Murder in a Small Town

The Tipping Point

Mary recounted the events of the night she shot Winkler in the back. Her story began with them in bed, asleep. Mary said her daughter Brianna's crying woke them up, but Winkler kicked her out of their bed and walked out of the room. According to Mary, past experience had taught her that Winkler had a cruel way of silencing their crying children. She explained that he would cover their babies' mouths and noses, momentarily suffocating them, to get them to stop crying.

That night, Mary wouldn't take Winkler's methods anymore. She said she "just wanted to talk to Matthew. … I just wanted him to stop being so mean." So she grabbed his shotgun, intent on getting him to listen.

The next thing she remembers is hearing the gun go off and seeing him lying on the floor, bleeding. She didn't call 911, and she didn't try to help him. Instead, she fled with her daughters to Alabama.

"I just thought something terrible had happened and nobody would believe that was an accident and I'd just lose the girls," she said. Mary made the shocking claim that the shotgun had fired accidentally.

The Verdict

The jury of 10 women and two men was split — one group of women wanted Mary to go free. Others, including but not limited to the men, thought murder in the first degree was the way to go. After eight hours of deliberation, the jury found Mary guilty of voluntary manslaughter. She would not spend the rest of her life in jail. She had a chance at a new life.

Even more surprising was the judge's sentence, which after credit for time already served, amounted to only one more week in county jail, and 60 days in a facility with counseling services. The argument that Mary was a battered wife was successful.

Saying that she was caught in a vicious cycle of abuse, Mary addressed the court at sentencing and said, "I think of Matthew every day and the guilt, and I'll always miss him and love him. There were bad times but there were good times, and I wish I could have that good Matthew and we could live together forever."

The jury foreman, Bill Berry, and some of the other jurors thought she deserved a stiffer sentence. "Mary, you're going to have to live [with] yourself the rest of your life. And then you're going to have to face God and judgement."

To Mary, though, God had everything to do with it. "I'm convinced God put me in this place for a reason," she said.

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