that Mary had ever disclosed it to them as a friend. It never came out about any physical abuse. She described Matthew as being a fine man, and there was never a hint of any abuse. But it turns out that Mary's testimony about alleged abuse on the part of Matthew was just the tip of the iceberg. This case is moving in another direction. The one question that nobody will forget is when Steve Faurice handed her a bag.


What's in that sac, Mary? Put it up on this. When she was testifying to all of this, oh, my God, wow. This is amazing testimony. This is shocking testimony. Almost couldn't believe it. On trial for the murder of her preacher husband, Matthew. Mary Winkler tells jurors that she was living in a marriage from hell. I had asked Matthew to have a divorce, and he absolutely denied it. That would not be allowed. That was not an option? No, sir. According to who? Matthew. Preachers can't get a divorce. People want I don't know, Okay, how do you preach the things you preach, and you're divorced? Mary's defense team would also expose what they said was another dark side of the Winkler's marriage. One would take this trial into a surprisingly different arena. What's in that sac, Mary? A shoe in a wig. Show me the shoe that's in there. Put it up on the side there. Is that the shoe that you wear to church? No, sir. Where did you get that wig, Mary? From Matthew. Why was that shoe bought, Mary? Matthew wanted me to wear it to dress up. Dress up for what purpose, Mary?


Sex. When they brought out the shoe and the wig and put those on the witness stand, there was a gasp in the courtroom. It was just a moment in this case, I think, that everything turned. And then hearing the preacher's wife accuse her dead husband of all of these things that were not allowed in the churches of Christ congregations. These were sins. Mary testified that Matthew had porno up on a computer and wanted her to watch it. What would occur after he'd ask you to look at the photographs? Go have sex. Did he ever ask you to engage in any type of sex that you felt was unnatural? Yes, sir. He I just wanted to have sex on my bottom. Did it hurt you? Yes, sir. People in the courtroom, when she was testifying to all of this, you could see on their faces like, Oh, my God. Wow. This is shocking testimony. For the life of me, I have never understood how wearing platform shoes and a wig for your husband gives you the right to shoot him in the back with a shotgun. While the details of the Winkler's sex life caused a huge buzz inside the courtroom, the questions at hand were why and how Matthew was shot to death.


And for the very first time, people heard Mary talk about what she says happened that morning, describing how it all started with the cries of their baby daughter. Matthew kicked me out of bed. He just caught me somewhere in the low of my back, and I was on the floor. What happened next? He walked out of the room, and then I got up and went after him. Mary said she then saw Matthew covering the baby's nose and mouth to keep her from crying, something that she said he had done before. What was he doing? Suffocating her. I said, Can I please have her? He just threw his arms up and walked out and walked away from the crib. Mary says she was so disturbed by this incident that she followed Matthew back to the bedroom, and she wanted to confront him about it. I just wanted to talk to Matthew. What did you want to talk to him about? I just wanted to stop being so mean. Mary testified she was afraid to talk to her husband, and then found herself holding Matthew's shotgun. Do you remember ever having a gun? Holding a gun? Yes, sir.


Do you remember ever pointing a gun? No, sir. Did you pull the trigger? No, sir. Did you intentionally purposefully kill your husband? No, sir. Did you love your husband? Yes, sir. You still love him? Yes, sir. Mary had been very vague and foggy about a gun going off, which is a classic defense statement. They use the passive voice They don't say, I shot a gun. They say, A gun went off. So what was it that led you into the position of accidentally shooting Matthew Winkler? I just wanted to talk to him. It wasn't an accident, was it? Yes, sir. You just wanted to talk to him, and he wouldn't listen. So you shot him in the middle of the back while he was asleep. Now, has that memory come back to you, Ms Winkler? No, sir. You recall telling Agent Carpenter, you remember hearing a loud boom and remember thinking it wasn't as loud as I thought it would have been? I don't recall telling him that. Do you remember today if you told Matthew that you were sorry and that you loved him. Yes. The defense called a licensed psychologist to the stand who had met with Mary several times, and she testified that the reason Mary Mary might not be able to remember the details of the shooting was because she had been traumatized by Matthew's treatment of her.


It's my professional opinion that Mary does suffer from a post-traumatic stress disorder, and at the time that this occurred, she was in a dissociated episode where she was not able to think or plan the way she normally would be able to do. After 10 days of evidence and testimony, it's time for closing arguments. Unfortunately, Matthew Winkler couldn't practice what he was preaching. His problem was that of a bully. And what bullies do is they pick on people that are smaller than them. And I say to you that if you looked up spousal abuse in the dictionary, you're going to see Mary winged for his picture, looking back at you. He was brutally, premeditatedly, and intentionally killed, shot in the middle of his back as he slept. He did not deserve to die. Justice demands one verdict, and that is, guilty of murder in the first degree. Now the jury has a big decision. Couldn't Mary have gotten out of a bad marriage some other way? Or is she just a cold-blooded killer? This very debate is going to spark some fireworks in that jury room. So it got heated in the jury room? It did, very much so.


Oh, I was ready to come across that table and strangle her. This morning, the jury is in deliberations, and Mary Winkler's fate hangs in the balance. Emotions ran high as jurors seemed hopelessly divided on whether Matthew Winkler's death was murder or a fatal accident. There were some that didn't feel like she should get anything. They were ready to let her walk. They felt like he deserved what he got. And then you had some that was like, yes, she was abused, but she did take a life, and that she should get something out of it. We were very stressed during at that time because we didn't know how to work it out. So it got heated in the jury room? It did. Very much so. I hear that you got frustrated because one of the jurors wouldn't even admit that she pulled the trigger. Yes. Refused to believe it. And I looked at her and I was like, What? I was ready to come across that table and strangle her because I thought that was completely ridiculous. The jury also had doubts about the prosecution's claim that Mary killed Matthew to avoid embarrassment over their alleged financial troubles.


People did not care about the money aspect of it. That was not what was on our minds. Even though she was called by the bank to go see them the next day, the day he was shot? No, the very forefront was the abuse. It never wavered from the forefront of our thoughts. The jurors could convict Mary a first-degree murder, second-degree murder, voluntary or involuntary manslaughter, and it's anyone's guess where they were going to go. And now you are looking at a live picture inside the courtroom. There you see Matthew Winkler's family, and they're all waiting for the jury. After eight hours of deliberation, the jury had finally reached a verdict. And members of the jury are expected to read that verdict coming up momentarily. Ms Winkler, if you could please stand, ma'am. And in true Mary Winkler fashion, she remained stoic as the verdict was read. We, the jury, find the defendant, Mary C. Winkler, guilty of voluntary manslaught. Her. There was a little bit of a gasp in the audience. I don't know that many people expected her to be convicted of anything less than first-degree murder. With voluntary manslaughter, there is an intent to kill, but you were provoked by something.


There you see Mary Winkler's father, and he looks a little bit surprised there. To the shock of Mary supporters and the dismay of Matthews, Mary will face just three to six years behind cars. Would this jury have allowed Mary to walk free? Part of them would have. No comment. They felt like she had already lived through prison with the life that she lived, and that it was justified, and that she deserved to be free. That's why you compromised and agreed to the lesser charge? Yes, because I didn't want her to walk. In Tennessee, 33-year-old Mary Winkler is awaiting sentencing after being found guilty of killing her preacher husband. Mary, how are you feeling? On June eighth, 2007, everyone gathered in the courtroom for Mary's sentencing as she plaid for mercy. I thank you, Matthew, every day in the guild, and I always miss them and love them. There were bad but there were good times, and I wish I could have that good Matthew, and that we could get to live together forever. If I were Matthew's parents, that statement would have felt like a kick in the teeth. It was so disregarding of their feelings on facing this reality.


Matthew was a wonderful person. He loved life. He loved his family. He loved the Lord God with all of his heart and soul and mind. The monster that you have painted for the world to see, I don't think that monster existed. There's been no remorse I'm sorry, but I'm sorry that I'm going to take a divorce from you. You've never told your girls you're sorry. Don't you think you at least owe them that? You've never told us you're sorry. I think you at least owe us that. I can understand I don't know why a mother would more than ask that. I would think a mother, as in Mary, would also want to apologize. The damage is done. When the judge handed down the sentence, you could have heard a pin drop in that room. The defendant is hereby sentenced to a term of three years for sentences to be served in split confinement of 210 days of incarceration with appropriate credit to be given. With When time served, Mary Winkler spent only one more week in jail in this very cell, and then 60 days in a mental health facility. To her supporters, it was a clear victory, but to others, it was nothing more in a slap on the wrist.


People were very shocked by that sentence and really couldn't believe it. Matthew's parents had to feel betrayed by the system. They had to feel as if the jury had been played. When you found out that she was going to get such a short sentence, what went through your mind? I was heartbroken. Actually, I felt like I had failed. I felt like I had felt like I didn't do my part, that I had let her off. I believe she should have served more time, but we did what we did because that was all we could do. After the trial, the town of Selma remained divided over whether Mary really got justice. Meanwhile, for Mary, the saga isn't over. After the sentencing, the public thought, Okay, that's it. They've heard everything, but it was Why not? She wasn't finished talking. She wanted to tell her story to everyone. Hey.hi, Oprah.Hi, nice to meet you.Nice to meet you. Tell me why you wanted to have this conversation today. After serving an additional seven days in jail, Mary Winkler finished out the remainder of her sentence at an undisclosed mental health facility. And while there, she had a visitor on the weekends.


Turns out while she had been working at the dry cleaner, she struck up a relationship with her boss's brother, his name Darryl Pillow. I saw interest in Mary, and I thought Mary saw interest in me. Darryl Pillow says, Sparks flew. It was instant attraction when he first met Mary at his brother's dry cleaners. I was attracted to Mary, and we do have a lot in common. We laugh, we got the same hobbies. It felt very normal. It felt like it was meant to be, that we was meant to be together. I know the first time that we sat on the couch and I hugged her and she said, Oh, I missed this. And That's what she needed. She needed somebody to hold her and hug her. I remember hearing that she may have had a new acquaintance. She was just a very sweet girl. It felt normal to be with Mary. No, I never felt scared or threatened. Our relationship was on... We had an adult relationship. Even though Mary was in a mental health facility, Darryl says he would come to visit her weekends. The two were able to get closer, and he says they even got to the point where they discussed marriage.


We joked around about it, but it wasn't nothing serious. It's not like we set a date or maybe years down the road, it may happen. I don't know. But the option's there. But soon after Mary was released from the facility, Darryl says she ended things with him. She just said, Darryl, I've got to be I'm single right now. And I said, That's fine. She needs to be focused on her children. And that's where she's at right now. She is focused on her children. Since her arrest, even though she had visitation rights, Mary's three daughters had been living with Matthew's parents, Diane and Dan Winkler. But once back in Mcminville and now living with friends, Mary is on a mission to get those three girls back. Mary's got a long way to go, but she's on on the road. She's on the way. She's going to make it. Since she's gotten back home, the Mary that we came to know and love, the grinning, the cutting up, she's back. Mary was determined to fight, and one way she could do that was by being the perfect parolee. How do you think her time in jail impacted her life?


Well, she had time to think about what happened, I'm sure, and reflect on what she had done. I'm sure she to get out so she'd get back with her children as soon as possible. Her children were very important to her. She lives and breathes every day for those girls. What she wants to do is get on with her life, let people leave her alone, get her girls back, and mourn her husband. That's her words. Now back home. The once shy and demure former preacher's wife, who wanted a quiet life, raised eyebrows again after making one of her first stops, The Oprah Winfrey Show. Telling Oprah, she hoped by speaking her story might help others. An Oprah exclusive. For the first time, Mary Winkler, the wife who killed her pastor husband. Mary Winkler appeared on Oprah just as she appeared on the stand. Very soft-spoken and very meek and mild. However, remember, Oprah wasn't buying any of it. Oprah didn't let her off the hook. Was a shotgun in the baby's room? No. We kept it in the closet. It's just there's a lot of things that don't make sense to me. Yeah. Well, imagine it doesn't make sense to me.


I know. She kept prying and crying and asking her and just telling her, Okay, help me make sense of this. The gun is aimed at him at some point. Do you remember that? Well, no, because when I heard the boom, I just took out there and took off running. And then Mary explained to Oprah the importance of getting those girls back. I'm their mother. You killed their father. I did not want any of this to happen. Even though the girls had been living at Matthew's parents' home, the Winklers wanted to formalize it. They filed a lawsuit to adopt their granddaughters and terminate Mary's parental rights. Mary Winkler looked happy and confident when she walked into the courthouse in Huntington for another showdown with her former in-laws over custody of her three daughters. But there's still one more turn to come in Mary's roller coaster ride of a life. Her life seems to be normal except for one thing. One more startling secret to reveal. Something else had happened to Mary Winkler that was surprising. Shocking. Since her arrest, Mary Winkler has been locked in a custody battle with Matthew's parents. And finally, after months without her children, they reach an informal agreement out of court, giving Mary permission to take her three daughters back.


My girls are my girls, and I'm their mother. And we were just put back together, and we've picked up where we were separated. I know. Come here. Come here, Emma. Come here. After finally getting her children back, Mary Winkler sits down for one more exclusive interview with Janice Broach to reveal yet another setback in her life. Tonight, Mary Winkler is back, and she has a secret. I had found out that Mary had been diagnosed with MS, multiple sclerosis. My right-hand and my right foot were completely disabled, could not used. And so I was very fortunate that I have been able to come back to full capacity. 17 years after she shot her husband, Mary Winkler lives a quiet life. But to this day, there are still lingering questions in Selmer about whether justice was served in her case. I believe that she actually got away with murder of her husband. Justice was not served, in my opinion. Was Mary Winkler a victim or a villain? Both. Did Mary get away with murder? Yes, she did. She's going to have to answer for what she did. It's not up to me to forgive her. What she did is between her and Matthew and his family and God.


As for Matthew's parents, this tragedy that befell their son is still painfully close to their hearts. His father, Dan, can be seen giving a sermon in this Palm Beach Lakes Church of Christ video posted on YouTube just last month. Eighteen years ago, trauma knocked on the front door of our house, and we lost a son. I live with that emptyness all of the time. It's been almost two decades, but I remember the sound of his voice. Every time we sit down at a Christmas table as a family, there's an empty place. A father still grieving. Our own John Quinunis reached out to Mary Winkler at her home, but she told him she didn't want to talk about what happened all those years ago. That's right, David. She said she's moved on and she's busy taking care of her three daughters. Those daughters are now and 26. That's our program for tonight. Thanks so much for watching. I'm Deborah Roberts. And I'm David Muir from all of us here at 2020 on ABC News. Good night.