Mary Freeman met Matthew Winkler in 1993, shortly after transferring to Freed-Hardeman University in Henderson, Tennessee. Matthew was described as popular, charismatic and athletic. Fellow students remember Mary Winkler as quiet and unassuming with a nice smile.
They were friends first and then began dating. Mary Winkler says Matthew romanced her. "It was fantastic," she says. "We just clicked. We had a great time." After dating for just three months, Matthew proposed.
Two or three months into their marriage, Mary Winkler says she began to see a different side of Matthew. "I just remember at some point the just being shocked at the yelling and just this different person," she says. "And the things that he would say, just off the wall. And I did not understand where he was coming from. I didn't understand his train of thought. One day he may encourage me to be with family, and then another day he may say we're never talking to them again. It was just sad. I mean, I don't think he knew exactly all that he was thinking all the time. It's just there was no consistency."
Mary Winkler says she had never seen anything like Matthew's rage. "I remember my daddy had a desk, and then I took it with me when I got married. And we had storage problems. Well, anyway, it wouldn't fit right. And I mean, he just busted it up with his hands. Now I look back on that and that is so sad. But at the time, I remember being so embarrassed and all I cared about was that nobody was looking outside of their apartment. That's all I thought of was that I didn't [want] anybody to see his behavior."
She says she never knew what would make Matthew angry. "I couldn't tell you one thing what was the reason to begin anything," she says. "If something upset him, if he was having a bad day, that was just all there was about it. It was just, get out of the way."
Matthew also became verbally abusive and critical, she says. "Weight, hair, long or short, family, friends, keeping up the house, something about the girls…just very, very critical."