Winkler Friend Speaks Out

(WVLT) For one week, Knoxville native Mary Winkler has been a free woman.

A week ago she was released from a mental health facility after serving 67 days.

In June, Winkler was sentenced to 210 days in prison for voluntary manslaughter in the shooting death of her minister husband, Matthew.

Since her release, Winkler isn't talking publicly about what happened but she is confiding in friends.

One of those friends, Rudie Thomsen, whose home Winkler is staying at talked with our sister station WTVF's, Nick Beres.

"Since she's gotten back home, the Mary that we came to know and love, the grinning, the cutting up," Thomsen told NewsChannel 5. "She's back."

Thomsen said it's nice to see Winkler smile and it's something his family sees everyday.

"Mary needed a place to come to heal, to have a job on probation," he said. "We supplied that. That's all we've done."

Thomsen said Winkler is on her way to healing.

"She's on a road. She's on her way. She's gonna make it," Thomsen said of Winkler who he considers as an adopted daughter.

Earlier this year, Winkler was convicted of voluntary manslaughter in the death of her husband Matthew Winkler, a Church of Christ minister.

The high-profile case made national and international headlines.

On the advice of her attorneys, Winkler isn't talking to media.

"She loves Matthew. There are pictures of him in the bedroom at the house," Thomsen said during an exclusive NewsChannel 5 interview.

In pictures taken with the Thomsens, Mary Winkler still wears her wedding band.

Thomsen said she regrets shooting her husband.

"Mary said to a friend of ours had she been found not guilty that would have been wrong because she did wrong. She did something wrong so she had to serve something," Thomsen said.

But, Thomsen said Winkler was abused by her husband and saw it happening to their three daughters.

"She lives and breathes every day for those girls," Thomsen said. "That's the reason she did it -- to protect them."

Winkler's served her time and plans to return to work at a McMinnville dry cleaner in September.

Thomsen said she has many friends and a few enemies.

"There are a lot of people in this community who won't forgive her," Thomsen said.

Winkler isn't surprised.

Thomsen said she prays for them. He said her faith and the hope of reuniting with her children keeps her going.

"What she wants to do is get on with her life. Let people leave her alone. Get the girls back. Mourn her husband. That's her words," Thomsen said.

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