- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 19, 2007

SELMER, Tenn. (AP) — A preacher’s wife who said her husband abused her was convicted only of voluntary manslaughter yesterday for killing him with a shotgun she said fired accidentally as she aimed at him.

Mary Winkler showed no emotion as the verdict was read.

Prosecutors had sought a first-degree murder conviction, but the jury settled on the lesser charge after deliberating for eight hours. She faces three to six years in prison.

If Winkler, 33, had been convicted of first- or second-degree murder, she would have gone to prison for anywhere from 12 years to the rest of her life. Her lawyers said Winkler’s testimony on the stand was decisive.

“They had to hear it from Mary; there was no other source,” defense attorney Steve Farese said.

Winkler told jurors Wednesday that her husband Matthew abused her physically and sexually, but she said she did not pull the trigger and the shotgun went off accidentally as she pointed it at him.

Mr. Winkler, a 31-year-old preacher at the Fourth Street Church of Christ, was found in the church parsonage fatally shot in his back in March 2006. One day later, his wife was arrested on the Alabama coast, driving the family minivan with their three young daughters.

Dan and Diane Winkler, the slain man’s parents, declined to comment after the verdict. The couple’s three daughters — ages 2, 7 and 9 — are in their custody. The 9-year-old testified she never saw her father mistreat her mother.

The prosecution released a statement that said, “We want the Winkler family to know that our thoughts and prayers continue to go out to them for the loss of their son, brother and father, Matthew Winkler.”

Winkler will be sentenced May 18, but is free on bail until then.

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