Woman Who Killed Minister-Husband Wants Custody Of 3 Daughters

Wednesday, September 19th 2007, 8:08 pm
By: News On 6

HUNTINGDON, Tenn. (AP) _ A woman who killed her minister-husband with a shotgun asked to regain custody of her children Wednesday, saying she needs to help their three daughters heal emotionally from the loss of their father.

The girls' paternal grandparents will not let Mary Winkler visit her daughters or even talk to them on the telephone, Winkler told the judge. The grandparents, who have been caring for the girls since their mother's arrest, are trying to terminate Winkler's parental rights and adopt the girls.

Winkler said she has seen the girls twice since her arrest last year, though she was allowed at first to phone them weekly and write to them. If she cannot get full custody, she should at least be allowed weekend visits, Winkler said in court.

``We can begin healing together and let God guide us,'' she said.

Matthew Winkler was found shot to death in the parsonage of his Church of Christ church in Selmer, Tenn., in March 2006. His wife testified at her trial in April that she accidentally shot her husband while trying to talk to him and that he abused her physically and emotionally.

Winkler was tried on a first-degree murder charge but was convicted of voluntary homicide, a lesser offense. She drew a three-year prison sentence and got probation for most of it, spending just over five months in jail and two months in a mental health facility.

Winkler told Judge Ron Harmon that she is competent to care for her children thanks to psychological counseling and drugs for anxiety and depression. The girls are now 10, 8 and 2 years old.

The children's paternal grandparents, she said, also refuse to let her father and other members of her family visit the girls. ``My children need 100 percent of their family,'' Winkler said.

John Ciocca, a clinical psychologist, testified that denying young children access to a parent can be emotionally damaging. ``If these children continue to be kept from their mother without good reason, they can be harmed by it,'' Ciocca said.

While on probation, Winkler is living with friends and has a job at a laundry. Her former parents-in-law have filed a $2 million wrongful death lawsuit against her.