Mary Winkler: Where is She Now? What Happened to Her Kids?

Image Credit: Mary Carol Winkler/Facebook

In 2006, concerns arose among church members when Matthew Winkler, a pulpit minister in Selmer, Tennessee, failed to attend an evening service. Worried, they visited his home to check on him, only to discover him shot to death. What shocked them even more was the disappearance of his wife, Mary Winkler, and their three daughters, Patricia, Mary Alice, and Breanna. Subsequently, Mary and her daughters were located in Alabama by the police, where she admitted to shooting her husband. ABC’s ’20/20′ episode titled ‘The Preacher’s Wife’ lays bare the facts of the case, which garnered much media attention.

Mary Winkler is Known as Mary Carol Freeman Today

Mary Carol Winkler was arrested for her husband’s murder on March 22, 2006. She asserted that she hadn’t meant to kill him, explaining that she acted reflexively during a disagreement and only realized what happened after hearing the gunshot. She faced a first-degree murder indictment by a grand jury in June and was released on bond in August 2006. Until her trial began in April 2007, she stayed with friends in McMinnville, Tennessee.

In a memorable decision, Mary Winkler chose to represent herself in court, claiming her husband had abused and humiliated her, leading to an escalation on the day of the incident. She acknowledged her own poor financial decisions but took responsibility for her actions. Ultimately, the jury returned a verdict of guilty on a reduced charge of voluntary manslaughter. She received a sentence of 210 days, having already spent 150 days in pre-trial detention. The judge permitted her to serve the remaining 60 days of receiving treatment at a mental health facility.

After completing her sentence, Mary resettled in Smithville, Tennessee. In a 2010 interview, she disclosed that she had been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Initially, she mistook her symptoms for a stroke, as they primarily affected the right side of her body. Just before her diagnosis, she had made plans to return to school to study nursing, but her health condition forced her to abandon those plans.

When the TV film ‘The Pastor’s Wife’ premiered in 2011, purportedly based on her case, Mary strongly disapproved of how she and her family were portrayed. She emphasized that she was regaining normalcy, and the movie resurfaced painful memories. Mary stated that the film contained numerous inaccuracies, and she was neither approached nor compensated by the production.

Mary now goes by the name of Mary Carol Freeman. She resides in Knoxville, Tennessee, and is active and socially conscious. Engaging in various fundraising efforts, Mary supports causes ranging from cancer research to mental health support for Army veterans, children’s health, and animal welfare. She also partakes in marathons and treks to promote these fundraisers, which also shows that she is quite physically fit till today. Particularly close to her heart is her fundraiser for MS patients, where she encourages friends and family to contribute. Celebrating her 50th birthday this year, Mary is surrounded by the love of her friends and loved ones, especially her daughters. Together, they create new memories and have moved forward in life.

Mary Winkler Got Custody of Her Daughters in 2008

After being discovered with their mother in Orange Beach, Alabama, Mary Carol Winkler’s three daughters, Patricia, Mary Alice, and Breanna Winkler, were returned to their hometown and placed under the temporary custody of their paternal grandparents, Dan and Diane Winkler. They remained with them throughout Mary’s trial and got to see their mother under supervised visits for 11 months. Following her completion of the sentence, Mary initiated legal efforts to regain custody of her daughters.

The two years that followed were highly tumultuous. In 2008, Mary successfully gained custody of her children. It was reported that they would reside together in Smithville, Tennessee, with arrangements made for them to live in a home provided by the minister of their congregation at the time. However, the legal disputes between Mary and Dan and Diane Winkler persisted. Mary alleged that a trust fund designated for her minor daughters had been misappropriated by her former in-laws, and a judge ordered them to pay the money back.

In 2010, Mary opened up about her daughters’ lives, noting that they were adjusting well and enjoying themselves. She mentioned they had ample space to play and run around, fostering a sense of normalcy. Additionally, Mary expressed gratitude for her daughters’ increased responsibilities around the house as they rallied to support her. She said, “They understand they need to do a little bit more around the house, they need to help out and they’ve done a great job.”

Image Credit: Mary Carol Freeman/Facebook

Despite the challenges posed by her MS diagnosis, Mary highlighted the significant support provided by Dan and Diane, who stepped up to assist the girls in various ways. Despite life’s obstacles, the girls have remained relatively close to their mother, and together, they have achieved the family life they desired.

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