Mary Winkler granted limited visits, phone calls with daughters
Harmon granted Mary Winkler supervised visitation for “a limited time under limited conditions” and asked attorneys for both sides to work on proposals that will help determine the time, place, dates and lengths of the visits.
Additionally, the judge said Mary Winkler could speak with the girls by phone every other day.
Mary Winkler said during the hearing that being together with her children again would help the healing process.
“That’s one great reason we need to be together,” she said. “We need to be healing together and talking through our problems and working it out.”
She also said that friends continue to help her financially, making it possible for her to support the children. A friend recently purchased a home and is renting it to her for $150 a month, she said. Mary Winkler also said she has been provided with a car and its maintenance, prescription medication, groceries and other expenses.
The ruling is considered a temporary arrangement, as both parties continue to seek permanent custody of the three children. Mary Winkler has not seen the girls in more than a year — a decision the girls’ paternal grandparents said they made after the children had physical and emotional issues after the last visit with their mother.
Dan and Diane Winkler have petitioned to have Mary Winkler’s parental rights terminated and to be allowed to adopt their granddaughters. A court date has not yet been set on that motion. In addition, the Winklers have filed a $2 million wrongful death lawsuit.
Mary Winkler’s court appearance came days after a televised interview with Oprah Winfrey – which came with its own share of legal battles.
Dan and Diane Winkler failed at persuading the judge who presided over the murder trial earlier this year to issue a gag order on the interview, saying it could harm the children. Judge Weber McCraw did, however, rule that Mary Winkler could not appear live on the “Oprah” show.
The taped interview aired in segments, with Mary Winkler’s criminal attorneys appearing in the last few moments to discuss the looming custody case.
Other recent media reports have focused on Mary Winkler’s personal life, including an interview with a man she has dated and photos of her smoking outside while court was in recess on Wednesday.
Those supporting the family members vying to raise the Winkler girls say they want what is best for the children.
Several members of the Huntingdon church, where Dan Winkler serves as pulpit minister, said after Wednesday’s ruling that the couple has done an exemplary job caring for the children and encouraging church members to pray for the best outcome for the girls.
“They’ve been very unselfish,” church member J.W. Hollowell told the Jackson Sun, adding that he frequently sees the children at church and at local events.
The Winklers and a family spokesman did not comment publicly after the proceedings. Still in the courtroom, Mary Winkler’s father, attorneys and other family members surrounded her in a circle and hugged.
Sept. 20, 2007