Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

A "Perfect" Life: Mary Winkler Story

Born in Knoxville

Mary Winkler was born Mary Carol Freeman in 1974 in Knoxville, a city of 200,000 located in the western lap of the Appalachian Mountains in eastern Tennessee.

She and her parents, Clark and Mary Nell Freeman, lived on Frontier Trail, in a modestly affluent neighborhood in southwest Knoxville, where the city fades into farm fields. Census statistics indicate the Freemans' ZIP code is 94 percent white, with an average home value of $100,000 and average household income of $42,000both well above the Tennessee average.

Mary's mother was a teacher, and her father worked in real estate as a house flipper. He bought rundown properties at bargain-basement rates, then renovated and resold them.

The Freeman family attended Laurel Church of Christ in Knoxville, a 200-family congregation known for its campus ministry at the University of Tennessee. Clark Freeman served as a deacon at Laurel.

Laurel Church of Christ in Knoxville, Tenn.
Laurel Church of Christ in Knoxville, Tenn.

The family suffered a loss when younger daughter Patricia, a quadriplegic, died during a seizure when Mary was 8 years old. Not long after the girl died, the Freemans adopted five children, two boys and three girls from the same family.

When she was young, Mary went by her middle name, Carol, perhaps to differentiate from her mother, Mary Nell.

Mary Carol had an active extracurricular schedule in high schoolseveral choruses, Spanish club, a religion society, tennis, Future Teachers of America.

She graduated in 1992 from South-Doyle High School, part of the Knoxville public school system.

She spent the 1992-93 academic year at Nashville's David Lipscomb University, a flagship college for Churches of Christ believers, then transferred the following year to Freed-Hardeman University, another Churches of Christ affiliate in Henderson, Tenn., 20 miles north of Selmer.

Mary Winkler, college
Mary Winkler, college

Mary met Matthew Winkler at the school, where Matthew's father worked as an adjunct professor.

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