Preacher's wife in murder trial says "ugly" came out

Mary Winkler, in court Friday morning with her attorney, Steve Farese.
Mary Winkler, in court Friday morning with her attorney, Steve Farese.

SELMER, Tennessee (AP) -- A preacher's wife told authorities she shot her husband after a long buildup of domestic problems, according to an audiotape that prosecutors played Friday at her murder trial.

Mary Winkler, 33, can be heard crying as she is questioned by Alabama officials a day after her husband, Matthew Winkler, was found shot dead in the parsonage of his church in this western Tennessee town.

His wife was arrested a day later on the Alabama coast, about 340 miles away, with their three young daughters.

Investigators have said she admitted shooting her husband on March 22, 2006, and that it had something to do with his constant criticism. On the tape, she says the couple's domestic problems had reached a boiling point after many years of conflict.

"It's just a lot of stupid stuff," she said. "I love him dearly, but gosh, he just nailed me in the ground. ... The first of our marriage, I just took it like a mouse, didn't think anything different. My mom just took it from my dad -- that stupid scenario."

But Winkler said she got a job at the post office and that experience taught her to stand up for herself. "That's the problem. I have nerve now, and I have self-esteem. My ugly came out."

Winkler told Alabama Bureau of Investigation agent Stan Stabler on the tape that her husband had threatened her physically. "He said something that really scared me. I don't know, something life-threatening," she said, without elaborating further.

But she also says she doesn't want her husband's name smeared.

"He was so good, so good, too. It was just a weakness. I think a lot of times he had high blood pressure that he'd never go enough to the doctor to get medicine for it. He was a mighty fine person, and that's the thing," she said.

"Just say, 'The lady was a moron, evil woman,' and let's go on with it. That's fine. ... That's my point of view."

Winkler's lawyer has said she intended to hold her husband at gunpoint only to force him to talk about his personal problems after a situation involving their 1-year-old daughter, Breanna, defense attorney Steve Farese said. The defense did not describe the situation.

A prosecutor has described Matthew Winkler as a good father and a man who trusted his wife.

Prosecutor Walt Freeland has 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.

But Farese said Mary Winkler handled the family finances only because she did everything her husband told her. He said she was abused verbally, emotionally and physically.

Winkler's trial could last up to two weeks. The jury -- including a Baptist minister and woman who said she had been a victim of domestic abuse -- will spend that time sequestered in a small-town motel without television, radio or cell phones.

(Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)