Mar 25, 2006

Friends Shocked Over Mary Winkler's Confession

Left: Mary Winkler enters the Baldwin County Satellite Courthouse Friday (AP Photo/Mobile Register, John David Mercer)

(Selmer, TN) Those who are acquainted with Mary Winkler, the wife of a preacher who confessed Friday to killing her husband, struggle to reconcile the woman they knew with the news that Mrs. Winkler has been arraigned on first-degree murder charges.

"They were wonderful people," said Lola France, who lived near the Winklers. "He was nice as he could be and she was real nice, too. I would see her out with her daughters and you'd think nobody could be happier. I can't understand this."

Felecia Jones and the Winkler family attended the Bellevue Church of Christ together several years ago.

“Around me, she was always such a happy person,” Jones said. “We were just friends, just buddies. I'm still in denial. I know that's not Mary. That's just not her."

Neighbor Michael Weeter, who lived next door, said that the Winkler children played with his children.

"They seemed like good people," he said. "It's hard to believe what is being said now."

Nekki King, a church member who lived up the street from the Winklers, called the couple "very sweet people."

"Nothing was ever wrong," she said. "I just wonder if something happened that no one knows about."

Church member Anita Whirley joined other congregants in a planned spring cleanup.

"Listen, the Mary we knew didn't do this," she said as she planted pansies outside Fourth Street Church of Christ. "She was a wonderful person. We just don't understand."


Anonymous said...

None of this makes any sense.

kooz said...

I don't understand why reporters always interview the neighbors. It doesn't matter where you are in America...when a crime happens...the neighbors always think they were a good quiet family and yada...yada...yada...

If something happened to one of my neighbors...I wouldn't honestly have the slightest clue what type of people they are. Just because a guy waived hi to me and let me borrow his ladder once...doesn't mean I know if he's a nut or not.

Mr. Schwartz said...

I bet her lawyer will claim he was abusing her. Maybe he was, maybe he wasn't. But this doesn't excuse shooting someone.

The police said there was motive but didn't reveal it. The only thing that comes to mind is an investigation into abuse they don't known to be made public.

We'll see.

Anonymous said...

And you know, this poster is correct. You have no idea what a person is capable of unless you have lived with them and then you may still not know their breaking points. While on the surface Mary Winkler may appear to be a heartless cold blooded killer, I am going to withhold judgement since first of all it is not my place to judge her actions. That is God's. Secondly, she is the one that is going to have to live with her actions, the whys, the hows, and everything else. She has basically lost everything now. I was a battered wife. And when I walked, I walked out on a man that went to church every Sunday, Sunday night and Wednesday. On the surface, he seemed like the perfect husband. Well, he was if you like being threatened and having your children in constant fear all the time. And you better believe I came off looking like the wicked witch of the east when I left too. I just held my head up and knew I had done the right thing and kept on.
We have no idea what went on in the Winkler household. And the evidence may prove that Mary is exactly what people want her to be, a cold blooded killer. But I don't buy it. Something had to have been going on in there to cause her to just all of a sudden kill her husband of 9 years and run with their children. My question is why she didn't just run. She would have been more able to have stayed hidden that way.

Anonymous said...

It really looks like he must have been abusing her-the police said it's not infidelity and in a town of the size they lived in,try hiding it if you're nuts-people would know if she had mental health issues. The real sin is that now he is still abusing her from the grave-she will pay for the rest of her life for defending herself and her children have been turned over to the parents of the abusive husband. Abusive men always appear wonderful to people on the outside and they always win and destroy their victims completely. Another sad story.

Anonymous said...

I divorced my pastor husband a few years ago-after living with his junk for 17 years. People from the church walk the other way when they see me. My "friends" abandoned me so quickly. Leaving a pastor in a small community is hard. Ministers are always hiding things so that they can look good. I hated my ex-husband. I am so glad I didn't kill him though. I have been thinking about Mary so much.

Anonymous said...

I happen to know the deceased minister's family, and find all this speculation of how he "abused" her to be pathetic. We don't know what she has told police, and until we do, it's shameful to drag a dead man and his parents through the mud.

historymike said...

It is true that we don't know what has been said to the investigators, anonymous.

However, the investigators evaded the question of whether or not Mary Winkler said some form of abuse was involved.

They categorically denied that infidelity played a role.

One can reasonably infer that some form of abuse was alleged by Mary Winkler as a contributing factor in her decision to kill Matthew Winkler.

However, just because Mary Winkler might have claimed that some form of abuse occurred does not mean that it really happened.

As far as the "shameful" nature of the public's fascination, I respectfully disagree. Millions of people look at the picture of the Winkler family and see themselves. They want to know why this happened, and if it means that violence could touch their own families.

Stephanie said...

"Millions of people look at the picture of the Winkler family and see themselves. They want to know why this happened, and if it means that violence could touch their own families."

Perhaps that's why I find it so easy not to speculate. Nobody would EVER mistake our family for being perfect.

historymike said...

Yeppers, Stephanie - my family is very "imperfect."


Our "imperfectons" are what I love the best though.

That being said, with nine kids there's a good chance that one is "perfect" on any given day or week, and that helps keep us going.

Stephanie said...

lol, yeah, I love my family's imperfections. Though, those good days help, too.

Nine kids! Was that a conscious decision? We were going to go for six - eight, but then we actually had kids.

historymike said...

Nope, only two were "conscious" decisions in the biological sense.

The rest have come to us in foster and adoptive fashion. The number of kids under our wings changes frequently; we have had as many as eleven and as few as six in the last 2-3 years.

Anonymous said...

I would surely say that the fascination with this case is one of plain puzzlement and fear. Puzzling in that this wasn't your typical domestic violence situation which typically leads to murder. 2nd only to infidelity.

The fear we feel is caused by not being able to understand how this could happen to a family like this. Could it happen in our own families? My brothers' wife? Who knows....that's why we'll follow this. To try and make some sense out of it and assess danger.

Stephanie said...

"Nope, only two were "conscious" decisions in the biological sense."

No, I would consider foster children and adopted children very conscious. You intentionally opened up your home to more children. To me, a unconscious decision would be what some people call an "oops!", though I don't classify children as the mistake that implies, no matter how unplanned.

I commend you highly for being able to keep up with nine children. We struggle with our three, sometimes four.

Stephanie said...


I guess I find this case less of a mystery because my family's already been through it. Though, it was before I was born.

Knowing why my grandfather killed my grandmother doesn't make it any more palatable, nor any more understandable except in a logical sense.

Like I said, nobody would mistake mine for a perfect family.

historymike said...

Heck, Stephanie, the critical mass seems to be about four children. Every child after that is a breeze!


Anonymous said...

Why all the speculations and comments? God will judge the one who needs to be judged. Think of the families - her parents and his -- what they must be going through at this point. Now is the time everyone needs sympathy and understanding. Stop this foolish speculation. Instead bow your head in a moment of prayer (in fact some of you need to take several moments in prayer - asking forgiveness for your thoughts). You are making it a three-ring circus when it should be a solemn, sad affair.

Anonymous said...

Amen, anonymous! Prayers should be constantly lifted for the families that lost their loved one, Matt. God Bless those small children that have lost their daddy, and mommy (at this point). Bless Mr. Winkler's parents and family that have lost a son and brother. Surround the families with hope and encouragement. Pray for Mary and her family. Prayers for Mary need to be just as constant and powerful as those for the Winkler side of the family. There is too much rubbish going on about opinions and guesstimations on what happened and reading every possible scenerio into play. Gossip is just as much a sin as murder. Sin is sin in God's eyes!

Stephanie said...


"Every child after that is a breeze!"

I'll have to remember that should I get pregnant again. That will be my mantra...

"This child will be a breeze...this child will be a breeze...this child WILL be a breeze..."

Stephanie said...


"God will judge the one who needs to be judged."

I agree that the speculation serves no purpose, and I personally have no desire to speculate. However, God's laws come AFTER our laws. Mary Winkler doesn't get off just because God forgives her or her in-laws forgive her. She broke a law of this nation, and she needs to be tried for that and, if found guilty, she needs to be punished. We don't live in a theocracy, and all the prayer in the world isn't going to change that. If God wanted the USA to be a theocracy, it would have been founded as one.

Anonymous said...

In God's Word we are instructed to live by the laws of not only the God most high, but also the laws of the land! My sense of what everyone is saying we know that she should receive the consequences of her actions from a legal standpoint, but that doesn't mean that we can't forgive her. Its like when you have children and they are disobedient and you forgive them of their disobedience, but you also give them consequences to serve. And by the way, our nation was founded with Godly prinicples. Go back into your history books and read how our first leaders would constantly pray to God for guidance and direction. We, the people, have destroyed what our nation was founded on.

Anonymous said...

There was some reason behind this woman killing her husband...there are lots of possibilites from she went nuts to he abused her...we can say that we see a happy family in the pictures but do we really...look close...look at their eyes and body language...does one person in the family picture look dominant over the others? do certain smiles look there a distant look in someones eyes as if they put on a happy face just for the picture? what do you really see?

Anonymous said...

please tell me where it says that gossip is as big of a sin as murder? i missed that class

Sarah Hudson Pierce said...

I'm still in shock but I do believe that this story will help to set the stage for an awakening in our society.
People need to know that there's much that goes on behind closed doors in parsonages and in church houses.
I do believe that Mary will be better than before -- that God will keep his protective arms around her and put her on a path where she will be able to help people in distress and find true happiness!

historymike said...

Thanks for visiting, Sarah, and I agree that times of travail are often moments when a Divine plan is the most difficult to see.

Minister's Wife said...

I am following Mary's story with exceptionally close attention because I, too, was a minister's wife for twenty-seven years and I understand the heavy load she was carrying, not to mention the fact that her mother had died recently from cancer, she had a miscarriage before giving birth to her third child less than a year ago, she had also lost a sister named Patricia. They must have been exceptionally close because she named her oldest daughter Patricia.
Put on top of all of the above she is a minister's wife -- which in my personal estimation -- is a very hard role to play as the minister and his wife are viewed as more or less perfect.
I believe this will bring Mary out to a brigher day.
I am staying in contact with the church at Selmer and they are continuing to visit with her and support her -- which is truly being Christ-like.
This event could serve to open eyes.
This is my prayer as well as for Mary's safety and well-being.

Anonymous said...

I have read that in Mary's childhood that her sister died while her mother was bathing her? I am not sure of the details of her sister's death. Someone may know more about this. It triggered a personal experience of mine. I was a member of a CofC congregation for 20 years where one of the leader's wives was a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic. What had triggered her diagnosis was when one of their children was young, her husband walked in on her trying to drown their baby as she was bathing him. This was before she was properly diagnosed and put on a medication regimen. This woman has since led a full life; however, if she had never been diagnosed, etc. what a tragic series of events could have unfolded in their family's life. If Mary Winkler has the schizophrenic gene (perhaps revealed in her mother's act of drowning her sister), this fact could be the answer to it all.