First, let me be really honest. I cannot positively say this is a domestic related crime. But, circumstances are leading me to believe it may be.
Mary Farmer Winkler, 32 is a Sunday School teacher, a substitute teacher and the wife of a preacher. Wed. Matthew Brian Winkler, 31 didn’t show up for services at his church so church members went to his home. There they found his lifeless body, and no signs of his wife and 3 children, Breanna Winkler, 1; Mary Alice Winkler, 6; and Patricia Winkler, 8. A church member indicated he may have been shot in the back. The last sighting of his wife had been on Tues. when she picked the children up from school. An amber alert was issued for the children, who were listed as missing, endangered. Police very carefully stated that the wife was not considered a suspect at that time. There were no signs of forced entry at the home. It is thought there was at least one gun in the household, as Mr. Winkler had told one of the church elders that he did have a gun, which he used for turkey shooting.
Mary Winkler and the children have been found. The van was spotted in Alabama, and Mary and the children were recovered. Not much is known, as this is breaking news. They were alone at the time they were recovered.
I am going to refrain from commenting at this time, until more is known. But watch for a followup later as I will be watching the news for this one.
Authorities are now saying the family appears to be in good condition. The authorities are on their way to Ala. now to interview them. And they have now officially declared Mary Winkler a suspect in her husband’s murder, though no charges have been filed as yet. There was no known history of domestic violence in the household.
The community this occured in was very small. It had a population of about 4,600. The church congregation was about 200. When you factor in the community work done by Matthew, and the school, and church, and others in the community, probably a large portion of the community knew the couple.
Matthew Winkler had only been with this church for about a year, but he is being described as popular and charismatic. He was known as a minister who preached the Bible, and who determinedly worked to help recent hurricane survivors. He was a well liked man. The children have been described as precious, and so has Mary.
The impact here is going to be huge. Being a well known popular couple in the community, there will be a lot of people trying to cope with the shock and trauma of the death of one of their own, by one of their own. And due to the community activities, there will be a lot of parents trying to explain to their children, how their friend’s mother could be accused of killing their friend’s father. How do you explain that to a child, especially to a child who likely knew the parents?
There are 3 little girls, who are now fatherless, and virtually motherless as their mother will no longer be available to them. Who knows what they saw and heard. But they were rushed into the family van, taken for a long drive, and then stopped by police, and their mother was taken away. They will be very scared. At least two of the children will have to be told of their father’s death, if they don’t already know. And they will be subject to police interviews at a time that they are so unsure of what is happening. And all without a parent to comfort and care for them. I am not suggesting that the police will be less than careful with them. My experience with police officers is that they will do the best they can to be gentle with them. And to make sure they are protected and cared for. But likely they will be strangers or near strangers to the children.
I have been reading this since the discovery of Matthew’s body and the discovery that the rest of the family was missing. And while I wondered, this just didn’t seem to be the type of family who would be subject to problems of violence (see I get caught up with that misconception sometimes too).
There is a lot of speculation going on on the web right now as to what may have led up to this. People are wondering about if there could have been hidden domestic violence issues. Many I am sure will say no, absolutely not. But I have to say, with this guy’s position in the community, with the typical reluctance of a victim of domestic violence to get a partner in trouble, it is possible. But a church community is very close. Likely info will leak out soon if Matthew was seen to be in any way as controlling.
Mary appeared to be well liked. But a minister’s wife is usually under a lot of pressure from a very well meaning community. She has to appear to be strong and in control. She has to be prepared to entertain or commiserate with other community members as needed. She has to be flexible because of the demands of the churches needs and the demands of her husband’s schedule. She will typically feel that she has to maintain high standards in everything from her housekeeping to the care and behavior of her kids. After all, the community is watching them. She also had the demands of being a mother, a substitute teacher, and a Sunday School teacher so more of her time would be spent preparing for and doing those activities.
Another thing that is being speculated about is post partum pychosis. The couple had a 1 year old child. For people who are not familiar with the problem, I highly reccommend doing some reading on it. Because having a baby creates such havoc with a woman’s hormones, she will often go into a type of depression, sometimes leading to a psychosis which can lead to a complete break with reality. But with the age of the child, there should have been some signs manifesting before now. Still, the problem is not well known, and sometimes a family may be reluctant to seek treatment, because of embarrassment or religious conviction.
There could also be some undisclosed mental health issues.
But it is really to early to determine a reason or motive now. Though I suspect that will be a topic of discussion in many households in that community this week.
Many of the other bloggers are discussing this case. As I find a blog entry about it I will post a link here.
http://huffcrimeblog.com/ As per his usual, he has some background information. I really admire his writing skills, but above all else I admire his researching skills.
http://fromwhisperstoroars.blogspot.com/ Has been following this case from the beginning.
http://www.missingabducted.com/ Has also been following this from the beginning.
http://www.suzieviews.blogspot.com/ Has an early article on the disappearance.And she has posted an update with additional info.
http://21stcenturymurder.blogspot.com/ Another fine blogger.
If I have left a blog out, it was unintentional, let me know and I will add it.
BTW, if you aren’t familiar with blogs, sometimes a lot of info is passed in the comments section so be sure to check that out. That is one of the reasons why all bloggers encourage people to leave comments. 🙂 We also enjoy the feedback, usually.
Matthew was last seen on Tuesday about 3:15.
Mary Winkler has confessed. No motive has been given for the murder. She will be returned to the community this weekend. While she was in Ala. she had rented a condo on the beach. The children are expected to be given to their grandparents at least temporarily. Thankfully they don’t appear to have seen their mother shoot their father.
Court documents are not giving any hints as to a motive in the slaying. A TBI agent has said the motive is known, but he declined to announce it. He did say that it wasn’t infedility, but declined to comment when he was asked if it was related to abuse by the husband.
The children were at home when the slaying took place. The murder weapon was found.
The children have been placed with their paternal grandparents. A lot of speculation is going on the net, as to what could have caused the scratches and cuts on Mary’s arms, in this picture of her, taken going into court.
There had been a miscarraige, prior to the birth of their youngest child.
A TV legal anylast is speculating about an insanity plea. A couple of cryptic comments from the defense attoryney which may or may not be important. I find the most interesting comment to be this:
He said Winkler has asked to see her children, Breanna, 1; Mary Alice, 6; and Patricia, 8, but he was unsure when that might happen. The children are being cared for by Dan and Diane Winkler, their paternal grandparents, family friend Eddie Thompson told The Early Show co-anchor Rene Syler.Still, he said, “we don’t feel that it does anyone any good to hear gruesome things about their late father.”
http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/03/31/national/main1458842.shtmlBut still I am not clear on what is meant by that, or what the affect will be on the defense.Search warrant on the church. Computer taken to review for evidence (caution: this may or may not be significant, it is almost routine anymore that if a computer is available, that it be examined. Expansion of the quote listed above.http://www.jacksonsun.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060331/NEWS01/603310307/1002~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~More comments from the defense, “could” have been an accident. Mary “may” be suffering from PPD and/or depression. History of the lead defense attorney. They were asked to take the case by one of Winkler cousins, and currently are working the case ‘pro bono’ or without payment.http://www.gallatinnewsexaminer.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060402/NEWS01/604020391/1309/MTCN04 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Mary Winkler has now corresponed with her children via letters and drawings.The defense attorney is still making some cryptic comments about the motive for the murder. He says it revolves around the marriage, “Each of those years, each of those months, each of those days of marriage have history to it. “This event just did not occur on March 22. The things that led up to March 22 need to be told to this jury. We can’t share that with you today.”http://www.tennessean.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060615/NEWS03/606150380/1001It is looking as though my guess about the motive may be wrong.———————————————————–
Bond hearing June 30th. Trial date Oct. 30 th.
Defense attorney states that Mary Winkler may have “negligently” caused Matt Winkler’s death.
Winkler in court to request bond. According to a statement that she gave police, the two were arguing about several things including money. Winkler told investigators that she doesn’t remember getting the gun out of the closet. After shooting him, Matt rolled off the bed, and asked her why. She wiped blood from his mouth, and told him she was sorry and that loved him.
One station blogged the bond hearing, much more information available.
Quotes from Mary Winkler after her arrest.
Details of what Mary Winkler called “Bad bookkeeping” and what investigators called a check kiting scheme.
Mary’s version of events, as told to police after her arrest, more details about the financial problems, and a timeline of the events. After her disappearance, there was talk of Mary being on the phone the day before the murder. Allegedly she wasn’t on the phone with Matthew all day, she was on the phone with her bankers.
Bond in the amount of $750,000 set. Defense attorneys say she will be unlikely to come up with that amount.
Defense attorneys and family of Mary Winkler are now coming forward with allegations of physical and mental abuse against Matthew Winkler. The defense attorney says there may have been sexual abuse also.
In court Mary Winkler testified as to abuse she allegedly suffered at the hands of Matthew Winkler and that the shooting was an accident. Jury found her guilty of manslaughter.
Mary Winkler found guilty of the murder of Matthew Winkler and pleaded for mercy in her sentencing hearing. She was sentenced to 3 years, and required to serve 210 days before being eligible for probation. She is to get credit for the 5 months she has served. Of the 2 remaining months, the judge has ordered that she can spend up to 60 days in a mental health facility.