DA in Winkler case says evidence against her was 'awfully good' - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

DA in Winkler case says evidence against her was 'awfully good'

SELMER, Tenn. (AP) - The district attorney who helped prosecute convicted killer Mary Winkler in the slaying of her Church of Christ minister husband said he felt the evidence in the case was "awfully good evidence of premeditation."

Winkler, 33, was convicted of voluntary manslaughter in April for shooting husband Matthew Winkler at their residence in Selmer in March 2006. She had faced a higher charge of first-degree murder.

A psychologist at Winkler's trial testified she suffers from post-traumatic stress syndrome because of domestic abuse coupled with emotional damage from the death of a favored sister years earlier.

District Attorney General Michael Dunavant told The Jackson Sun he felt statements Winkler gave police after her arrest were enough to prove she premeditated the killing, which must be proven in a first-degree murder case.

"She confessed to thinking about it prior to the event," Dunavant said. "She even talked about how loud she thought the gun was going to be when it went off. How much better premeditation evidence could we have?

"Getting up in the early morning hours and getting a shotgun out of the closet, loading it, chambering one (shell) and shooting your sleeping husband in the back seems like awfully good evidence of premeditation," he said.

Dunavant said he and other prosecutors wanted to give evidence of a potential motive, even though by law they weren't required to, because he knew jurors would want to have an idea why Winkler shot her husband.

Assistant District Attorney General Walt Freeland presented hours of testimony about the Winklers' banking history, in hopes of proving that Mary Winkler was falling into financial straits after falling victim to a check kiting scheme and was afraid to tell her husband.

Winkler herself testified that her husband was controlling and abused her physically, mentally and sexually, but Dunavant said her control of the family's finances seemed to indicate otherwise.

"If she was really the beat down, submissive, poor, pitiful Mary that was picked on and controlled at every turn by her husband, wouldn't he be writing the checks?" Dunavant said.

Dunavant acknowledged that a wig and high-heeled shoe that the defense presented as evidence Winkler was forced to perform sexual acts against her will turned out to be a dramatic and important piece of visual evidence.

He said he and the authorities had know way of knowing to look for such pieces of evidence, and that Tennessee Bureau of Investigation agents wouldn't have realized the items were significant bits of evidence if they did see them.

"When the TBI was searching that house for evidence of a murder, a high-heel shoe and a wig didn't seem to be very relevant because at that time, they didn't know Mary's story," Dunavant said.

Winkler is currently involved in a custody battle with her husband's parents over the couple's three children. She is living with friends in McMinnville, 65 miles southeast of Nashville, and has a job at a laundry.

Matthew Winkler's parents, Dan and Diane Winkler, have also filed a $2 million wrongful death lawsuit against her.

Winkler's attorneys in the criminal case, Steve Farese Sr. and Leslie Ballin, did not immediately return calls seeking response to Dunavant's interview with the newspaper.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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