INDIANAPOLIS – Mary Winnecke lost the daughter who was her best friend. Mae McIntire's adopted son and daughter — her sister's children whom she had raised as her own — died the same day.
But the two Evansville, Ind., women who've lived with their losses for 15 years are starkly divided over whether Matthew Eric Wrinkles should pay the ultimate price for his crimes.
Wrinkles, 49, is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection before dawn Friday at the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City. He has exhausted his appeals in state and federal courts and last month declined to request clemency from Gov. Mitch Daniels. His attorneys say they don't intend to file any legal action that would contradict his wishes.
Winnecke, a Catholic, opposes the death penalty and thinks Wrinkles should stay behind bars for the rest of his life. McIntire wants him dead.
"Everybody says Mae, let it go ... because it's over with," McIntire said. "But I don't see why he should live, as much trouble as he caused the families."
Wrinkles declined an Associated Press request for an interview. Defense attorney Joanna Green said Wrinkles had changed while in prison. "While there's not a lot a person can do on death row to make up for their crimes ... he has done what he can," Green said.
That doesn't change anything for McIntire and Winnecke.
Debra Jean Wrinkles, McIntire's daughter and Wrinkles' wife, died July 21, 1994, along with her brother, Mark "Tony" Fulkerson, and his wife, Natalie, Winnecke's daughter. Their murders occurred just days after Wrinkles' mother had tried to have him committed because of his erratic behavior.
Court records show Wrinkles had been briefly hospitalized about two weeks before the killings but was released after a psychiatrist determined he was not "gravely disabled." Doctors told his mother he didn't meet the criteria for a second commitment.
Debra Wrinkles and her children were staying at the Fulkersons' home when Wrinkles climbed over a fence about 2 a.m. and cut the phone lines. Court documents show he was wearing camouflage clothes and face paint and armed with a gun and a knife when he kicked open the door of the home where his estranged wife was staying.
Wrinkles shot Mark Fulkerson in front of Fulkerson's 3-year-old son, then shot Debra Wrinkles as their daughter pleaded for her mother's life. He shot Natalie Fulkerson in the face.
Winnecke, 65, says her daughter stepped in front of Wrinkles' gun to keep a 19-year-old relative from being shot. That's one reason she led a letter-writing campaign to Daniels pleading for clemency for her daughter's killer.
"She died giving her life for another. How could they take another life in her name?" she asked.
She said she has always opposed the death penalty for religious reasons but that her daughter's death crystallized her opposition.
"Every time I say that I am against the death penalty, I stop and think, 'Do I really mean it?"' she said. "I face it every time. I face the pain, I face the loss of my daughter, but I know that it is right."
McIntire, 79, hasn't been able to find forgiveness. She said Wrinkles abused her daughter, who supported the family by managing a bread store, long before he killed her.
"He claimed he was on drugs and (that) caused it all, but he had been that way all his life," she said. "It's just sad that my daughter had met somebody like him when she was such a good person.
"I don't like to see nobody die, but when they do something like he did, I don't see why he should live."
Attorney Joe Cleary said Wrinkles had invited two spiritual advisers to witness his death but wasn't sure whether any family members would be present.
McIntire and Winnecke won't be.
Winnecke likely will attend a prayer vigil at her church in Evansville. Mae McIntire had planned to attend the execution but had heart surgery in April and now plans to stay home.
"I'll just be glad when this is all over and we can just get on with our life," McIntire said.
Both women spoke with Wrinkles by video during a recent appearance on Oprah Winfrey's television show.
Winnecke urged Wrinkles to ask God for forgiveness. She said she still hopes he does that before he dies.
McIntire said she's heard enough.
"He's been in prison for 15 years and he's still trying to make himself look good," McIntire said. "He never once has said to me that he was sorry for killing Debbie and Tony."
Wrinkles' execution will be Indiana's first since June 15, 2007, when Michael Lambert was put to death for fatally shooting a Muncie police officer 16 years earlier.