Financial Murder Clue In Winkler Trial

By: Stephen McLamb
By: Stephen McLamb

Selmer, TN (WVLT) -- It's known as a "Nigerian Scam". It happens when you get a letter or e-mail, promising you millions of dollars you send in a few thousand dollars to cover processing fees. It is the scheme that prosecutor's believe West Tennessee minister Matthew Winkler, and his wife Mary, both fell for it.

Volunteer TV's Stephen McLamb has been in Selmer all week as Knoxville's only television reporter covering the trial. He tells us that the jury will have more to consider before they get the case.

For whatever reason, security was tightened at the McNairy County Justice Center on Saturday. Mary Winkler was no longer freely able to walk in and out of the Justice Center today, and as she was taken through a back door her attorneys declined to comment on if threats against her life had been made.

Inside the center the murder case's prosecutors were busy presenting their case. A case where they have insisted they do not know exactly why Mary Winkler killed her husband. Today another clue surfaced, a clue that existed in her financial troubles, which culminated the day before Matthew Winkler was killed.

That day, before his death, she deposited a $4,600 check from an international scam into the family bank account.

"The check is a Canadian trust check," said Amy Hollingsworth, a Regions Bank Teller. "It's a check I chose not to put a hold on, and the check came back to us insufficient.

Witnesses testified that Mary began kiting checks from a newly created personal account while trying to cover overdrafts in the account.

"She had been depositing them into our Regions account and that simply was not legal."

More evidence was piling up. According to witness testimony, just the day before Matthew's death the family's account was frozen.

"She said to me, she had made a bad situation worse," Jana Hawkins who is the Regions Bank Supervisor said, "and that there was no way she could fit 5 thousand dollars into her budget."

Also on the day before Matthew was killed Mary was the told to come to the bank to clear things up.

"She needed to be there at 8:30 the next morning," said Paulette Guest, who is also a Regions Bank Teller.

According to her testimony, when Guest told Mary Winkler that her husband Matthew would need to be there also, the wife said nothing.

Prosecutors are expected to continue their case into next week.


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