Selmer, Tenn. Mary Winkler was the quiet, unassuming wife of a small-town, by-the-Bible preacher, seemingly devoted to church and family. But now her husband, Matthew, is dead and she is charged with shooting him in the back with a shotgun.
Authorities won't discuss a motive, and church members say they didn't see any indication she was unhappy. But experts say preachers' wives often struggle with depression and isolation, expected to be exemplars of Christian virtue while bearing unique pressures on their private and public lives.
Gayle Haggard, author of "A Life Embraced: A Hopeful Guide for the Pastor's Wife," said ministers' wives can feel isolated because of a misconception about leadership, because they and their husbands are leaders of their congregations.
They can feel trapped, she said, by unrealistic expectations "to live a certain way, to dress a certain way, for their children to behave a certain way."
And ministers' wives often find themselves handling more jobs than they expected to take on, said Becky Hunter, current president of the Global Pastors Wives Network.
"You're not really hired, and yet there is some expectation in most church settings that the pastor's wife comes along in a package deal," Hunter said.
Too often, ministers and their wives are reluctant to seek emotional help from members of their congregations because they're looked up to as leaders, said Lois Evans, a former president of the Global Pastors Wives Network. They can become isolated, lonely and depressed.
"This family needed help," Evans said. "It seems like there was no place to turn to and no place to talk and it became an explosive situation."