Preacher's Wife Killed Husband Because of Abuse, Family Says

ByABC News via logo
November 20, 2006, 8:22 AM

Nov. 20, 2006 — -- It was a crime that stunned the nation. In March, 32-year-old Mary Winkler, a soft-spoken preacher's wife, was charged with the murder of husband Matt, a Church of Christ minister in the small town of Selmer, Tenn.

Shocked parishioners discovered Matt's bloodied body, riddled with a blast of bird shot, in the home the couple shared with their three daughters.

When Winkler was questioned the day after the shooting, authorities said she confessed to the crime, saying she had snapped after years of abuse.

Now out on bail, Winkler is working in a dry-cleaning shop and preparing for her trial, where she will tell her side of the story.

In an exclusive interview with "Good Morning America," Winkler's family said she killed her husband because she was abused.

"Physical, mental, verbal," said Clark Freeman, Winkler's father. "I don't know how she took it. She's a stronger individual than I am."

Freeman says the abuse became more apparent the last three years of Winkler and Matt's marriage.

"I saw bad bruises. The heaviest of makeup covering facial bruises," Freeman said. "So one day, I confronted her. I said, 'Mary Carol, you are coming off as a very abused wife, very battered.'"

But Freeman says she denied the accusations.

"[She] would hang her head and say, 'No, daddy, everything's all right. Everything's all right.'"

Friends say Winkler didn't talk about the abuse, but her growing fear of her husband was obvious.

"One Sunday, Mary came into the church and I looked at her and she had a black eye," said Winkler's friend Rudie Thomsen.

Another friend, Amy Redmon, said it was clear who was in charge in the relationship.

"He was an authority figure, and he made the decisions basically. It was obvious," Redmon said.

Winkler's sisters, Tabatha Freeman, 25, and Amanda Miller, 24, told "GMA" that she seemed caught in a difficult situation and that they weren't sure how to respond.