Slain Tennessee Minister Eulogized

A slain minister was eulogized in front of his three young daughters at the church where he preached while his wife sat in a jail cell a few miles away, accused of his slaying.

Matthew Winkler's three daughters — ages 1, 6 and 8 — followed his flower-covered casket into the Fourth Street Church of Christ on Tuesday and later attended a graveside service.

"You couldn't ask for a better person. You couldn't ask for a better guy," said Doug Letson, who attended high school with Winkler.

The funeral was closed to the media, and police kept reporters and photographers about 50 yards away from the church in Selmer, a town of 4,400 people about 80 miles east of Memphis.

After the 15-minute ceremony, Matthew Winkler's two oldest daughters — Patricia and Mary Alice — plucked flowers out of floral arrangements atop the casket and took them home.

The girls are now in the custody of Matthew Winkler's parents.

"We love these girls dearly. They're just precious," Eddie Thompson, a family friend who spoke at the funeral, said afterward. "They're having peaks and valleys, but by and large they're incredibly happy."

Authorities say Mary Winkler confessed to shooting her 31-year-old husband and then leaving town with their daughters. The minister was found dead Wednesday night in the church parsonage.

Mary Winkler, who has yet to enter a plea, is scheduled for a court appearance Thursday. Authorities have refused to disclose a motive.

Lenora Thompson, a family friend, said speakers at the funeral told personal stories about Matthew Winkler's life and his devotion to his wife and children.

Matthew Winkler was a third-generation minister in the Church of Christ. His father, Dan Winkler, also officiated at the funeral and invoked the Bible for a lesson on the family's grief.

"Our family isn't the first to go through something like this," Dan Winkler said. "King David lost two sons at the hands of others. God himself knows what this is like."