CHICAGO – The mother who confessed to killing her minister husband with a shotgun spoke out for the first time on national television Wednesday, calling the murder a "tragic event" and expressing a longing to see her three young daughters again.
Mary Winkler, 33, accepted an invitation from Oprah Winfrey to appear on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" to talk about her crumbling marriage and the events leading up to her husband's death.
After an argument with her husband, Matthew Winkler, on March 22, 2006, Mary took the shotgun from their bedroom closet and fired.
"When I heard the boom, I just thought that it would have hit the ceiling, the window, and I just thought ‘Oh my goodness, he’s going to think that I meant to do that on purpose,' and so I took off. I just took off running," Mary Winkler said in a taped interview. "Then at some point, I just realized he wasn’t chasing me and I just had to go back in and face the realization."
Mary Winkler said her husband was upset after their baby girl woke them up crying from her crib in their Selmer, Tenn., home.
Matthew Winkler put his hand over the baby's mouth and nose to quiet her, she said. After Mary Winkler took the baby from him, he returned the bedroom. Mary then put the baby back to bed and went to the bedroom to talk to her husband.
"I got her situated and I just wanted to talk to Matthew," Mary Winkler said. "There’s just that awful, awful sound."
After shooting her husband, Mary Winkler put their three daughters in the family minivan and fled. She was later arrested hundreds of miles away in Alabama after an Amber Alert was issued.
Mary Winkler was convicted of voluntary manslaughter and served five months in jail with two months in a mental-health treatment facility.
"I do love him. I think of the good times," Mary Winkler said. "He's my girls' daddy. I just, love Matthew. It was very bad but it could be very good."
Mary Winkler appeared in a taped interview after her former in-laws tried to prevent her from speaking out, citing the best interest of the children to keep their private lives out of the media.
A judge denied Mary Winkler permission to travel to Chicago to talk with Winfrey in person. A taped portion previously recorded was broadcast instead.
"I was just so afraid," Mary Winkler said. "At that point, I felt like my life was in danger."
Winkler's trial showcased evidence of an abusive marriage, including what Mary Winkler called "unnatural sex acts" complete with white platform shoes and a wig to comply with her husband's desires.
The couple had discussed getting a divorce, she said.
Winkler, now wrapped up in a custody fight to see her daughters, said she hopes to see them again.
"I still long to sit and talk with them," she said. "I love them and I miss them."
Winkler's former in-laws, Dan and Diane Winkler, have custody of the girls — ages 2, 8 and 10 — and want to terminate her parental rights and adopt their granddaughters.
A hearing next week will review Winkler's motion that the separation is "unconscionable and detrimental" to the children.