Murdering the pastor

Mary Winkler was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter. She’s the pastor’s wife who shot her husband in the back while he slept, then claimed to have no memory of pulling the trigger. I saw a little of her testimony yesterday on a news channel and saw her explain that the gun went off accidentally and that she ran with her children because she knew no one would believe her.

As a pastor’s wife, I understand how isolated she must have felt. But as a human being, I cannot begin to understand how she thought a gun might solve her problems anymore than I can understand how the Virginia Tech killer thought a gun would solve his problems.

I pity her children. I pity her. But I must admit that I’m amazed that she will serve less than six years for the murder voluntary manslaughter of her husband. (I know her defense was that she was a “battered” wife, but I still don’t understand why she shot him rather than left him.)

Updated to add: I am acquainted with a former Bible College professor who was convicted of attempted murder. She hit the man on the head with a crowbar, doing little damage to him. She is now serving eight years. I find it odd that Mary Winkler–whose victim is dead–will serve less time than my acquaintance, who barely (allegedly) injured her victim.  (She maintains she is innocent, but used the Alford plea.)

15 thoughts on “Murdering the pastor

  1. Clearly you have never been battered. It is hard to leave such a man. He manipulates you mind, body and spirit. It is pervasive. There is really no where to go and no support especially in Christian circumstances. Remember, for the most part, we are the folks who shoot our wounded. God was good in my case and spared me but I have nothing but mrcy and compassion for this gal.


  2. The sentance seems light to me too. I think there is more going on in her head than we will ever know.

    Like you, I feel for the children. Not only have they lost their father, but their mother and have to live with the stigma that their mom killed their dad. How do you get over that?


  3. As far as I know that’s why there is something like a “battered wife”-clause in the US. That often the wife feels so much like a victom that she can’t think of any other way to solve her problems. In a way they really seem to be insane. It’s weird though.

    (And I learned this through yet another Amanda Cross novel…)


  4. I just don’t like guns, period. But anyway- I guess I could see it differently if he hadn’t been sleeping when she killed him. She had a lot of other choices she could have made right then. If he were in the middle of battering her and she were defending herself- that’s another story.



  5. My mom is a pastor’s wife and a battered wife, also. I know she felt terribly isolated because many of your friends are your parishoners and you cannot reveal all the gory details of your mariage and life without seriously compromising your husband’s role in the church. I don’t think this justifies murder, but I do think acknowledging the unique role a pastor’s wife has and getting some support groups going would be in order.


  6. She shot him in the back then went to the beach with her kids. Sweet! She knew enough to yank the phone cord out of the wall as well. If she was a battered wife, I’m very sorry for but shooting someone while they are sleeping is NOT the answer.

    I am not a pastors wife so I won’t pretend to know of the unique pressures however, I do not think that murder is ever the appropriate response to anything.

    I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had enough and felt like killing someone and yet, curiously, I was able to control myself. I do not act upon every urge that comes my way. That’s what being an adult is all about.


  7. I don’t know about this case, and it does sound horrific. I do know of battered women who left their abusers and were pursued and even killed by them, which is also horrific. I can only speculate that this woman may have also known of such cases, or feared such an outcome or feared that her children might be hurt or taken away from her.


  8. It’s actually very common for battered wives to kill their husbands while they sleep. If that’s what they’re going to do, it’s usually when they do it. Because usually the batterer is so controlling, it’s the only time she feels she has any control of anything in her life at all. I’m not saying it’s right, I’m just saying it’s common among battered women who kill, because if it’s during confrontation, it’s usually the woman who ends up dead.


  9. Many batterers and emotional abusers work very hard to give their victims the impression of omnipotence. It makes it less likely for her to try to escape or fight back if she feels that he will always win. However, if and when the point is reached that she “has enough”, often that very brainwashing convinces her that the only way to rid herself of the terror is to end his life.

    I know this because I’ve felt it myself toward my abuser. I DIDN’T kill him, but I wanted to.


  10. Was she battered? We will never know.

    Did she commit murder? Absolutely yes.

    Do I understand our judicial system? No.

    An old friend of my son’s, from elementary school, is in prison for life with NO possibility of parole for driving the ‘getaway’ car in a robbery that turned into a murder. He was not an adult at the time, but was tried as one.

    He had no gun. He pulled no trigger. He saw nothing.

    Didn’t matter.

    NO matter WHAT happens to us, we ARE responsible for our own actions.


  11. “I’m amazed that she will serve less than six years for the murder of her husband”

    But she won’t; she’ll serve less than six years for the manslaughter of her husband – she wasn’t convicted of murder.

    So you can only be amazed at the lack of conviction for murder, or the length of the sentence for manslaughter, no?


  12. Mel,
    I also find her actions hard to understand, and the sentence light. I think we really get so little of a story through the media, that we can’t be sure we know or understand the dynamics at work.

    I do think she could, and should, have found another route.


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