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Minister’s wife held without bail in slaying

A minister’s wife charged with killing her husband in the church parsonage waived her right Thursday to a hearing that would have aired evidence against her.
Winkler walks to her seat in courtroom at McNairy County Justice Center in Selmer
Mary Winkler walks to her seat in court in Selmer, Tenn., on Thursday.Kyle Carter / Reuters
/ Source: The Associated Press

A minister’s wife charged with shooting her husband to death in the church parsonage waived her right Thursday to a hearing that would have aired evidence against her.

Defense attorneys said Mary Winkler was emotionally fragile and also wanted to protect her three young daughters from any painful details that might have emerged at the hearing, where she could have requested bail.

Winkler, 32, was ordered held without bail on charges of first-degree murder in the March 22 shooting of Matthew Winkler, the minister at Fourth Street Church of Christ in the small town of Selmer, 80 miles east of Memphis.

The case against her now goes to the grand jury, which is set to meet in June and will decide if there is enough evidence to support murder charges against her.

Authorities say Mary Winkler confessed to shooting her 31-year-old husband and leaving town with their daughters. His body was found in the parsonage after he didn’t show up for an evening service. Authorities have declined to disclose a motive.

Mary Winkler was found the next day in Orange Beach, Ala., with the children, who are now with their grandparents.

Defense attorney Steve Farese said Winkler is upset and unable to concentrate on helping with her defense. He said he was unsure what she said in her statement to police or what they believe was a motive.

“What I’m trying to get to is a position where she can focus and we can get what she thinks she said at that interview, and we haven’t gotten there yet,” he said.

A psychological exam is expected, said another defense attorney, Leslie Ballin.

The defense may seek bond later, Farese said.

He said Winkler has asked to see her children — Breanna, 1; Mary Alice, 6; and Patricia, 8 — but he was unsure when that might happen.

Still, he said, “we don’t feel that it does anyone any good to hear gruesome things about their late father.”

Prosecutor Elizabeth Rice said defendants indicted by the grand jury in June generally go to trial in October. She declined to comment on evidence against Winkler.