Image: Mary Winkler
Mark Humphrey  /  AP file
Mary Winkler, in court in April 2007, will have permanent custody of her three children after her former in-laws unsuccessfully fought her in court.
updated 8/4/2008 5:00:47 PM ET 2008-08-04T21:00:47

Mary Winkler, the woman convicted of voluntary manslaughter in the 2006 shooting death of her minister husband, has taken custody of her three daughters, one of her lawyers said Monday.

Rachael Putnam, a custody attorney, said the former minister’s wife picked the girls up Friday from the slain man’s parents, Dan and Diane Winkler.

“She is absolutely overjoyed,” Putnam said. The lawyer said the children will live with Winkler at her home near McMinnville, about 60 miles southeast of Nashville.

Winkler, 34, was convicted of voluntary manslaughter for shooting her husband, Church of Christ minister Matthew Winkler, at their Selmer, Tenn., residence in March 2006.

She was tried for murder after her husband was found slain by shotgun blast to the back, but a jury found her guilty of voluntary manslaughter after she testified about suffering from years of physical and emotional abuse by her husband.

Sentenced to three years in prison , she received probation for most of it, spending only 12 days in jail after her sentencing and two months in a mental health facility before being released.

The children, ages 11, 9 and 3, had previously been living with their grandparents and had  court-ordered visits with their mother.

“It should be seen as a sign that the family is healing,” Putnam said of the custody arrangement. “It’s a good thing for everyone.”

Putnam said a court order giving Winkler custody has not been completed, but she said the custody case between the grandparents and Winkler will eventually be concluded.

An attorney representing Dan and Diane Winkler did not immediately return a call for comment Monday.

The arrangement was reached in time for the girls to start the school year with their mother, Putnam said, and they will continue to have visits with their grandparents.

The grandparents had tried to stop the supervised visits with Winkler, but the state’s Court of Appeals upheld the order by a county judge. The Tennessee Supreme Court also rejected the grandparents’ appeal.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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