Officials Say: Slain Minister's Wife To Be Charged With Murder

The wife of a slain Tennessee preacher will be charged with killing him, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said Friday.

Mary Winkler, 32, will face a charge of first-degree murder, the TBI said. The body of Matthew Winkler, 31, a popular preacher in the small town of Selmer, was discovered Wednesday night at the family's home.

Mary Winkler, found later with her children in Alabama, was questioned by authorities Thursday night and Friday morning. The TBI said it gathered enough information to charge her after speaking with her and getting search warrants for several locations.

Mary Winkler has not made a public statement.

When Matthew Winkler failed to show up for a midweek service at the Fourth Street Church of Christ, congregants went looking for him. They went to the church parsonage and entered when no one answered, police said.

Congregants found Winkler dead in the bedroom. He had been shot in the back, but there were no signs of a struggle, police said.

"We didn't know for more than 28 hours his body was in that home," TBI spokeswoman Jennifer Johnson said.

After the body was found, authorities issued a nationwide Amber Alert for the couple's three children: Patricia, 8, Mary Alice, 6, and Breanna, 1.

Authorities assumed the wife would "either be a suspect or victim," Johnson said.

Police in Orange Beach, Alabama -- nearly 350 miles from Selmer -- spotted the family's minivan and stopped it Thursday evening, Assistant Police Chief Greg Duck said.

Duck said the children were in "very good condition" and were on the way to get something to eat when an officer pulled over their Toyota Sienna.

The TBI, the FBI and local authorities in Alabama questioned Mary Winkler.

Investigators have found no evidence of a history of domestic violence, Johnson said.

The slain preacher's parents have requested custody of the three children, who are in the custody of Alabama authorities, the TBI said.

Selmer residents said they were shocked at the preacher's death.

"I can't believe this would happen," Pam Killingsworth, a church member and assistant principal at Selmer Elementary, told The Associated Press.

"The kids are just precious, and she was precious," Killingsworth said. "He was the one of the best ministers we've ever had -- just super charisma."

Wilburn Ash, an elder at the Fourth Street Church, said Winkler was hired there in February 2005, according to the AP. He preached straight-by-the-Bible sermons, the AP reported, delighting congregants.

Church members described Mary Winkler as a quiet, unassuming woman, the AP reported. She was a substitute teacher at the elementary school.

"They were a nice family," former Selmer Mayor Jimmy Whittington, who worked with the preacher collecting donations for hurricane victims last year, told the AP. "They just blended in."