Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

A "Perfect" Life: Mary Winkler Story

Missed Signs?

Most members of the Fourth Street Church say they did not see signs that Mary and Matthew Winkler were having problems. Some wonder whether they missed warning signs.

"I wish I had," said one woman. "A lot of us are feeling a little guilty."

Dr. Judy Kuriansky, a professor of clinical psychology at Columbia University, noted that ministers and their wives live a fishbowl lifestyle.

Dr. Judy Kuriansky
Dr. Judy Kuriansky

"There's no question, as we now well know, that people of the cloth have secrets," she told the Crime Library. "Religiosity can have dark sides. We don't like to think about that. We like to think that members of the clergy are only pure in their motivations."

Typically, Kuriansky said, a violent act such as the Winkler murder is precipitated by a final "grand insult" that tops off some festering problem.

"The dimensions of a good relationship include compromise and communication," said Kuriansky, author of "The Complete Idiot's Guide to a Healthy Relationship." "When you don't compromise and communicate, things build up over time."

She said shrinks called it "gunny-sacking": Problems are hidden in a metaphorical burlap bag that becomes an increasing burden.

Kuriansky said ministers rarely seek help for personal problems because they fear they could lose their job if they admit to being less than perfect.

As one minister's spouse put it, "Until someone has walked in the shoes of a pastor's wife, they have no idea what kind of pressures and unrealistic expectations are often put on them."

Coincidentally, one of those who stepped forward to speak about the dynamics of clergy marriages was Gayle Haggard, whose husband, Ted, was a nationally known fundamentalist preacher in Colorado Springs.

Haggard told a reporter that women like Mary Winkler feel pressure "to live a certain way, to dress a certain way, for their children to behave a certain way."

Eight months later, Haggard resigned after admitting to using methamphetamines and a having a long relationship with a gay prostitute.

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