Patterico's Pontifications


Mary Winkler, Mary Winkler

Filed under: Law — DRJ @ 4:50 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

In 2006, Mary Winkler shot her husband as he slept in bed. She was charged with murder and convicted of voluntary manslaughter after claiming her husband was abusive. Winkler was sentenced to 3 years in prison. She served 12 days in jail, was treated for 55 days in a mental health facility, and was released on probation.

Last Friday, Mary Winkler regained full, permanent custody of her 3 daughters (ages 3, 9, and 11) who had been living with her husband’s parents.

I’m not questioning the legality of this decision and I have no personal knowledge about the case other than what I’ve read in the news. I hope this decision is in the best interests of the children. However, I am concerned that a court would return children to the custody of a parent convicted of voluntary manslaughter in the death of the other parent absent extraordinary circumstances, remorse, and prolonged rehabilitation – and those don’t appear to be present here.

In addition, I think it’s questionable to take children away from a home they’ve lived in for almost 3 years, especially where the youngest is only 3. Finally, I think 12 days jail-time is a joke and that it’s strange the community appeared to quickly accept and forgive Mary Winkler’s acts.

Other than that, I’m fine with this.


31 Responses to “Mary Winkler, Mary Winkler”

  1. DRJ, do you know if there was ever, anywhere along the line, actual evidence that Mary Winkler was really abused, and I don’t mean this sort of abuse,

    “…she took out a pair of high heels and she said, ‘This is how I was abused. He made me wear these heels when we were intimate with each other…”

    Surely there was something significant that hasn’t been publicly reported?

    Dana (254946)

  2. I feel the same way. This sounds strange but I hope there was clear abuse and the community found out about it after-the-fact. That’s the only way I can justify what happened here.

    DRJ (9d1be2)

  3. I knew Mr. Winkler… this is almost as sad a thing for the family as what she did to him.

    There is no @#%@#%$@#% way she should be allowed near these kids.

    If there was clear abuse that the community found out about, they sure are keeping it hush hush.

    Lord Nazh (899dce)

  4. Lord Nazh,

    I imagine this has just devastated the family in every way. Is there any word on how the gparents are taking the removal of the children from their custody back to their mother? I notice in DRJ’s links that they wre silent about it. Will they appeal the decision and/or are the legally able to?

    Dana (254946)

  5. DRJ, I should have directed this to you: are the gparents legally able to appeal the custody decision?

    Dana (254946)

  6. As a married man who sleeps occasionally, I find myself troubled by the weak disincentive for this behavior.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  7. I doubt that there was any abuse.

    This case is simply a reflection of the anti-male bias in courts and in society in general.

    Evil Pundit (646727)

  8. This is a poisonous ending. The two older girls will always know that their mother killed their father, and will probably never understand.

    I have little hope for their future.

    WLS (26b1e5)

  9. What SPQR said.

    JD (5f0e11)

  10. Dana,

    I don’t know Tennessee law. I assume all states handle child custody cases in a family law court or setting; that they have similar laws governing child custody decisions; and that it’s possible for family members like grandparents to seek custody. However, the ease and speed with which this occurred suggests to me that the grandparents either didn’t contest Mary Winkler’s request or that they were unable to prevent her from gaining custody.

    This is speculation but it wouldn’t surprise me if Tennessee law favored custody by parents over grandparents, and thus the grandparents believed or were counseled that they had little legal chance of gaining custody. If so, they may have decided it would be better to stay on good terms with Mary to increase the odds she would let them stay involved in the children’s lives.

    DRJ (9d1be2)

  11. Yes, boys and girls, you can get away with murder.

    The most interesting part of this case to me has always been Winkler’s claim that she had no options and didn’t know what else to do, but immediately upon murdering her sleeping husband, she threw the kids in the car and left the state. She could have done that without the whole murder thing.

    Pablo (99243e)

  12. Thanks, DRJ. I hate to use up more bandwidth but this is so perplexing. I remember reading about this when it took place, so I’m just shocked at the seeming lack of coherence in the outcome.

    Take simply her testimony that her hub made her wear high heels during times of intimacy and thus she concluded it was abuse. In another household, that would be just considered fun stuff. It would appear subjective but surely there was some evidence that would fall under what we typically think of as spousal abuse: bruises, broken bones, hospitalization, death threats, etc.

    Pablo, absolutely.

    Dana (254946)

  13. Imagine:
    “Eat your spinach, I killed your dad for pissing me off, I’ll kill you too”

    This is disgusting, but to be expected in a world where politicians fear being called sexist almost as much as they fear being called racist.

    martin (30db2b)

  14. I’d like to go on record here to say that my wife is abusive.

    Kevin (834f0d)

  15. (just kidding :))

    Kevin (834f0d)

  16. The obvious thought experiment is to swap the sexes. If it was a husband who killed the wife, with all other facts the same, does anyone here think the courts would have acted the same way?

    Steven Den Beste (99cfa1)

  17. No Steven, of course they wouldn’t. The people who permitted this are the real abusers here. They have stolen a good life from these kids, and they have possibly killed a couple of men out there.

    If you want to harm your spouse, no matter why, you should just get a divorce. It’s not hard to do.

    Juan (4cdfb7)

  18. We need a lot more facts. But it’s interesting to me that she’s been taken in by her husband’s parents. That’s kind of telling.

    Tracy (430cbb)

  19. Tracy,

    I might have missed it but I don’t think she’s living with her husband’s parents. Her children were.

    DRJ (9d1be2)

  20. I haven’t spoken with anyone in the family since the trial started, but the kids were living with his folks.

    I don’t know how they feel about this and would not like to guess. These people have suffered enough without this.

    Lord Nazh (899dce)

  21. Steven Den Beste:

    The obvious thought experiment is to swap the sexes. If it was a husband who killed the wife, with all other facts the same, does anyone here think the courts would have acted the same way?


    O.J. Simpson (62cad4)

  22. SPQR, JD…

    Heh… If your wives read about this, I bet you’ll be sleeping a LOT less… 🙂

    Seriously folks… switch the genders around in this (and change the shoe-style, I suppose), and tell me what you think the national reaction would be if a HUSBAND shot his WIFE while she SLEPT.

    I mean, at least wake them up! Give them a fighting chance. You’ve already got the gun…

    Scott Jacobs (425810)

  23. We’ll never hear Matthew Winkler’s side of the story, as he’s not around to tell it anymore. Nevertheless, let’s assume for argument’s sake that Mary Winkler’s side of the story is 100% accurate. Let’s assume that Matthew was such a violent and sadistic monster that if any of us knew the half of it, we’d be cheering Mary Winkler’s early release and protesting that she was convicted of any crime at all. We’re still left with the fact that St. Mary knowingly, voluntarily and continuously endangered her own children by allwoing (and effectively requiring) them to live with that very same monster she knew firsthand to be abusive. That alone should have been enough to disqualify her as an unfit parent.

    Xrlq (b71926)

  24. DRJ…No one has mentioned it, so nice job with the Mary Hartmanesque title. Gave me a grin.

    allan (99b105)

  25. This is absolutely wrong !!

    Justice is perverted- flip the sexes in this and a man would be on death row awaiting lethal injection and would NEVER see his kicks again.

    She is a murderer and I hope she is haunted by her deeds in this life and the next .

    She should be cast out as a pariah all the rest of her life, scorned and ignored by everyone around her.

    Jake (5096da)

  26. The world is full of abused women who had or felt they had no real escape for themselves and their children. If people – including the families and the friends of abusive a holes – starting doing the RIGHT thing and taking the sides of the victims, then we would see a lot less cases such as Mary’s.

    Too often, women who escape abusive and controling relationships – especially those by men who worked hard at building a false outward persona as a “nice guy” – have only an escape for themselves, but not their children.

    The ones who choose to abusive and controlling to their spouses most often end up with visitation due to the abuse being judged that it was directed at their spouse and not their children.

    Stop giving the real abusers a bunch of enablers, and the cases of abuse will drastically decline, thus giving victims and their children a real way out, to live the lives they should have been allowed.

    People who choose to abuse and humiliate and degrade their spouses have no place being parents, part time or not.

    Susan (bc3f4a)

  27. The community didn’t quickly accept and forgive good time Mary for murdering her husband because she was bored with being his wife. The local papers did quickly buy her completely unsupported story of abuse and expend lots of sympathetic ink on her. Local blogs and talk radio are a completely different story, and, I believe, more fairly represent community attitudes.

    brobin (c07c20)

  28. There is an update linked by Instapundit re this trial that helps to fill in some blanks. From the link,

    “Mary Winkler’s claims of abuse were largely uncorroborated during the trial.”

    “Mary Winkler has been in a custody battle with Matthew Winkler’s parents, who have been raising the three girls since the murder. The Winklers sought to terminate Mary Winkler’s parental rights and adopt the girls, “

    Also, Mary Winkler told Oprah that she just wanted to “talk” to her husband. And then heard a boom.

    Its an interesting article by Glenn Sacks that makes me even more convinced that an unfit and undeserving mother was foolishly given back her children.

    In spite of the devastation Mary Winkler wrought, at least she can now confess to Oprah,

    “I communicate better. I speak up when there’s something I don’t like.”

    Should we be happy she learned a valuable life lesson?

    Dana (254946)

  29. People who choose to abuse and humiliate and degrade their spouses have no place being parents, part time or not.

    Does that include women, Susan?

    Pablo (99243e)

  30. “People who choose to abuse and humiliate and degrade their spouses have no place being parents, part time or not.”

    I assume you would also include in this statement people who kill their spouses, yes?

    Dana (254946)

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