There was no obvious link between the two recent national headlines.
One said: "Woman who killed preacher husband gets custody of their three children."
The other read: "Woman on death row loses her last appeal."
Court documents in the separate cases recite the similarities:
• Both women, raised as fundamentalist Christians, suffered severe physical, sexual and emotional abuse from the spouses they killed.
• Both had small children — Winkler three daughters and Owens two sons — all younger than 12 at the time of the murders.
• Both of them were examined — some 20 years apart — by the same psychologist, Dr. Lynne Zager of Memphis, who said that both suffered from battered woman's syndrome — a condition that courts have recognized as "a female who is the victim of consistent, severe domestic violence."
• Both had concealed from relatives and close friends the suffering they endured at the hands of their husbands; both minimized the abuse when first questioned by police.
• Both were in financially troubled marriages and constantly were blamed by their husbands for being "spendthrift wives." Winkler had kited checks and argued with her husband about money the night before she killed him. Owens had stolen money from her employer, a doctor.
• Both women confessed when questioned by police, and both told the officers they blamed themselves for problems in their marriages.
• In both cases, the spousal abuse included lurid sexual details. In Owens' case, the sexual encounters were more violent and also involved her husband's extramarital affairs.
The court documents also recite the stark difference in the two killings:
Mary Freeman Winkler, 36, indicted on charges of first-degree murder and convicted of voluntary manslaughter, served 67 days in a mental health facility after conviction and is now free. She has custody of her children and lives in McMinnville.
Gaile Kirksey Owens, 57, is due to be executed by lethal injection on death row at Tennessee State Prison. The state Supreme Court will soon set the date. Owens, who works as a clerk in the prison, would be the first woman executed by the state since Eve Martin, found guilty of murder, was hanged in 1820.
The dramatic difference in the sentences received by Winkler and Owens relates directly to the manner in which the two cases were tried, how their separate teams of lawyers handled their cases and how two different judges dealt with their "battered woman" defenses.