Mar 25, 2006

"WHY?": Mary Winkler and Unanswered Questions

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Left: Photo of Mary Winkler leaving the Orange Beach jail courtesy of Mobile Register.

(Selmer, TN) Few stories in recent memory have gripped the nation in the way that the murder of Matthew Winkler has. Every network yesterday led with the story of Mary Winkler's sudden confession of shooting her husband in the back at their home on Wednesday, and CNN and FOX have devoted many hours of near-continuous coverage since news broke of the discovery of Mary and the three girls.

Living a seemingly ideal life in a small Tennessee town, the Winklers by outward appearances were a happy family. Perhaps it is the shattering of an idyllic image that disturbs us so. If such a near-perfect family can become embroiled in a world violence, goes the theory, than so too can any American home.

The investigators in Alabama and Tennessee agree that Mary Winkler shared with them a motive for the killing, but they are not yet communicating her reasons for shooting Matthew Winkler. In press conferences, though, they have consistently denied that infidelity on the part of either spouse was a factor.

Police officials, however, cagily evade the question of some form of abuse that might have occurred in the Winkler home as a precipitating factor. On another thread on this site, a visitor from Jackson, TN said that Matthew Winkler may have been moved from other pastoral assignments - youth ministries - for certain "irregular" behaviors involving children.

This would explain the mental state of Mary Winkler, although most people would not agree with her method of response. God have mercy on anyone who would abuse my children, for I surely would not. In all honesty, were I to find myself alone with someone who hurt my children, I cannot guarantee that I would to allow the legal system to work.

I might instead choose the path of swift, Louisville Slugger justice, or find my vengeance in a double-barreled, 12-gauge response. My prayers thus must include a plea to God to keep me from ever having to make such a decision.

35 comments:

Calico Jack said...

I wondered about that. Some form of abuse is one of the few motives that makes any kind of sense in this case.

All I can say is ask for a jury trial and get me a seat in the box.

-Sepp said...

My money says she got into an extramarital relationship and shot Rev Hubby. Wouldn't be the first time...

historymike said...

Agreed, Jack. Something about these high-profile crime cases is addictive.

historymike said...

Good theory, Sepp, although the officials at the press conferences have categorically denied infidelity as a factor.

They kept evading the issue of abuse, though, whether sexual or physical abuse.

Not of God said...

He was probably abusing the little girls. After all, he was a 'man of god'. What else would we expect from those men of god?

Stefan Schmidt said...

He was probably abusing the little girls. After all, he was a 'man of god'. What else would we expect from those men of god?---troll

Troll, find something more productive to do rather than engaging people in flame wars.

historymike said...

Agreed, Stefan. It's one thing to speculate on Mary Winkler's motivations, but quite another to condemn all clergy on the actions of a few.

Anonymous said...

Lots of unanswered questions

J. said...

There is a lot of pressure against people leaving the Church of Christ because they have a hard time maintaining their membership. The pressure must be even stronger if one is a minister's wife. Then, there is the second-class status of women in the church. A wife is supposed to look upon her husband as if he is God. Mary Winkler was between a rock and a hard place. There really needs to be more outreach for women who are members of these cult-like congregations.

Steve said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

The Churches of Christ are NOT "cult-like." The "International Churches of Christ" are, but that's a different group entirely. I've been a member of the C of C my entire life and have never heard anyone say or imply that a wife is to look upon her husband "as God."

As for Matt's being "moved" to other churches, that's speculation by someone who doesn't know anything about the C of C. Congregations don't "move" ministers. They are either dismissed or leave of their own choice, and finding another congregation is the individual responsibility of the minister, as there is no central authority or governing board.

Officials at each of his previous congregations have been interviewed, and NOT ONE has said or even hinted at his being forced out.

historymike said...

Agreed that Church of Christ is not a cult, anonymous.

I have relatives who attend CofC, and they are very normal.

Just a bit strict on some things allowed in other churches.

I disagree, though, about your assessment of Church of Christ procedures. IF (a capital-lettered IF) Matthew Winkler was involved in any inappropriate behavior, it is equally possible that a hushed-up, "suggested" resignation might have occurred.

Sometimes administrators decide that it is best for all parties if there is a quiet departure, rather than a very public dismissal.

This is as true in churches as it is in corporations. The Catholic Church is not the only religious body that has swept some problems under the rug.

Anonymous said...

Mike--my father was a C of C minister for more than 30 years and anytime a minister was fired for any sort of misconduct, there was NO WAY to keep it a secret. Someone invariably spilled the beans. Not even a hint of that involving Matt Winkler, and given that his family is very well-known in C of C circles, it would come out.

I understand about the Catholic scandals, but with all the bureaucracy and layers of officials, it's much easier to conceal some thing like that.

Anonymous said...

Well. I happen to know Matt and I am a fellow church of Christ minister. To the person who suggested Matt was possibly guilty of child abuse and removed from his other positions, nothing can be further from the truth. Matt left being a youth minister to become a pulpit minister. Pure and simple. He was not "removed" from his work. For some reason Mary wanted Matt gone, whatever the reason, it happened.
And what is expected of "men of God" is chaste and pure behavior. Just because a few have abused the authority invested in them does not make all of us that way.

Anonymous said...

Though Matt was a minister, the issue goes beyond religion. I am by no means religious-but I think this case is worthy of a moral and ethical analysis to say the least. Furthermore, it needs to be seperated from religion. The bottom line is that Mary killed her husband for a reason that isn't being revealed. Surely it was a reason that triggered a violent response from her-leading one to naturally assume that there was a serious issue going on. People don't just kill their spouses for no apparent reason. Let's be real about this. Something was just not right in Mary's eyes. Bottom line. Does that justify her actions? No. Not at all. But we have to see this objectively and not just religiously. In response to no of god's comment....a friend and I came to that conclusion, too. It's not a minister thing so all of you religious men or so called....don't take offense. You don't necessarily have to be a minister to molest a child even though that has been a recent trend. If Matt were doing that, I wouldn't connect that to religion or the trend. I would connect it to pervertedness. Then I get to thinking....how fair is it of us to assume. We have no idea. And for the person who knew Mike....sorry about the loss; but you can never be too sure. What happens in many homes stays there.

Anonymous said...

Pornography addiction is a likely motive. If his fetish were teens, or just due to the fact that so much pornography is of the "teen variety", she may have wanted him to leave youth ministry as a result. It probably didn't involve his children.

Anonymous said...

If my husband has a porn addiction I don't think I'd shoot him dead. We may have some things to discuss and sort out; but I wouldn't kill him over that....come on!!!!

Anonymous said...

There are really only a few things that would make a spouse kill their mate. Abuse comes to mind as the first reason, whether it be of the spouse or the chidren. Infidelity is the second thing that comes to mind. Disease is the third, whether it is a mercy killing or involves one spouse using drugs (either perscription or illegal) or alcohol.

But lets look at the facts as we know them. Mary rented a condo on the beach - she planned on being there that week, but ultimately didn't stay there. Sounds like a woman who wanted to get as far away as possible. Why rent it and not stay there? She killed her husband Wednesday morning, apparently out of earshot of the children, which would suggest they were already loaded up in the van/car outside. The people who know the motive say they won't tell...what are they trying to hide? Last night's Dateline had someone (don't know who - didn't catch that part) who said that Mary didn't tell anyone what the problem was because no one would have believed her.

Here is my theory: I think the husband was either molesting the girls, and she found out and snapped. OR he was living a double life. It has been my experience that many ministers - especially Southern youth ministers and music ministers, are very effeminate. I have personally known three ministers in my lifetime that have been found to be gay men who are trying to hide the fact they are gay. These men are very charismatic, they marry, have kids, but live a secret gay life behind closed doors. Quite often, these men have a father in the ministry, or come from an upstanding small town Christian family who would obviously never accept that their son is gay. So they are forced to live a lie.

Maybe Mary found out that he was having an affair with gay men, or looking at gay male porn on the internet. Maybe she was getting ready to blow the whistle on him. It would ruin him completely, not only in the church, but in the eyes of his family. But who would believe her? He's a minister, married with three kids...how to prove it? Unless she had proof from the internet. Maybe he was trying to get rid of evidence, so she shot him? It's just a theory, but not outside of the realm of possibility.

Anonymous said...

We imagine all sorts of terrible things to try and justify or make sense of how she could do this. It's a normal reaction but it is possible that this seemingly happy on the outside woman had serious mental problems on the inside. People can have or develop mental issues. I don't say this lightly and I certainly have compassion for this family. This theory is harder to come to grips with maybe because it could mean that in all reality Mr. Winkler didn't do anything that caused her to kill him. It just seems to make more sense that it was something else. In response to the theory of the husband being homosexual, I would certainly be upset if I found out that my husband was leading a double life. With a woman or a man but yes more so with a man. Everything would be a lie. It would be a betrayal of immense proportion. Especially if he had exposed himself to unsafe sex, thereby exposing me (therefore the children) to HIV and other STD's. It would be devastating to learn that your spouse had given you a death sentence. This comment in NO way means that I think this happened in the Winkler family. I can only say that these things do happen and it's very sad. Something else has bothered me about this shooting besides the obvious. I feel that being shot in the back implies something. For some it imply a cowardly act but for some it might imply revenge. I just wonder if it's rare for someone to shoot their spouse from behind. If you were really angry at someone it would seem like you would shoot them from the front. If you were scared that you couldn't do it for reasons such as you were small and they were large then the back would make sense. It could just be that he knew she had a gun and turned his back on her, not expecting that she was really going to shoot him or possibly gambling that she would be less likely to shoot him. I just find it odd that he was shot from behind.

Anonymous said...

If he wasn't a 'man of god' we would have known the reason by now....I hate our society.

Anonymous said...

You are all men of God. Like it or not. It's like the law of gravity, you don't have to believe it's true but........ Wether or not he is a "man of God" or not has nothing to do with why they are not releasing information on the motive. If you have ever been on the other side ( the side of the victim) which I have, you would understand that EVERYTHING, especially motive and keeping it under wraps until the appropiate time is one of the most important
steps the prosecution can take at this point. Really the whole process has been quite fast. The idea that we the uninvolved bystanders, have to be informed right now, is a sign of our over dependence on instant gratification. This poor family of the victim is feeling that everything has happened way too fast. My heart and prayers go out to this family and the Church.

Foilwoman said...

It's impossible to follow this discussion with all the anonymous friends and enemies posting. Pick a fictitious blog identity, and then we can at least follow your train of thought . . . . Just a suggestion.

As for why Mary Winkler killed her husband, I have no idea. The CofC sounds like hell for women, but maybe she liked being submissive and changed her mind? Maybe he was a creep. Maybe he beat her. Maybe she had delusions. Maybe something else no-one else has thought of happened. The police have been very cadgy with the no-comments regarding abuse . . . normally you deny that right up front, so something smells fishy, but until something is actually released to the public, we won't know.

It's rather creepy to be interested in this (as I am, I'm not pointing the finger at anyone but myself), and I think we all see our worst prejudices and fears in this sort of situation: me of an abusive husband, but others might have other reactions. I hope the girls are okay with his parents who sound a bit off, but actually that's rather understandable too, given the situation they're in. Sad.

Anonymous said...

If people that don't know what is going on in a person's life or in the CofC. they should keep their mouth shut until they have enoungh sense to talk about it. It has been so much untrue thing said about the CofC and Matt, until it frightens me. These mouthers will answer for it

Anonymous said...

To the foilwoman, being submissive to your husband is not like standing over them with a bull whip..If you read your Bible you'll know what it says. The Church is not a cult. If you have never attended, you should go a few times or all time and see for your self. There is a judgement day for you too.

Anonymous said...

Why DO people insist on commenting on something they obviously know nothing about? Is it just human nature, do folks think it is their duty to make a remark? Clearly, most of these posters have never set foot inside a Church of Christ in their lives, or if they did, they totally tuned out what was being said and done. The Church of Christ merely tries to follow the example of the first church in the New Testament, and by the way, this is where we had our beginning, not "150 years ago by Alexander Campbell". To even imply that Matthew Winkler was a homosexual or abuser of children seems like ludicrous speculation by people who have nothing better to do than offer their unwanted and unsolicited opinion. Having been a Church Of Christ's ministers wife for almost 27 years now, I can assure you that the assumption that women are dominated by men is also a false accusation. True, according to the New Testament scriptures, women are not to usurp the authority of men IN WORSHIP SERVICES, but in their daily walks of life, they are no different than any other women in their treatment by men. Perhaps in India and other countries, women are treated as subordinates to men, but here in the good ol USA, us Church of Christ women have got it made.......we are actually treated with more love and respect because of our husbands trying to live in the manner God ordained for them in the marriage bond. (See Ephesians 5:22-33).

Continue to pray for the entire Winkler family during this most difficult time in their lives.

takatrip said...

As I read these posts I wonder why we always fail to see that there is no perfect. Christian or non christian, Church of Christ or any denomination, minister or not there is no such thing as the perfect family. I'm fascinated by this case because of this very reason. Everyone is so shocked that a minister and his wife could be so screwed up! Just like the rest of us. Without getting into too much theology - isn't our human failing/sin the very reason we need God? Why are we continually surprised to find out that we are ALL equally sinful? I'm curious about the motive just like everyone else but I wish we could see past his title of "minister" and her label of "perfect wife" and see humanity as humanity. I am sad for the family and the girls especially.

bigpicture said...

I agree with takatrip. Also, if you look at human beings from a historical standpoint, not only those under the guise of religion, but also those who were considered by most of humankind, to be the most spiritual and respectful of the Divine, have done things wrong and even heinous. Regardless of your spiritual beliefs, the documents of a man believed to be Simon Peter, pulling out his sword and cutting off a Centurion's ear when the soldier was trying to arrest Christ, is by most, considered a historical fact. Whether right or wrong, Peter's belief that he was defending God Himself is what elicited such a violent response. And cases exist like this, throughout human history. Are we to think that humans today are any less motivated by sincere beliefs? No matter whether the belief is a doctrine, a thought, a feeling that they've been done wrong or even psychotic depravity. When you think about it, any crime is committed out of some type of self-defense or justification (no matter how twisted or unrelated to the victim) as seen by the perpetrator. Whether Mary Winkler has mental problems are not, is really moot. Obviously, there were some issues there, but since she can clearly be seen as one who does not fall in the category of severely psychotic (she seems to function normally -i.e., can drive, do her hair, speak logically), it's safe to say she felt some type of threat to her children by her husband or her surroundings. Although this is much more confusing to those closest to it and my heart goes out to them, I hope that it's one more lesson to help teach us to always try and feel what the other person sees and feels - no matter what their stance.

Anonymous said...

I went to high school with Matt and for all of you people who are speculating about abuse, pornography, him being gay, and the C of C being a cult, etc. you need to get a life and start doing something else besides sticking your nose in other people's business. I would be VERY surprised to find out about any of these types of behavior taking place-but I agree with several of you-we will never know what went on in their household because WE WEREN'T THERE. Matt was a wonderful person-great example for others, great leader, good friend, and I'm sure a wonderful father and husband. You shouldn't be saying things about his family (parents) if you don't even know them. EVERYONE has problems-whether they be marital, depression, problems with weight, etc. They just happened to be very unlucky because their problems turned out to be national news. I cannot imagine being one of the Winkler girls in a few years reading what some of you have been writing about their family. The Winklers are sincere genuine people and should be commended for their feelings towards Mary. I doubt that any of you (and I'm not sure that I would either) have the heart to forgive something for something like that, but for some reason they do and it shouldn't matter to you because it's their family and it's their business. I probably wouldn't even be reading all this garbage if I hadn't personally know Matt myself but some of you have WAY to much time on your hands if all you can do it speculate and send in some very hateful messages about people you don't even know. We will all find out what her reasons were when the time comes.

Anonymous said...

ooi

Anonymous said...

maybe Matt asked her to shoot him. maybe that's why she shot him in the back, and not in the front. the only thing we do know for certain is that Matthew is dead. There is only one person who really knows why, and that is Mary. I wouldn't say she was subjected to his authority, or in total submission as she WAS working outside the home. Why is it when a wife kills the husband, there is always supposed to be some illicit behavior on the part of the husband, but when a husband kills the wife, he is a terrible person? what a double standard!

Anonymous said...

People need to start looking at Mary, not Matt as to the possible "Motive" for HER crime. Murderers are an egocentric lot.......The answer lies in Mary's secret life, not Matt's...........

Anonymous said...

Just speculation here: Could Mary have told her husband, she wanted a divorce, cant live her life as a second fiddle to HIS LIFE's wants, needs. Second fiddle, to, the congregation, who totally idolized him. Stop, and think a minute here, heres a woman, that became a doormat, what about her life's wants and needs. Were they met? Ministers in small towns dont make a whole lot of money, so they probably had finanical concerns too.. his career, would have ended had she decided to divorce him. Did he play on that thought, to the point, where they would end up in an argument or escalating arguments...... - maybe he took his gun out...to scare her.... they struggled.....she survivied. I have no doubt, in my mind, that she did love her husband, and i think as this horrible stance unravels.... we will know that there was a darker side to her husband.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous....... You obviously didn't know Matt or Mary. She is the clue to this mystery.

Anonymous said...

your correct in your assumption as i didn't know ither of them, but somehow ( spiritually lead to this site )and as i read, and researched,- i kept coming across" view the whole picture". Maybe they thought they could do better financially, in another area like Orange Beach, Ala. Word, somehow, leaked out, ( computers) to the elders of the church. Pressured for answers. Therefore, causing a strife between husband and wife. Hmmm... a possibility.

Anonymous said...

Maybe this is more for my benefit to write, than it is to post on this issue. Who knows who will read it, hopefully it will help someone reading about this case in ever so familiar situation:
First off, none of us will ever know what really happened exactly, however like previously stated killing is wrong. But if we all must have some reasoning behind it, then congrats we are all human. To shed some light on the christian world and it's culture I write about a personal conviction of my own. Grew up Christian, and went to church religously, then fell in love with the son of a preacher. The guy was very similar to Matt, in terms of everyone that knew him thought he was just great, simpy nice. This was my first relationship, and a big deal for me. Well, the story goes and ends, he was verbally and physically abusive. Totally night and day from what everyone else saw. Unfortunately, I wasnt raised with abuse, so I didnt taking it sitting down...big mistake. When I fought back, he would just abuse me more violently then walk away, rather than never answer his call again, and let his pastor family and my church circle know of his abuse, I took ibuprofen pills, dramatic I know. Well one time after a violent night, he made a phone call to a pastor telling them I had taken pills, (which I had done a dozen times before this) and the pastor and the ambulance came and I was hospitalized and then committed 151, all very hollywood. Although, now I agree taking pills was lame and immature, I know firsthand what is like to be in that circle of abuse. The craziest thing is when we both went to talk to our pastor about what happened, I totally shut down and said nothing about the abuse, I just sat there and listened to him tell them how horrible I was for taking pills. His mother, pastor dad, sisters, and our church circle saw me as the bad ass girlfriend and him as the idealic angel. I was no angel, I did things to harm my body, but I was abused and it hurt, like hell. Now I have left that church circle, mostly because I felt like a crazy outsider for going 151, and never saying a word about his behavior. So please dont ever judge a person, or more importantly a relationship by its outward appearances, even after you feel as though you have heard both sides...Fact is they will never know, because it is not my place to tell them such horrible things there beloved "Joe" was capable of.