SELMER, Tenn. — A woman who killed her preacher husband with a shotgun blast to the back as he lay in bed was sentenced Friday to three years in prison, but she may end up serving only 60 days in a mental hospital.
Mary Winkler must serve 210 days, or about seven months, of her sentence before she can be released on probation, but she gets credit for the five months she has already spent in jail, Judge Weber McCraw said.
That leaves only two months, and McCraw said up to 60 days of the sentence could be served in a facility where she could receive mental health treatment. That means Winkler may not serve any significant time in prison.
Winkler, 33, was convicted of voluntary manslaughter in April and could have received up to six years for killing her husband, Matthew, in the parsonage where the family lived in March 2006.
At her trial she testified she was physically and emotionally abused by her husband. At her sentencing hearing Friday she said, "I think of Matthew every day, and I'll always miss him and love him."
She pleaded to the judge for leniency, and asked to be reunited with her three daughters, who are now in the custody of Matthew Winkler's parents. The judge denied Winkler's request for full probation or judicial diversion, which would have eventually cleared her record of the conviction.
Prosecutors had sought a murder conviction against Mary Winkler, who they alleged had been trying to keep her husband from learning about a check-kiting scheme. They claimed she had become caught up in a swindle known as the "Nigerian scam," which promises riches to victims who send money to cover the processing expenses.
Winkler, however, testified during her trial that her husband hit and kicked her, forced her to look at pornography and demanded sex she considered unnatural. Jurors were shown a pair of platform shoes and a black wig Winkler said she was pressured to wear during sex.
Matthew Winkler's family said at the sentencing hearing that Mary Winkler's allegations amounted to a second attack on her husband, a popular 31-year-old preacher at the Fourth Street Church of Christ in Selmer.
"The monster that you have painted for the world to see? I don't think that monster existed," said his mother, Diane Winkler.
When Mary Winkler took the stand, she turned to her husband's family and told them she was "so sorry this has happened." She said she understood they were angry with her and that she prayed every night for them to have peace.
Mary Winkler was arrested a day after shooting her husband. She was found 340 miles away on the Alabama coast, driving the family minivan with her daughters inside.
Diane Winkler, testified that the girls, ages 9, 7 and 2, were having nightmares about people with guns breaking into their house.
"You've never told your girls you're sorry. Don't you think you at least owe them that?" she asked.
Mary Winkler's sister, Tabitha Freeman, asked the judge to give her a chance to be reunited with her children, and called her "the best example of a good person I can think of."
"She just needs them. She's not complete without them," Freeman said.