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Slain preacher's wife denies pulling trigger

Story Highlights

• Mary Winkler takes the witness stand at her murder trial
• Daughter, 9, previously described preacher's slaying
• Winkler's attorney says she was abused emotionally and physically
• Winkler is accused of killing husband with shotgun blast to back
By Ann O'Neill
CNN
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(CNN) -- Mary Winkler told a Tennessee jury on Wednesday about her volatile marriage to a preacher she said berated her, forced her to watch pornography and to wear "slutty" costumes for sex.

She said she shot him accidentally after he tried to suffocate their infant daughter. He had wanted a son, she told the jury.

She got the shotgun, which was kept in a bedroom closet, because she was afraid and wanted to force him to talk through their problems, she testified. "I just wanted him to stop being so mean," she said through tears.

She denied pulling the trigger, but told the jury "something went off." She heard a boom, then ran from the house because she thought he would be mad at her. (Watch Winkler describe the smell of gunpowder Video)

"You know that pulling a trigger is what makes it go boom?" prosecutor Walter Freeland asked in his cross-examination. "Yes, sir," Winkler replied.

But she said she never meant for him to die. "I don't want this at all. I don't want any of this to be, at all," she said.

Winkler, 33, is testifying in her own defense at her murder trial. She is charged with killing her husband, Matthew, pastor of the Fourth Street Church of Christ, with a shotgun blast to the back in March 2006.

The couple had argued about money the night before, according to Winkler's statement to police. "I guess my ugly came out," she told investigators.

On the witness stand in front of Winkler was an extremely high white platform shoe and a wig she said her husband bought for her to wear during sex. She blushed crimson, bowed her head and cast her eyes downward when she talked about the items.

But Winkler smiled when defense attorney Steve Fares' questions turned to her daughters, and the "good times" the family sometimes enjoyed. She often spoke of her husband in the present tense, and grinned broadly as she recalled his intelligence, talent as a preacher and easy way with people.

But behind closed doors, the charismatic preacher also had a dark side, Winkler testified. Soon after they were married, he ordered her to stop socializing with her family and friends, she said.

"He just sat me down and told me I was his wife and we were family now," she recalled.

She told the jury that her husband "screamed and hollered" at her, pointed his finger in her face, pushed her and used his belt on her.

"He just flailed. He's a big guy and he was just all over," she said. "He'd point his finger inches away from my nose. Whatever he was upset about, it was my fault."

"I was fat, my hair wasn't right, the girls, if something went wrong, it was my fault. If it rained, it was my fault. I didn't know when it was coming. "

She said she never asked him what she had done wrong. If she disagreed with him or stood up for herself, "he would say my ugly was coming out and just needed to be put away," she testified.

He also made her watch pornography on the family's computer and perform sex acts that made her uncomfortable, she said. She submitted to the mood swings and sexual demands, she added, because "I'd just do anything to help him stay happy."

The defense, which rested Wednesday, is portraying Winkler as an abused spouse. Prosecutors argue that she is a cold-blooded killer who disconnected the phone and left her husband to die with 77 shotgun pellets in his body.

After her husband's death, Winkler drove with her three daughters to Orange Beach, Alabama, where she was arrested. She explained that she took her girls to the beach because she knew "Nobody would believe me, and they'd take the girls away and put me away."

The couple's daughter, Patricia, testified for the prosecution last week. The child told the jury she heard a "big boom" and a thump, ran to her parents' bedroom and saw her father lying on the floor.

She also said she never saw her father mistreat her mother, whom she hadn't seen since October.

Winkler's three daughters are living with her in-laws, who have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against her.


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Mary Winkler testifies about a wig and shoes she says her husband made her wear for sex.

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