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Pre-2008 Posts

Winkler Verdict: Voluntary Manslaughter

After eight hours of deliberation, the jury found Mary Winkler guilty of voluntary manslaughter.  Under Tennessee law, she could be sentenced to from three to six years and would be eligible for parole after serving 30 percent of her sentence.   How much time she will serve in prison — if any — is up to the judge now, so we’ll see.  

The jury could have found her guilty of first or second degree murder and she might have faced up to 60 years in prison.  In finding her guilty of voluntary manslaughter, the jurors found that she acted irrationally in the heat of passion.

I don’t think she should have been found guilty of any crime.  I hope she doesn’t actually serve any time.  But it could have been worse.  Bottom line, she is going to able to move on with her life, thank the goddess, even if she has to spend some time in jail.

To the misogynists who have written to me asking whether I’d let Mary Winkler care for my children, or whether I’d take her in now, or after she’s served her time, you bet I would.  Damn right I would.  I would welcome her with open arms.  I know the hell she’s lived.  She is not a threat to anyone, and she never was.  She shot Matthew Winkler in an attempt to save her own and her daughters’ lives.  The tragedy is that it came to that.




21 thoughts on “Winkler Verdict: Voluntary Manslaughter

  1. Growing up in rural Tennessee, I’ve seen this dynamic all too often. She was so completely isolated due to her families affiliation with the same denomination of religion in whose ranks her abusive, bully of a husband became a leader. I whish that she had a support group on which to turn for the process of leaving him without this tragic outcome, but she was completely alone and faced with circumstances that no person should have to endure. In situations like hers, there is little difference between 2007 and 1800 for women trapped in abusive relationships. When I first read this story, I knew exactly what to expect from the trial. A jury of peers is a jury of opressors in this case. The support of the community for the tyrant who forced her into this corner was disgusting, yet completely expected within this context. At least her children will have the advantage of growing up sans his influeince, but I feel that either set of grandparents will place them in the same nature of jeopardy, as such a homologous background is shared by both sides of the family. Watching the video of her testimony was painfull. I was actually amazed that she gave such frank testiomony for an audience of family and peers that frown anything but utter subserviance from women, especially in the context of marriage.

    Posted by edgar | April 20, 2007, 5:40 am
  2. I see no evidence that she’s a threat to anyone else. She snapped under intolerable conditions. Now, if her rapist husband was still alive, he could stay the hell away from me and mine, but I’d let Mary in with no problems.

    Posted by Miranda | April 20, 2007, 11:41 am
  3. What’s astounding to me — ok, only a little, but still — is how the news media carried NONE of the story as posted here. No mention of the porn, the rape, the smothering of the children, nothing. There was some story I saw go by about a scheme she was running to “kite” some checks, but clearly that went nowhere and was dropped. Complete, utter silence around the truth.

    Anyway, I was surprised that the jury came back only with manslaughter, because a woman who tells the truth and takes action is most often horribly punished. Wish I could believe that the prison or parole system was in any way capable of providing feminist counseling to help her get through what happened and what will happen next. And I worry about those little girls…

    Posted by TruthandDare | April 20, 2007, 12:36 pm
  4. Ugh, the mainstream reporting of this is horrible, all of this, “Well, her daughter said she never saw her dad mistreat her mom.” RIGHT. Her daughter grew up in that family and *mistreatment of her mom is all she knows.* She doesn’t even know that IS abuse. She is also living with her father’s parents, her grandparents, who, given the fact that they have filed a goddamn 2 million dollar“wrongful death suit” against Mary Winkler,so as apparently to attempt to finish off what Matthew Winkler started, have said who knows what to and in front of the kids. Not to mention, the kids have to go back there to stay with them, what was she SUPPOSED to say?

    I mean, what does Mary Winkler have that the grandparents hope to get from her in this lawsuit? Her home? Nice. Destroy your grandchildren’s mother after years of blindness to your son’s abuse of her.

    Reminds me of David Brame’s parents here in Washington. He was the police chief in Tacoma who shot his wife and himself when she tried to leave him after, as it turns out, YEARS of sexual abuse, physical assault, and the creepiest emotional/verbal abuse imaginable. His parents — devout evangelical Christians — to this day blame everything on her and insist that their son was an angel. Even though she is DEAD at his hands.


    Posted by womensspace | April 20, 2007, 12:36 pm
  5. Mary Winkler has hired a custody attorney and there’s a hearing coming up.

    What a mess. And the mess is the responsibility of one person, the rapist/abuser Mary Winkler had the misfortune to trust, fall in love with, and marry.


    Posted by womensspace | April 20, 2007, 12:40 pm
  6. Ugh, the mainstream reporting of this is horrible, all of this, “Well, her daughter said she never saw her dad mistreat her mom.” RIGHT. Her daughter grew up in that family and *mistreatment of her mom is all she knows.* She doesn’t even know that IS abuse.

    That is so very important to recognize. I never saw my dad rape my mom, but it went on for 30 years. I was 16 when a friend from church suggested that my Dad was abusive. I adamantly defended him even though he scared the living piss out of me.

    Posted by Q Grrl | April 20, 2007, 1:29 pm
  7. FWIW, most men don’t learn that type of abuse from thin air. There’s a good chance there is some wicked dynamic going on in the grandparent’s home. Why else the civil suit?

    Posted by Q Grrl | April 20, 2007, 1:32 pm
  8. FWIW, my father was a Church of Christ minister.

    (sorry for the multiple posts: need more coffee)

    Posted by Q Grrl | April 20, 2007, 1:37 pm
  9. Killing a man who was smothering her child makes her a *heroine*, not a criminal.

    But as usual the woman is wrong, if her child had died through her husband’s abuse she would be blamed but if she kills the man who is threatening her child’s life it’s also her fault.

    Posted by delphyne | April 20, 2007, 2:17 pm
  10. I came from a very similar background and also lived a life for which I was very ashamed of for over 10 years. (My husband led a double life, straight, Christian man for the world to see, Homosexual in private).

    When I first heard of this story, I knew without ever hearing her side what happened. I knew that for a woman to shoot her husband in this horrible way, I knew there was a lot about that man that no one knew.

    I was lucky to break away without having to kill anyone, but I would have if it came down to that. I was lucky to get away with my life thanks to a pastor who recognized the warning signs and wasn’t afraid to tell us both that I needed to leave.

    There was no crime committed here by Mary. Her dead husband was the one at fault.

    Posted by skywindows | April 20, 2007, 4:00 pm
  11. VILE.

    Reading about this case brings up all kinds of stuff for me, as it does for many of you women here who have suffered at the hands of abusive men and church people.

    This morning’s reading reveals that not only was Mary Winkler anally raped, she was also orally raped. Gotta rape women in every available orifice, you know.

    Then, the grandparents are hateful, hateful people who should in no way have custody of those children or any children.

    When the oldest daughter got on the stand, she said she had only seen Mary Winkler twice because she didn’t want to see her. And why was that? Because she was angry because her mom had lied and told her she didn’t kill her dad. Because right, it makes really good sense to assemble one’s children and say, “Children, I killed your dad.” For fuck’s sake.

    That came from the GRANDPARENTS. The GRANDPARENTS said, “Your mom lied to you. Your mom killed your dad.”


    Anyway, as the questioning continued, the daughter confessed to having “lied” about something else. She had told her friends she was moving to another city with her mom and her mom was going to get married to a different man and have another baby. When asked why she “lied” about that, she cried and said she just wanted to be normal like the other kids.

    What I see in that is, I see a little girl who wants to be with her mom, and move far, far away, whose grandparents call her a “liar” — as a certain kind of fundamentalist LOVES to do, call children and the vulnerable liars, because that really packs a punch and justifies any punishments that get doled out.

    Then, on the stand, the grandmother acknowledged she didn’t tell Mary Winkler that her daughter had broken her arm (“it wasn’t that serious”), or that she, the grandfather and all the girls had been in an accident.

    The prosecution also — ASSHOLES — called a supposed former “best friend” — BETRAYER — who testified that the last time she’d seen Mary, Mary had never been “happier.”




    God, this just kills me.

    So true, TruthandDare, re the coverage of this story! The story circulating now describes Mary Winkler as “dredging up” stuff that is “embarrassing.”


    Edgar (and everybody), Mary Winkler does have support in her cool sisters, her cool mom and dad, and many friends in McMinnville (as opposed to Selmer where the trial was held). She has that support. She has had good legal help so far, and hopefully her attorneys in the criminal case hooked her up with good attorneys for the civil and custody cases.

    Her family was able to come up with $750,000 bond to keep her out of jail, so they have some means.

    And she MIGHT not serve any time. She’s served five months already, which will count against any sentence. She has no criminal record, so she could get probation.

    As to that check kiting thing. It is very common in abusive relationships for women to conceal financial stuff from their husbands, mostly because their husbands are going to abuse them over financial stuff no matter what, because they spend too much money, they shouldn’t have bought whatever, they spoiled the kids.

    I’ll never forget an incident from my own second marriage. This was when the magazine I published was going like gangbusters, really successful, and we were making more money then than at any other time in my whole life or my ex’s whole life. We lived very simply, in an 1800 square foot trailer with our nine kids, on five acres with gardens/sheep/chickens etc. There was enough money for us to go out to eat once in a while, a real treat for our kids because with that many kids, for years we couldn’t afford even to go to fast food places. So one day I proposed that after church, we hook up with some friends at a *buffet restaurant*, one of those places which charges your kids based on their age. You’d have thought my ex would blow a gasket he was so irritated by the suggestion, but I really wanted to, and we went, and he sat there like the sullen abusive asshole he always had been, ready to jump on any of us at any opportunity.

    After we’d split and I filed for divorce, I went through a calendar he kept and found this long notation on there for that day, where he went on and on about going out to eat at Country Buffet and spending *$34.00 for lunch*. I mean, 34 bucks for probably nine of us. How irresponsible. How wasteful. Even though your wife — YOUR WIFE — (me) is bringing in hundreds of thousands of dollars.

    Anyway, that’s how these guys are. Women have to BEG and PLEAD for the smallest pleasures, the smallest things, chocolate, a drink for the kids, a lunch out.

    So they get in the habit of sneaking their pleasures, where they can, theirs and their children’s. This is one reason I LOVE Claire Pinkola Estes who wrote Women Who Run With the Wolves. She talks about the way abused and battered women “sneak” because that’s the only way they can carve out anything just for them or their kids. And of course the men/churches/assholes in their lives then call them “conniving” and “dishonest.”

    I think this “scam” thing was, as I think maybe Divine Purpose said (?), something Mary Winkler was doing in an attempt to get money to meet her and the children’s needs or even to get away. She got caught up in one of those deals where someone e-mails you and says, “My name is John Jones and I am the son of Rev. Whomever and we need your help. We have $[huge check] but we can’t cash it because [plausible reason for the desperate or naive.] Will you help us?” Then you put up a certain amount of money and they supposedly send you a check or series of checks in these bizarre schemes. In the end, they make off with a bundle and you are shafted even though they promised you a cut.

    I just think her involvement in this indicated she was desperate. And that again, she was victimized.


    Posted by womensspace | April 20, 2007, 4:21 pm
  12. lol.. well Heart, I dont know if I said it. I have said a lot these past few days… I have had a lot to process… But damn it I agree… she was desperate, and she did want a way out. She was willing to do anything to get away from that jerk. I say CONGRATS BABY YOU KILLED HIM!!!! I wish her healing, because I’ve read articles in which she still professes her love for him, and even defends him as a great man… (Heart I sent it to you in an email) god I just want to cry…

    Of course they will paint her out to be some greedy ungreatful woman who got jerked around by a get rich quick scheme… not as a woman who was so damn desperate, I remember my own mother questioning me on the validity of these email schemes… man there is too much pain here, that she trusted these claims probably praying GOD PLEASE LET THIS WORK SO THAT WE CAN BE FREE, I’LL DO BETTER I SWEAR, I’LL BE A BETTER WOMAN A BETTER MOTHER BUT PLEASE PLEASE LET US GET AWAY FROM HERE…

    I have to stop now I can barely see what the hell I am typin

    Posted by Divine Purpose | April 20, 2007, 4:48 pm
  13. Heart and DP: Deep breaths…deep, cleansing breaths.

    You’re both justified in your anger but I’m concerned that I’m watching a couple of meltdowns here today. If you lose it, Heart, how can you continue to get the word out, the truth about what women really live every day? If you lose it, DP, who will watch out for your mother and siblings and who will teach the girls in your community about contraception?

    Deep, cleansing breaths.

    It’s true that she shouldn’t have been found guilty of anything at all, that she killed the man who raped her repeatedly over the years and who put her children at death’s door by suffocating them. So, don’t think that I’m making light of this injustice when I say that for Mary Winkler, even the maximum six years in prison is probably a cake walk compared to just one more year with that demon she just freed herself from. And unlike the jury who found her guilty, in prison, she’ll truly be surrounded by her peers: other women who have killed in self defense men who held them captive just to abuse, torment and torture them. We (women in the know) won’t get them out today. Hell, we, personally, probably won’t live long enough to see the day that women are allowed to protect and defend themselves from abusive husbands, boyfriends, fathers, brothers – any and all abusive men. But if we lose it over this or the next Mary Winkler, that day will never come at all. Even if all we have to contribute is MAKING NOISE about the injustice, well, then that’s better than remaining silent. So, MAKE NOISE but don’t melt down.

    Incidentally, I wondered where the check scheme came into play here. At most, I thought it was just something insignificant that she’d stupidly gotten herself involved in, but like every other rape victim, not too insignificant to be used against her, to discredit her testimony and to make her look like a “bad” person. But what you say here makes perfectly good sense. In her desperation to get away from the man who tortured her and even threatened her children’s lives, even the dumbest get rich quick scheme looked promising. How heartbreaking to know that, in addition to their abusers, there are snake oil salesman out there, ready and willing to abuse the abused for a few bucks.

    About his parents, I haven’t seen the news footage, but if they’re truly thankful to their “Gawd” for the involuntary manslaughter charge that Mary Winkler has been found guilty of, and the three to six year sentence that the charge carries, then they know that their son was a bad man, indeed. If someone I love and who I believe to be a good person were murdered and her or his murderer received a sentence of only three to six years, I would be livid that the murderer got such a light sentence. Death is forever and six years is nothing when compared to infinity. They know. Her children know. And her children know that their grandparents know.

    Posted by CoolAunt | April 20, 2007, 7:33 pm
  14. A jury of peers is a jury of opressors in this case. The support of the community for the tyrant who forced her into this corner was disgusting, yet completely expected within this context.
    edgar, this is the best characterization I have read, that, somehow explains the reaction of TN’eans that I’ve read on this.

    The really bizarre thing is, the disdain towards Mary transcended ideological affiliation. People that I know are, in any other circumstance, humanitarians, were totally against this woman.

    Posted by CE Petro | April 20, 2007, 8:26 pm
  15. No worries, CoolAunt. It would take a lot more than this for me to have a meltdown. If I haven’t melted down yet after all I’ve been through, it’s safe to say, it ain’t gonna happen. 🙂


    Posted by womensspace | April 20, 2007, 9:14 pm
  16. I don’t see Heart or DP melting down, I see the two of them getting stronger.

    Reality can be a MF, but it also can be the best defense.


    Posted by chasingmoksha | April 20, 2007, 9:41 pm
  17. The classic case of voluntary manslaughter is usually some scenario where a husband walks in on his wife in bed with another man and blows one or both of them away. It strikes me as wrong that Mary Winkler ends up in more or less the same place as a violent and jealous husband. (though, it should be mentioned that in Texas, as late as 1974, if a man killed his wife’s paramour, it was considered justifiable homocide if he caught them in flagrante delicto).

    Posted by Metal Prophet | April 20, 2007, 10:13 pm
  18. Metal Prophet, that may be the “classic case” but the law does recognize killings in the “heat of passion” and it could range from some guy punching you to catching your spouse in the act.

    Posted by Danya | April 21, 2007, 2:06 am
  19. Then, the grandparents are hateful, hateful people who should in no way have custody of those children or any children.

    Absolutely, and they raised the abusive asshole too, so their parenting skills are questionable at best. I cannot believe these sleezeoids are contemplating a civil suit against Mary, she has been through more than enough already, and his parents are continuing his abuse by proxy.

    I don’t see that Heart is having a melt down, even though I’ve never seen her use so much capitalisation! I saw it more as justifiable anger at the system that has once again found a woman guilty whereas any man finding themselves in a similar circumstance of defending themselves/their kids would be regarded as *a hero*.

    Posted by stormy | April 21, 2007, 9:35 am
  20. i just watched the “speech” given by Winkler’s Mother-in -Law at the sentencing hearing. She is one COLD woman. It was very clear where the perversion that became her son began.She painted her son as an upstanding man who may have had problems ,but told Mary that they would have help HER if she had talked to them. Her speech was measured , rehearsed, dispassionate and eerily controlled. The future of these helpless girls is indeed bleak if this woman is granted custody.Mary Winkler’s girls need her and the chance to build a life free from this cold, controlling manipulative family.Mary risked everything to give her daughters control of their future . I hope she gets that chance.

    Posted by Lee | June 8, 2007, 4:09 pm
  21. Mary Winkler’s girls need her and the chance to build a life free from this cold, controlling manipulative family.

    If the family, meaning the FATHER-IN-LAW as well is a cold controlling manipulative family then why focus on the mother alone. I am quite sure the mother is under the control of her abusive husband and it was not just the mother who raised Matthew, and the assumption that it will be only the mother in law who influences Mary’s daughters is sexist.

    Sorry if it was not your intent Lee, but when the woman of a situation is highlighted, thus demonized over everyone else, it perpetuates the deep misogyny is in our culture.

    Matthew Winkler was not found under a rock. I am afraid his father will molest and rape Mary Winkler’s children.

    Posted by E. K.(Kitty) Glendower | June 8, 2007, 5:11 pm

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