Video: Minister murdered

updated 3/27/2006 4:56:50 PM ET 2006-03-27T21:56:50

A prominent preacher, Matthew Winkler, was found dead in his home his family missing and his wife confessed to the murder. 

Mary Winkler has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of her husband, a church minister and community leader in a small Tennessee town.   Police say Winkler shot her husband before taking her three girls, 8-year-old Patricia, 6-year-old Mary Alice and 1-year-old Breanna from Selmer, Tennessee hundreds of miles away to Orange Beach, Alabama presumably to get away from the area where she had committed the crime.

So far the preacher's wife has given no indication why her husband was shot.  The church congregation held its first Sunday services this weekend since the incident and is searching for answers.

Dan Abrams discussed the case with Pam Killingsworth, a friend of the Winklers and Jennifer Johnson of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

ABRAMS, HOST, "ABRAMS REPORT":  Ms. Killingsworth, let me start with you.  I mean I would assume that the news of this came as an enormous shock to you. How well did you know her? 

PAM KILLINGSWORTH, WINKLER FAMILY FRIEND:  It was very shocking.  Mary brought the kids to school every day and every afternoon.  Also, the two older girls had music lessons with me, so I saw her every week, two different times a week, and nothing appeared to be out of the ordinary.

ABRAMS:  They seemed to have a good relationship, husband and wife? 

KILLINGSWORTH:  Yes, they did.  She was always beside him at church, all the group meetings that we had, youth devotionals, she was always there. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Ms. Johnson, she has apparently confessed to your agents, true? 

JENNIFER JOHNSON, TENNESSEE BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION:  Yes.  This is true.  Alabama Bureau of Investigation actually interviewed her first last night.  We had agents en route as soon as we knew where she was.  They interviewed her and she did confess to this.

ABRAMS: Did she say why she did it?

JOHNSON:  You know I can't get into the details of the conversation, but you know all of that will come out in court.  But it's safe to say that she did confess. 

ABRAMS:  Can you confirm that he was shot in the back?

JOHNSON:  I can confirm that he was shot.  I don't want to get in to the number of times and that kind of thing.  But he was found in a back bedroom shot to death at 9:20 on Wednesday night. 

ABRAMS:  And the confession is clear, unambiguous, with no uncertainty?

JOHNSON:  No, she's been very cooperative.  As soon as her van was spotted there on the side of the road, she was very forthcoming with authorities, and has made no attempt to hide what's happened. 

ABRAMS:  What happens to her children now? 

JOHNSON:  Well, it's my understanding, I know that last night the Department of Children Services in Alabama actually helped out, took custody, and we're handling that over night and it's now my understanding that his father may already have them back in his home at this hour. 

ABRAMS:  Is there anything to indicate that the daughters may have seen what happened?

JOHNSON:  You know, I wouldn't want to get into a lot of those details.  These kids have been through a lot and I would just really hate to air any of that on television for obvious reasons.

ABRAMS:  Tell me about tracking her down.  How was she tracked to Alabama?

JOHNSON:  We had a number of different things going at one time.  We had the criminal investigation certainly and then we had the Amber Alert that was issued at 3:00 a.m. yesterday morning.  We sent a nationwide BOLO out and between that and the Amber Alerts, we were able to narrow it down to the southeast, some different areas that we thought she may be traveling in, through other law enforcement techniques which I really can't get into.  We were able to narrow it down to the panhandle. We notified authorities there that we believe she was in that area and they simply drove by her van and saw it.

ABRAMS:  Ms. Killingsworth, you were saying that before this happened, you had no idea that there were any problems.  Since it has happened, since the arrest, have people in the community been talking about any possible problems between husband and wife? 

KILLINGSWORTH:  No one that I've talked to had noticed anything different.  They still seemed like a normal, happy family.

ABRAMS:  Tell me about him. 

KILLINGSWORTH:  Matthew was a wonderful person, very charismatic, an excellent speaker, very much a people person.  He was definitely the leader in the family.

ABRAMS:  And she had recently gone back to school, is that right?

KILLINGSWORTH:  She had gone back this semester to start working on her teaching degree. 

ABRAMS:  Do you know anything more about that? 

KILLINGSWORTH:  I know when they got married she dropped out of college and she wanted to go back and finish up a teaching degree so that she could become a teacher and work with children.

ABRAMS:  Do you know how they met? 

KILLINGSWORTH:  All I know is they met at college.  Both of them were in school at Freed Hardeman and started dating.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Jennifer Johnson, Pam Killingsworth, thank you very much. 

Watch the 'Abrams Report' for more analysis and interviews on the top legal stories each weeknight at 6 p.m. ET on MSNBC TV.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,