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Wife who shot preacher calls sentence too short

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: Wife says sentence for shooting preacher was too short
  • Judge wouldn't allow woman to travel for show; taped segment airs
  • Mary Winkler convicted of manslaughter in shotgun slaying
  • She is battling her in-laws for custody of her three daughters
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(CNN) -- The parents of a Tennessee preacher shot to death by his wife convinced a judge to keep the convicted killer at home, but they couldn't keep her off the air.


Mary Winkler describes her troubled marriage during a taped segrment of "The Oprah Winfrey Show."

Seven months in custody wasn't a long enough sentence for what she did, Mary Winkler said Wednesday in an exclusive, pre-recorded interview with Oprah Winfrey.

"There's no amount of time I think you can put on something like this. I was just ready for them to lock the door and throw away the key," she told Winfrey.

Winkler had sought permission to travel to Chicago, Illinois, to appear live on "The Oprah Winfrey Show," but the judge who presided over her trial would not give her permission to travel.

Her in-laws, who are suing Winkler for wrongful death and are seeking to revoke her parental rights, also fought the television appearance.Video Watch Winkler's interview with Oprah »

Winkler was convicted earlier this year of the shotgun slaying of her husband, Matthew, at the time the minister of the Fourth Street Church of Christ in Selmer, Tennessee.

She told Winfrey that she killed her husband following years of abuse, including physical violence and being forced to dress "slutty" for undesirable sex acts. All she remembers, she said, is the "boom" as the shotgun went off.

Winkler's account on the show was virtually identical to her testimony during her trial earlier this year. A jury of 10 women and one man found her guilty of voluntary manslaughter. Prosecutors had been pushing for a first-degree murder conviction.

She was released last month from a Tennessee mental heath facility.

Winfrey said on the show that Matthew Winkler's parents did not respond to requests for an interview. Dan and Diane Winkler, who have filed a $2 million wrongful-death suit against Mary Winkler, are pitched in a bitter custody battle over the couple's three daughters.

The grandparents are trying to terminate her parental rights and adopt the three girls.

Mary Winkler's attorney, Steve Farese, said a hearing in the case is scheduled for next week .

During the trial, Diane Winkler chastised Mary for never apologizing to them or his children. Mary Winkler told Winfrey she is sorry she killed her husband and she would like a chance to sit down with her in-laws, whom she loves, misses and prays for every day.

Asked by Winfrey what she would say to them, Winkler said she couldn't hone it down to two or three sentences. "Just when that time comes, my heart will tell me what to say," she said.

In her interview with Winfrey -- for a show titled "The wife who killed her minister husband" -- Winkler said tensions began when her husband tried to put their crying 1-year-old daughter, Brianna, back to sleep by "covering her mouth and nose."

"I don't think he had intentions of killing; he just tried to get her to pass out," Winkler said, recounting the events just prior to her husband's March 2006 death at the church parsonage in Selmer, Tennessee.

Winkler, then 31 and a mother of three, said she was used to his temper, saying, he often "would just get irate with the baby monitor and Brianna crying."

"That's just something that would set him off," she told Winfrey.

After putting Brianna to bed, she returned to the bedroom where Matthew was "and I just wanted to talk to Matthew. And there's just that awful -- awful sound," she said, referring to the shotgun blast.

Asked what she wanted to say to her husband when she went back to the bedroom, Winkler said, "Just to stop. Be happy. He had to be miserable the way he acted and to just stop being so mean and just relax and enjoy life."

She said she doesn't remember retrieving the shotgun from the closet, but she remembers thinking the gun was not loaded and that she "never in a million years would've dreamed that there would've been something in that."

"I was so afraid," she said, adding that she feared for her life and it was "not realistic" to try reasoning with her husband. She doesn't know if she was using the gun to intimidate him or to get his attention, she said.

"When I heard the boom, I just thought that it would've hit the ceiling, the window. And I just thought, 'Oh my goodness, he's going to think I meant to do that on purpose' and so I took out of there and took off running," she said. "At some point, I just realized he wasn't chasing me and I just had to go back in and face the realization."

The realization was that the shotgun blast had sent 77 pellets into her husband's back. An autopsy report indicated he survived for a few minutes, said Winfrey, who grilled Winkler on what she did next.

"He was bleeding and it was just instinct to wipe his mouth, but it just kept coming. I didn't know how he was hurt. I couldn't see anything wrong with him," she said. "When you actually see somebody that's just died, they just change appearance in a matter of seconds. It was just terrible."

Winkler told Winfrey she had never fired a shotgun before she killed her husband, but he had turned the weapon on her in the past. He also had threatened more egregious violence, she said.

"Did he say he would chop you up?" Winfrey asked.

"Yeah, he would do it himself," Winkler replied.

"He would do what?"

"Chop me into a million pieces"

Winkler never stood up for herself, nor did she tell anyone about her husband's allegedly abusive behavior, she said, because she wanted to maintain the image of a perfect couple.

She used makeup to cover up bruises. Her father, Clark Freeman, recalled to Winfrey a time he confronted her about her injuries. She just hung her head and said, "Everything's all right. Everything's all right." Freeman said.

Her husband also sexually abused her, Winkler said. He made her wear platform shoes and wigs and made her perform "sexual acts that I didn't want to do."


She said she regrets never standing up for herself, she said.

"That's where I will always grieve the fact that I failed Matthew in not bringing it to his attention how bad it was," she said. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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