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Winkler’s funeral set; wife awaits arraignment

The wife of slain Tennessee minister Matthew Winkler was booked into the McNairy County Jail in Selmer on Saturday after she confessed to police she shot her husband inside the church-owned home where the family lived. Mary Carol Freeman Winkler, 32, is charged with first-degree murder in the slaying. Investigators say she revealed her motive for the crime during questioning, but they have steadfastly refused to tell a grieving Fourth Street church family — and the world — what drove her to kill.Meanwhile, services for Matthew Winkler have been set for Tuesday at 11 a.m. at the church he served for 13 months, and a fund has been established for the couple’s three young daughters, now living with their paternal grandparents, Dan and Diane Winkler, in Tennessee.
Mary Winkler and 8-year-old Patricia, 6-year-old Mary Alice and 14-month-old Breanna,were found safe in the family’s 2006 minivan 470 miles from Selmer in Orange Beach, Ala., onThursday, a day after an Amber Alert was issued for the children. She did not fight extradition to Tennessee and began the journey back Saturday morning.
Televised footage showed Mary Winkler wearing her own, bright pink colored clothing, as she was led in handcuffs into the facility. She kept her head down and said nothing.
Selmer Police investigator Roger Rickman said the children’s paternal grandfather, Dan Winkler,minister of the Huntingdon, Tenn., church, was granted temporary custody of the Winklers’ chidren on Friday. Mary Winkler attended the hearing, according to The Associated Press, but did not speak to reporters.
Dan Winkler spoke publicly after the custody hearing, however, and thanked supporters for their prayers.
“Now we want to turn our attention to remembering our son and to the care of three young children,” Dan Winkler said. In lieu of flowers a fund has been set up for the children.
Winkler Family Fund
229 Ward Circle Suite A-23
Brentwood, TN 37027
Spokesmen from twoof the three investigating agencies disagree about whetherthe children were in the home at the time of the shooting.
Church members discovered the body of minister Matthew Brian Winkler,31, about 9:22 p.m. Wednesday after the family failed to show forchurch, authorities said. Both Matthew and Mary Winkler were Bible class teachers – he in the adult education department, she in the 2- and 3-year-olds class.

Mary Ann Winkler Lowry, second cousin of the victim, said Thursday thatthe family was shocked about the nature of the crime, but trying toremain focused and prayerful.
“We’re seriously concerned about Mary Winkler and the threechildren,” Lowry said before the family was found. “We also ask that prayers be said forthe investigation to reach a speedy resolution, so the other family members may be found safe.”

Selmer is a city of 4,500 about 80 miles east ofMemphis. The Fourth Street church, established in 1923, averages Sundayattendance of about 175, according to the 2006 edition of Churches ofChrist in the United States.

Matt Winkler was the grandson of Wendell Winkler, awell-known traveling evangelist, author and “preacher’s preacher” whodied lastyear after 61 years of ministry.

Winkler’s appointment at the Selmer church was his first as pulpit minister. He had previously served as youth minister at the McMinnville, Tenn. church and the Bellevue congregation in Nashville.
The Winklers met at Freed-Hardeman University in Henderson, Tenn., where Dan Winkler also serves as an adjunct professor. The couple married in 1996, and Matthew Winkler received a bachelor’s degree in Bible in 1999. Mary Winkler has been a student in the university’s School of Educationperiodically since 1994. She was enrolled for nine credit hours for thespring 2006 semester, a spokesman for FHU said.

March 23, 2006

Filed under: Staff Reports Top Stories

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