Sometimes it is hard to predict

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.,1406,KNS_347_4565837,00.html

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. As per his usual, he has some background information. I really admire his writing skills, but above all else I admire his researching skills. Has been following this case from the beginning. Has also been following this from the beginning. Has an early article on the disappearance.And she has posted an update with additional info. 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.,0,109567.story?coll=la-home-headlines


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.”
But 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. 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. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~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.” 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.



  1. thpunishrr said,

    March 24, 2006 at 6:35 pm

    O.K. I’m really slow today. This is the first I have heard of this story.
    Thanks HomeSweetHome.

  2. Michelle said,

    March 24, 2006 at 7:25 pm

    I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some domestic abuse involved. I think the way everyone is describing the husband as charasmatic raised some questions for me. Abusers are often well-loved & popular, charming to the outside world, and sometimes people are so taken by that they ignore any signs that might indicate something else. It is a sad, sad story though and my heart just breaks for those 3 little girls.
    Great blog, by the way.

  3. March 24, 2006 at 7:28 pm

    Thank You.

  4. Jason Boog said,

    March 24, 2006 at 8:09 pm

    Thanks for the links to new crime blogs! That was some thougtful analysis too. Keep up the good work over here…

  5. March 24, 2006 at 8:38 pm

    LOL, Jason.  If you look to your left, you will find the blogroll I belong to, and I can assure you, you will find many you like, they are a great bunch!

  6. Soobs said,

    March 25, 2006 at 2:38 am

    Great blogging. You know, *my* first impression, was that there was child abuse involved. How jaded do you think that makes me. :::sigh::: The more I read on blogs, I do think this could be related to PPD. I had it with my last child, although it was actually post-partum anxiety. I can’t even imagine having post-partum psychosis. I feel for those kids so much.

  7. March 25, 2006 at 4:06 am

    There are so many possibilities out there, that I am withholding judgement until more is known. I think there is an answer, this isn’t one that just came out of the blue, for no reason. But anything I offered at this point would be just a guess. Still too early to tell.

  8. March 25, 2006 at 6:46 am

    […] Others blogging on the topic: historymike’s musings, Assorted Babble, EBBP, Pundit Guy, biblioblography, Jane Genova, World Views, Daffodil Lane, Mountaineer Musings, Home Sweet Home […]

  9. March 25, 2006 at 12:21 pm

    Thank you for linking me, I truly appreciate it.

    With Mary Winkler turning-up and arrested in Orange Beach, AL, immediately I wanted to know more. Orange Beach and Gulf Shores, AL the island is my home area where I lived most all my life. You may want to check out for more info or . I am concerned though about the police in Baldwin County, they have never been known for going by the book. Curious to know how they were able to get such a quick confession and now it is hush-hush, something does not sound right.

    I understand now Mary may be on her way or is already back in TN. It is only speculation, but I think perhaps there is something to the post-partum pychosis and/or marriage problems where divorce was out of the question.

  10. Steve said,

    March 25, 2006 at 4:42 pm

    I am going to go out on a limb on this one, when I first published the poster on the NVFC, one of the first things that stood out to me was the caution advised that the NCMEC attached to the poster. Since then I have seen many on the web almost suggest that he deserved it, certainly a double standard in this case. Personally I see early on that Mary in my mind has similarities to Deanna Laney or a Susan Smith. The pre-planned vacation after getting her husband out of the picture seems for lack of a better word, just plain nutty.

    He very well may turn out to have an affair but I doubt that any abuse will be found on his part. I will be the first to admit that I am wrong if I turn out to be wrong but when looking at cases I find that my first hunch pays off in 99.9% 0f cases I look at.

    Another thing that does bother me is the ideology that IF he was having an affair then this is the reason he was murdered. Fact of life, most marriages someone has cheated, whether it is the husband or the wife but mere cheating is not a reason for murder and I am certainly not condoning cheating, just acknowledging that it does exist.

  11. Steve said,

    March 25, 2006 at 4:55 pm

    Forgot to mention, kudos to the author for holding out judgment until more is known.

  12. Soobs said,

    March 25, 2006 at 5:38 pm

    Both of you get kudos. I *know* that I am jaded, hence I would not make a good bloggr. And I agree about the cheating and leaving. Frankly, I don’t see very many situations that would warrant death, as opposed to leaving. Certainly not being cheated on.

  13. March 26, 2006 at 2:06 am

    […] I have taken a week hiatus in writing, something I normally try not to do. A few cases have been in the news and I have received calls and emails suggesting that I write about Mary Winkler. This case I featured on the NVFC immediately when the flyer came out, to answer questions why I chose not to write about it comes down to a few reasons. Time being the main reason as I have been busy with much work that has not allowed me to write, that also accounts for the lack of entries lately. Second of all this case does not fall into the category that I really write about crimes that can be avoided. As per a commentator on the news right now he just said the the Minister was shot in the back and he never saw it coming. I believe that most people who knew this family never saw it coming. I think this is true in most cases when someone has mental problems. From Susan Smith to Deanna Laney to Andrea Yates to Christine Coffman to Mary Winkler, these women have all something in common. Their crimes were not easily predictable. In the case of Mathew Winkler I find the double standard that exists in this case very offensive. A simple drive around the Internet and you will find many people saying what did he do to make her kill him? Any defense lawyer taking on this case just has to look at a few different sites already giving her excuses for shooting her husband in the back. These excuses range from postpartum depression to he may have been abusing her or the children to oh it is just so hard to be the wife of a Preacher to he was having an affair. All of which are lame excuses and I myself do not buy the abuse on the part of Mathew Winkler. My wife went through postpartum depression but she certainly has not put a bullet in anyones back nor was I ever worried. You know I really do not care what reasons Mary may say she had, she is guilty of first degree murder and deserves to spend the rest of her life behind bars in my opinion. Two other bloggers have written about the Winkler ordeal, Home Sweet Home and Huff’s Crime Blog. […]

  14. March 26, 2006 at 5:21 pm

    I read through your post again, so well written…great job. I caught something that I missed the first time around. You are right about the little girls and about all the children that know this family. The whole community I am sure is in shock about this and about having to explain to the young ones. It is terribly sad for these children losing their father and for what they will learn about their mother. I surely hope they did not see the murder scene during or after as well as hear the shot(s).

    This case is fascinating to me, perhaps because none of it makes sense. Even with all the speculation going on, what would be so bad for one to kill another person except for molestation of your children. In that case, I feel I could pull the trigger.

    Some people you think you know them, but unfortuately you don’t. Look at the guy that shot the teen that lived next door for years. People that have been married with children for decades, and someone just flips out and murders the other one. It is definitely chilling to say the least, your own family can kill you. You hear about it all time….sadly to say.

  15. phuong said,

    April 11, 2006 at 9:52 am

    I want to make a friend with you. Thanks you

  16. Brett Bennett said,

    June 12, 2006 at 9:28 pm

    Hi just read the comments here. I was wondering if anyone has heard of a motive that may have leaked out yet ??? just watched an update on CNN, and still no official motive. Wondering if any insider has leaked anything??? Any gossip from the local townspeople ??? Please post it, or e-mail me with anything to help appease my curiosity. Much obliged

  17. June 12, 2006 at 11:32 pm

    I haven't seen anything. The attorney has dropped some vague hints, but other than that nothing. And even his hints seem to be all over the place.

  18. June 15, 2006 at 6:59 pm

    I’ve read a little about this case in the news, a little on blogs and the big question seems to be as always Why? I haven’t found where anyone has said that they knew, and I have been reluctant to guess.
    But I am going to venture a guess at this time, but I will warn you it is just a guess. Both Mary and Matt were raised in the Church of Christ. That would probably mean totally different things to the two.
    From what I have read, the females have less of a presence in the church. To some that means submission, but few are talking about the other side of that. Sheltered comes to my mind. Somewhat protected from the outside world. Matt however was out in the world more, active in the church and it’s problems, more aware of the world and it’s problems. And more aware of the temptations. Mary may have been aware of the world’s problems, but didn’t see them personally.
    Matt was the charismatic one, Mary has been frequently described as quiet, devoted to her children. Passive and retiring comes to my mind. I would venture that when they married, Mary really looked up to Matt, almost as a hero- and he chose her. Years of marriage would have dispelled much of that, but not all. Mary was most likely known as a “good” girl growing up. She would almost have had to be for an aspiring preacher to have chosen her. Also, preacher’s kids grow up with the fact that the preachers kid has to be better behaved than other children. And that any misbehavior is never to be done in public or to become public knowlege.
    Being raised in the church, Mary heard the 10 commandments frequently. And she lived them both individually and as a family. She taught them to her children and believed in them totally would be my guess.
    On the day of the murder, Mary was at the school for her first day. This is a woman who has tried to “please” or do right all her life. Yet she has been reported to have been on the phone all day. No reports of bruising or injury have been in the media. And I really didn’t expect there to be.
    I think there is only one thing that would have driven Mary to break the commandments. Not protection for herself, not to break out of submission,and not even an affair by either party. I think the only thing that would have persuaded Mary to break the commandments, would be to protect her children. From what or why, I don’t know and won’t venture to guess. But she was too retiring to do it for herself. She would have become a martyr in her own mind before she would have murdered for herself. But she would protect her children. And no, I don’t believe that one of her children killed Matt and that she took the blame. My reasoning for her not taking the blame for one of her children is her refusing to see her children. If one of the kids had done that, she would feel she had to be with that child or see her to support her. Also, the reports of her behavior after the shooting seems to point to a deep conflict- possibly from what she believed from her faith and what she did.
    I believe that either something happened within a couple of days prior to the shooting or she had just learned of something that had happened in the past. Something that she felt she had to protect her children from.
    Again, this is my personal guess, my own opinion.

  19. April 21, 2007 at 7:10 am

    Post Updated.

  20. January 28, 2011 at 10:23 am

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