Judge: Most of funds belong to Winkler children - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Judge: Most of funds belong to Winkler children

HUNTINGDON, Tenn. (AP) - A judge said Wednesday that the majority of community donations after a Tennessee minister was slain belong to his three children, but asked for more information before he makes a final ruling.

Carroll County Chancery Court Judge Ron Harmon commented from the bench following a three-day hearing involving the children's mother, Mary Winkler, and their paternal grandparents, Dan and Diane Winkler.

Mary Winkler is challenging the way Dan and Diane Winkler have spent the donations.

Mary Winkler, who was convicted of voluntary manslaughter in the 2006 death of her husband, argued that those donations were intended for her three daughters, but were instead used for legal fees, a minivan, a family trip to Disney World and other items.

During the hearing, Dan Winkler defended his use of the donations after his son Matthew was found shot to death at his church residence in Selmer, about 60 miles south of Huntingdon.

The church where Dan Winkler is a pastor collected more than $226,000 in donations and Winkler testified that he believed the donations were not for the children, but were for the Huntingdon Church of Christ to use to help his family.

About $150,000 was used for legal fees when the paternal grandparents filed a lawsuit seeking full custody of the girls. About $11,000 remains in the account.

The judge said the donations that were made to the church were given by people under the impression that the money would be used for "the immediate needs and later the educational needs" of the family's three girls.

He also said that some of the money belonged to the grandparents, including money collected to help them purchase the minivan. He asked attorneys for further documents within 30 days before he makes a final ruling.

Dan Winkler and his attorney Gregory Smith declined to comment following the judge's comments. Mary Winkler's attorney Kay Turner said she was pleased.

Earlier Wednesday, Dan Winkler's attorneys called a Huntingdon Church of Christ elder who created the checking account to take the donations and kept its records.

James Kenneth Hampton testified that some of the checks he deposited into the account were earmarked "Winkler college fund" and "trust fund for Winkler girls."

Hampton said he never turned down requests from Dan Winkler for the church to pay the attorneys fees.

Mary Winkler, who is currently on probation for the manslaughter charge, was not in the courtroom to hear the judge's statements because she left early on Wednesday. Her attorneys said she went to Knoxville, Tenn., to pick up her daughters. Mary Winkler regained custody of the children from her former in-laws in September 2008.                  


(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)      

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