ABC 20/20’s The Preacher’s Wife: Who Is Mary Winkler & What Did She Do?

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Written By Sedoso Feb

Disclaimer: This article contains mentions of murder. Reader discretion is advised.

ABC 20/20‘s upcoming episode “The Preacher’s Wife” looks into Mary Winkler, who fatally shot her pastor husband, Matthew Winkler. Mary claimed she snapped after enduring years of abuse at the hands of her Matthew. The episode will air on the network this Friday, April 19, 2024. A synopsis says, “A beloved young pastor was shot dead by his wife. Why did she do it?” and CBS News stated that Mary Winkler is a Tennessee mother of three who fatally shot her husband, Matthew Winkler, in the back on March 22, 2006. Mary committed the crime using a 12-gauge shotgun as Matthew was sleeping in their home in Selmer, Tennessee. According to ABC News, parishioners found the victim’s body after he failed to attend an evening service.

Authorities arrested Mary in Orange Beach, Alabama, and she then admitted that she shot Matthew. She further claimed that it happened because she snapped after enduring years of abuse at the hands of her minister husband.

Mary stood trial the following year, and in a shocking verdict, the jury convicted her of a much lesser charge.

Mary Winkler convicted of Matthew Winkler’s murder?

In April 2007, a jury convicted Mary Winkler of voluntary manslaughter in her minister husband Matthew Winkler’s death. Mary’s conviction on the lesser charge came after she claimed Matthew physically, verbally, and mentally abused her. She alleged that her minister husband assaulted her, coerced her into watching pornography, and forced her to wear outfits that she described to be “slutty,” per Reuters.

The outlet reported that the prosecution presented evidence that suggested a completely different motive for the “cold-blooded killing” in court. They claimed that Mary and Matthew Winkler argued over finances on the night of the murder. Prosecutors alleged that this argument was over a check-kiting fraud the defendant had committed by writing checks worth thousands of dollars.

According to NBC News, prosecutor Walt Freeland claimed that Mary Winkler wanted to hide her crime from Matthew. Mary had reportedly gotten involved in an online Nigerian scam. Moreover, bank managers were getting suspicious of her role in the scheme in the days leading up to Matthew’s shooting.

Meanwhile, the defense and Mary argued that Matthew Winkler used to abuse her physically. She testified at her trial that Matthew’s abusive behavior included punching her in the face and often kicking her. She also claimed that he refused to divorce her.

ABC News further stated that Mary Winkler’s family backed her claims in a later interview with Good Morning America. Her father Clark Freeman said the abuse was not only physical but also mental and verbal, alleging that it had become more obvious in the years leading up to the incident. The father claimed to have seen bruises.

Freeman said he saw “the heaviest of makeup covering facial bruises” and decided to confront Mary. He said to her “You are coming off as a very abused wife, very battered.’” However, at the time, she denied the accusations against Matthew. Her friends also reportedly knew about the minister’s abuse.

NBC News stated that months after her voluntary manslaughter conviction, Mary Winkler received a three-year sentence. Mary received credit for the 143 days she had already been in prison, only 12 days after the sentencing. She then served a two-month stint in a mental health facility before her release. Then, in 2008, she received custody of her three daughters following a contentious legal battle with Matthew Winkler’s parents.

ABC 20/20‘s The Preacher’s Wife will chronicle the case against Mary Winkler in Matthew Winker’s murder on Friday, April 19.


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