Police: Slain Minister's Wife Confessed to His Murder

The wife of a pastor found shot dead in his house has confessed to his murder, Tennessee police said Friday.

Mary Winkler, 32, told Alabama authorities that she killed her husband, according to Roger Rickman, an investigator with the Selmer, Tenn., Police Department. She has agreed to return to Tennessee to face first-degree murder charges.

"Our concern at this point is why the crime took place," he said. "There have been no specific accusations made by Mrs. Winkler."

Mary Winkler was found Thursday night with the couple's three daughters in Orange Beach, Ala., 340 miles south of their home in Selmer, Tenn. She didn't resist arrest, Rickman said.

Click here to see the Winkler affidavit and arrest warrant (PDF from Findlaw.com)

Police officials in Alabama said Mary Winkler has waived extradition and will be sent back to Tennessee Friday night or Saturday.

Tennessee Bureau of Investigation agent John Mehr said authorities were charging her with her husband's murder after interrogating her during the night.

"We've known from the beginning that she was either a suspect or a victim," said TBI spokeswoman Jennifer Johnson.

Johnson wouldn't discuss a possible motive or reveal what Mary Winkler told authorities, but described her as "cooperative."

"We felt the first-degree murder charge was warranted," Johnson told FOX News, declining to elaborate.

Matthew Winkler, 31, was found shot to death in the bedroom of his parsonage Wednesday by church members who began searching for him after he failed to show up at an evening event at Selmer's Church of Christ.

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Police said there were no signs of forced entry, but Mary Winkler and the three children — Breanna, 1; Mary Alice, 6; and Patricia, 8 — were gone.

"To my knowledge, the children saw nothing," said Rickman, who also declined to offer details on a possible motive.

The TBI issued an Amber Alert for the children, who had last been seen on Tuesday when their mother picked them up from school.

Orange Beach Police Chief Billy Wilkins said Friday that Mary Winkler had rented a condo on the beach but hadn't stayed there.

Assistant Police Chief Greg Duck said authorities spotted Mary Winkler as she left a Waffle House around 7:30 p.m. Thursday after picking up a carryout order. The children were in the car with her at the time.

A custody hearing was held Friday afternoon in Alabama, where a Juvenile Court judge was determining whether the parents of Matthew Winkler should take custody of the children, according to Duck. Mary Winkler attended that hearing, FOX News confirmed.

Mary Winkler's father, reached in her hometown of Knoxville, Tenn., declined to comment Friday.

"I don't have anything to say. I appreciate your interest. I just have nothing to say right now," Clark Freeman told The Associated Press.

The news of the minister's death and missing family shocked those who knew him in Selmer, a town of about 4,600 in western Tennessee.

Winkler was hired at the Fourth Street Church in February 2005, said Wilburn Ash, an elder at the church. The congregation quickly came to love his straight-by-the-Bible sermons. Church members also took to his wife, who they described as a quiet, unassuming woman who was a substitute teacher at the elementary school.

"They were a nice family," said former Selmer Mayor Jimmy Whittington, who worked with the minister collecting donations for hurricane victims last year. "They just blended in."

Mary and Matthew Winkler met at the Church of Christ-affiliated Freed-Hardeman University in Henderson, where his father, also a minister, is an adjunct professor. Matthew Winkler later transferred and graduated from Lipscomb University in Nashville.

On Thursday, members of the Selmer congregation gathered inside the one-story brick church.

"I can't believe this would happen," said Pam Killingsworth, a church member and assistant principal at Selmer Elementary.

"The kids are just precious, and she was precious," Killingsworth said. "He was the one of the best ministers we've ever had — just super charisma."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.