On Thursday we were covering the first news about the minister who was found murdered in Tennessee. Matthew Winkler's wife and daughters were missing and, of course, there was concern someone might have killed the husband, kidnapped the wife and kids and foul play might have awaited them as well.
I was interviewing Mark Fuhrman about the story and I asked him about his experience that when a husband or wife is murdered, cops start the investigation with the spouse.
Judging by the e-mail I got immediately, you would have thought I'd killed her just like someone killed her husband.
"How dare you? She's a victim and you cast aspersions on her before the authorities can even locate her!"
Quite a few came in saying stuff just like that.
I wrote back to a few of those people saying, come on now, I also asked Fuhrman if we were getting ahead of ourselves — that she may be completely innocent here. Fuhrman agreed and said, nonetheless, it's an area cops would look at.
Winkler's wife and kids were found a few hours later. By Friday morning, she was being discussed as a suspect. By the afternoon, she had made a full confession — allegedly, reportedly, according to authorities, etcetera.
Now, would it have been better had I never brought up the possibility that the spouse might be the killer of the dead minister?
I think that's why we book guests like Mark Fuhrman. His long experience with murder is useful in these situations. He has seen a few cases just like this one and he would have reason to suspect the wife when the husband wound up dead. After all, that's how O.J. Simpson ended up in that courtroom for a year.
It would be wrong to convict the wife before trial — wrong to flatly say she did it and she's guilty as if a trial isn't necessary.
We now know there is a confession, but we still don't know if she's guilty under the law. It could have been self-defense. He could have been abusing her. She could be insane. All of which might result in her being found not guilty under the law.
However, you guys who jumped me for bringing up the obvious: would you rather I hadn't?
The fact is, Fuhrman was right. It was a spousal murder. It isn't that he's got a crystal ball. It's that he has long experience and asking him what his experience tells him is part of what you do in the news business.
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