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Tenn. pastor shot to death; wife named a suspect

SELMER, Tenn. -- A popular and charismatic Tennessee minister was found shot to death in his parsonage, and authorities labeled his wife a suspect after she and the couple's three young daughters were found in Alabama yesterday after a daylong search.

''We've known from the beginning that she was either a suspect or a victim," said Jennifer Johnson, spokeswoman for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations.

Church members went looking for the Rev. Matthew Winkler, 31, when he did not show up for an evening service at Fourth Street Church of Christ. They used a key to enter the adjacent parsonage and found him dead in a bedroom late Wednesday, Selmer Police Chief Neal Burks said. Winkler's family was gone, along with their minivan.

Johnson said there were no signs of forced entry at the parsonage.

Mary Winkler and her daughters were found safe later yesterday in Alabama when a police officer spotted their van parked on the side of the road and pulled over to help.

All were in good physical condition, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said, and no one else was with them.

The bureau had issued an Amber Alert early yesterday for the couple's daughters, Breanna, 1; Mary Alice, 6; and Patricia, 8. Mary Winkler. had been last seen late Tuesday afternoon picking up the children from school, said Ed Jones, assistant director of the bureau. Burks said she worked as a substitute teacher at the elementary school.

Winkler was hired as pastor in February 2005, said Wilburn Ash, an elder at the 200-member church in Selmer, a town of about 4,600 in western Tennessee. The job was Winkler's first full-time ministry after working as a youth pastor at another church.

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