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Psychologist: Pastor's wife said husband abused her
Defense witnesses describe Matthew Winkler's angry side

By Beth Rucker
Associated Press Writer

SELMER, Tenn. — A preacher's wife accused of murdering her husband told a psychologist that he often threatened her with a shotgun and forced her to have sex, the psychologist testified Tuesday.

Dr. Lynne Zager said Mary Winkler also told her that, on the day of the fatal shooting, her husband tried to stop their 1-year-old daughter from crying by placing his hands over the baby's nose and mouth.

Prosecution witnesses have described former Decatur resident Matthew Winkler, a 31-year-old preacher at the Fourth Street Church of Christ in this West Tennessee town, as a good father and husband.

But the defense says he terrorized his family and criticized his wife's every move.

Matthew Winkler was found fatally shot in the parsonage where the family lived in March 2006. A day later, Mary Winkler was arrested on the Alabama coast 340 miles away, driving in the family minivan with her three young daughters.

The psychologist said Mary Winkler suffered from mild depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, which started at age 13 when her sister died and got worse because her husband abused her. She could not have formed the intent to commit a crime because of her compromised mental condition, Zager said.

Mary Winkler, 33, could be sentenced to up to 60 years in prison if convicted of first-degree murder.

The defense has said Mary Winkler intended to hold her husband at gunpoint only to force him to talk about the incident involving their 1-year-old daughter Breanna. The defense said the shooting was accidental.

Several witnesses for the prosecution said they they never saw any sign that Matthew Winkler was abusing his wife. Their 9-year-old daughter Patricia testified Monday that she had a good father and she never saw him mistreat her mother.

But Mary Winkler told the psychologist that her husband criticized her for putting on weight and regularly pinched and shoved her, Zager said.

"The summer when she was out of jail was the first time she could wear shorts because of all the bruising," Zager said.

Mary Winkler has acknowledged shooting her husband, telling investigators her "ugly came out." She told authorities that her husband criticized her constantly and that she got tired of it and just "snapped."

A forensic pathologist testified that Matthew Winkler was shot in the back; 77 shotgun pellets were removed from his body.

The prosecutor said bank managers were closing in on a check-kiting scheme that Mary Winkler wanted to conceal from her husband. He said Mary Winkler had become caught up in a swindle known as the "Nigerian scam," which promises riches to victims who send money to cover the processing expenses.

Mary Winkler's defense began Tuesday, and her lawyers tried to show that her husband was an abusive, controlling and angry man.

Tabatha Freeman, Mary Winkler's younger sister, said she noticed changes in her sister after she got married in 1996. She said Matthew Winkler controlled everything his wife did, preventing her from making any decisions and isolating her from her family.

"A very bubbly, outgoing sister became very subdued," Freeman said.

One defense witness testified he saw Mary Winkler with a black eye in 2003, when Matthew Winkler was youth minister at a church in McMinnville, about 65 miles southeast of Nashville.

Rudolph Otto Thomsen III, who let Mary Winkler live with his family in McMinnville while she was free on bond, said Mary explained that she was playing with her girls and one of them accidentally hit her in the eye.

That didn't strike Thomsen as suspicious, and the defense offered no proof that Matthew Winkler gave his wife a black eye. But Thomsen said Mary Winkler's behavior often changed around her husband.

"She was bubbly, grinning and cutting up with everyone and then Matthew walked in," Thomsen said. "It was like you'd thrown a switch. Her head went down, her hands went together."

The church secretary in McMinnville, Lori Boyd, testified that Matthew Winkler seemed nice at first, but then became demanding and cruel, treating other church staff members as "people lower than him." Boyd also said she heard the couple having loud arguments in his office.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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