Preacher's Wife Appears In Court

Mary Winkler, the preacher's wife who police say confessed to his murder, makes her first appearance in Tennessee court March 27, 2006. CBS

The minister's wife accused of killing her husband shuffled into court for her arraignment Monday wearing an orange jail uniform and shackles and clutching her attorney's hand.

Mary Winkler, 32, didn't enter a plea. Her only words were "no sir" when the judge asked if she had any questions after he read the complaint against her and explained her rights.

Winkler is charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of her husband, Matthew Winkler, the minister at Fourth Street Church of Christ in this small town 80 miles east of Memphis.

General Sessions Court Judge Bob Gray delayed a decision on bail until a preliminary hearing, set for Thursday.

Authorities have said Mary Winkler confessed to killing her husband on Wednesday and then leaving town with their three young daughters, though officials haven't suggested a motive for the attack. The minister was found dead that night in the church parsonage.

Mary Winkler was apprehended late Thursday in Orange Beach, Ala., after authorities issued an Amber alert for the children, who are now in the custody of their grandparents.

A friend who visited Winkler in jail Sunday said she wanted his congregation to know "she was sorry for everything she has done."

Church member Pam Killingsworth visited Winkler after Sunday services and said the preacher's wife gave no indication why her husband of 10 years was shot.

"She just said she was sorry and for me to write a note to the church saying that she was sorry for everything she had done," said Killingsworth, as she walked away from the jail in tears.

Winkler, 32, has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of her husband, Matthew Winkler, the preacher at the Fourth Street Church of Christ in this small town 80 miles east of Memphis.

The congregation held its first Sunday services since the shooting death and were warned by elder Robert Shackelford not to speculate about why their popular, young minister was killed.

Friends have described the Winklers as a happy couple with no outward signs of discord, and authorities have refused to talk about a motive for the murder.

"Perhaps over time we will better understand why this has happened," Shackelford said at an adult Sunday school class. "Be very cautious about what you say or even what you think."

Mary Winkler was locked up at the McNairy County jail after being returned Saturday from the coast of Alabama, where she and her three young daughters were found by police following a multistate search.

Church members found 31-year-old Matthew Winkler dead in a bedroom of the couple's parsonage Wednesday night after his family missed a church service. Mary Winkler and the children were nowhere to be found.

  • Gina Pace