IMAGE: ATTORNEY IN COURT
Russell Ingle  /  AP
Defense attorney Steve Farese uses a shotgun to make a point Friday at Mary Winkler's murder trial in Selmer, Tenn.
updated 4/14/2007 10:01:44 PM ET 2007-04-15T02:01:44

Bank tellers testified Saturday that a preacher’s wife accused of killing her husband with a shotgun was in financial trouble and that their bank had caught her trying to deposit bad checks.

Prosecutors have said the couple’s account at Regions Bank in Selmer was overdrawn by $5,000, and that bank employees called Mary Winkler several times in the days before Matthew Winkler was found shot to death in the church parsonage.

Diane Hollingsworth, a teller at Regions Bank, said she talked with Mary Winkler on March 21, 2006 — one day before her husband was found dead in this west Tennessee town.

“I just advised her that if she came in and talked to our bank manager that there would be some way that we could work it out — that it was not an impossible situation,” Hollingsworth said. “I advised her if she wasn’t able to come in, it would be turned over to our security department.”

Prosecutors have said Mary Winkler was caught up in a swindle known as the “Nigerian scam,” in which victims are promised riches if they advance money to cover processing expenses.

Defense attorneys have said the Winklers were both taken in by the scam.

Mary Winkler, 33, was arrested a day after the shooting on the Alabama coast, about 340 miles away, where she was spotted driving the family minivan with their three young daughters inside.

Investigators say she admitted shooting her husband and that it had something to do with his constant criticism.

IMAGE: MARY WINKLER
Russell Ingle  /  AP
Mary Winkler is escorted into court Friday.
Three bank tellers testified that Mary Winkler had a separate account at the First State Bank in Henderson, about 20 miles north of Selmer, and tried to deposit a number of large checks from that account into the Selmer bank, including one for $7,000.

“I called to explain to her that the items she had been depositing on the First State account, there were no funds there,” Hollingsworth said. “That simply was not legal.”

The tellers also said Mary Winkler deposited a $6,455 check, allegedly from a Canadian Trust Bank, in December 2005 that turned out to be fraudulent.

Also Saturday, Steve Scott, a firearms expert with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, testified that the shotgun that apparently fired the fatal shot was working properly.

The defense team has said the gun may have accidentally discharged while Mary Winkler was holding it and standing on pillows that were on the floor of the couple’s bedroom.

Defense attorneys also say Mary Winkler was abused by her husband, and that she was attempting to confront him about a situation involving their 1-year-old daughter just before his death. The defense has not described the situation.

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

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