Mary Winkler, convicted of manslaughter, could be released in as few as two months

By Tim Nudd
Updated June 08, 2007 03:00 PM

Mary Winkler, the Tennessee woman convicted in April of voluntary manslaughter in the 2006 shooting death of her husband, preacher Matthew Winkler, was sentenced Friday to three years in prison.

However, Judge Weber McCraw said she must serve just 210 days, or about seven months, of her sentence before she can be released on probation, the Associated Press reports. She gets credit for the five months she has already spent in jail.

Additionally, Judge McCraw said Winkler may serve up to 60 days of her sentence in a mental-health facility, meaning she may not serve any more significant time in prison.

The judge denied Winkler’s attorneys’ request for a “judicial diversion” program that would have set her free on probation.

She had faced a maximum of six years in prison.

Winkler, 33, was arrested a day after the March 22, 2006, shooting. Her husband had been found dead, shot behind his church parsonage.

Winkler had testified that her husband had abused her physically and sexually. She claimed that the shooting was accidental. Prosecutors dismissed that and sought a first-degree murder conviction. A jury found her guilty of the lesser crime of manslaughter.

Before the sentencing, Winkler had pleaded with a judge for mercy. Reading from a yellow legal pad, she told her husband’s family that she was “so sorry this has happened” and that she will “always miss him and love him,” the Associated Press reports.

She also asked that she be reunited with the couple’s children – Patricia, 9; Mary Alice, 7; and Breanna, 2 – who are currently with Matthew Winkler’s family.

“I ask for mercy and understanding, but I know whatever decision you reach today will be right,” she told the judge. “I ask you to please let me go home today and be with my children.”

Earlier in the hearing, Matthew Winkler’s mother, Diane Winkler, said the children were having nightmares and lashed out at Winkler. “You’ve never told your girls you’re sorry,” she said. “Don’t you think you at least owe them that?”