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Authorities refused to answer reporters' questions about possible abuse.


Published: Sat, March 25, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.


Authorities refused to answer reporters' questions about possible abuse.
SELMER, Tenn. (AP) -- Members of the Fourth Street Church of Christ enjoyed a brief moment of relief when they learned that the wife and three daughters of their slain minister had been found safe in coastal Alabama.
Their relief dissolved into shock and confusion Friday when authorities charged Mary Winkler with shooting her husband in the parsonage and said she had confessed the slaying.
"Everything we saw belies what has happened," church member Janet Sparks said. "It just doesn't go together. Something is amiss, and we don't know what it is."
Tired of the reporters and photographers who descended on this small west Tennessee town, church members locked the church doors and hung up a handwritten sign: "No more interviews today."
"We're grieving," church member Judy Turner said. "This was a perfect family."
Winkler, a 32-year-old substitute teacher, has been charged with first-degree murder in a crime that shattered the happy, loving image church members had of her and her husband of 10 years, Matthew.
Tennessee Bureau of Investigation agent John Mehr said authorities know the motive for the killing, but he would not disclose it. He said police did not believe it was infidelity, but he would not comment on whether Mary Winkler had accused her husband of abuse. Court papers offered no hint of a motive.
What happened
Matthew Winkler, a popular and charismatic 31-year-old preacher at his fundamentalist Christian church, was found dead in a bedroom at the couple's home Wednesday night in Selmer, a town of about 4,600.
Authorities said his wife fled in the family minivan. She was found Thursday night in Orange Beach, Ala., 340 miles away, as she left a restaurant with her daughters. Police there said she had rented a condo on the beach Thursday.
Mehr said the couple's daughters were at the house when their father was shot and that authorities had found the weapon used to kill him. Mehr would not give any further details.
Judy Woodlee, a member of a church in McMinnville where Matthew Winkler had been a youth minister before moving to Selmer, said the Winklers "were a good Christian family. They always seemed happy."
Mary Winkler was led into the custody hearing Friday, but she did not respond to questions from reporters. She agreed to be returned to Tennessee and was expected to arrive today.


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