US 419 victim shoots preacher husband

Row over money ends in tragedy

A row over money which provoked a US woman to shoot dead her husband may have been exacerbated by the couple's fleecing by 419 scammers, AP reports.

Mary Winkler, of Selmer, Tennessee, allegedly shot her preacher husband in the back with a 12-gauge shotgun as he lay in bed on 22 March. The body of Matthew Winkler, described as "the popular minister at the Fourth Street Church of Christ", was discovered later that evening by members of his church.

His wife had fled the scene with her three young daughters but was arrested the following day in Orange Beach, Alabama.

Investigators said last month that Winkler "confessed to shooting her husband after a night of arguing about money", although she has pleaded not guilty to a murder charge.

In a statement made to police and later read at her bail hearing, Winkler said: "I had gotten a call from the bank and we were having trouble, mostly my fault, bad bookkeeping. He was upset with me about that.

"He had really been on me lately, criticizing me for things - the way I walk, what I eat, everything. It was just building up to a point. I was tired of it. I guess I got to a point and snapped."

The Winklers' money troubles appear to have stemmed from a 419 "sweepstake" scam in which victims are are told they've won a pot of cash, receive cheques for the partial amount against which they draw "processing fees" for immediate return to the scammers, and too late realise that the cheques are bogus and they've been had.

The amount lost by the Winklers is unknown, although the authorities confirmed that Mary Winkler "deposited several checks from Canada and Nigeria for a total of $17,500". Defense attorney Steve Farese said: "All I know is they entered sweepstakes. They got these checks in the mail, and they made calls to activate them.

"They were always kind of living on the edge of their budget, so I'm sure this would have just wrecked their budget."

Mary Winkler was unable to raise bail set at $750,000, and is currently in jail awaiting a 30 October trial. ®

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Thanks to Geoff Hamer for the tip-off.

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