IJAMSVILLE Nearly eight months later, Teresa Malhotra still can't bring herself to visit her daughter's grave.
Tina Marie Winkley died at age 31 at the hands of her husband on Oct. 11, 2007. Police said George Winkley bludgeoned his wife to death before overdosing on pain medication.
Malhotra has spent the past seven months analyzing her youngest daughter's murder.
Could she have prevented what happened that night? She said she might have. She had known the man closely while he lived under her roof for nearly five years.
Tina's best friend, Dan Hanna, also became familiar with George during the five-year marriage. He said he felt uneasy around George but supported Tina's love for him.
"He was not an easy person to be around," he said. "He could be friendly but he had this presence about him that I did not trust ... but I cared about Tina and I figured that if she loved him, there must be something good in him, and I didn't want to interfere."
Trauma seemed to follow George Winkley after he ended his 30-year marriage to his first wife, Elizabeth Winkley, more than six years ago. Elizabeth Winkley said she has just gotten over their divorce. She blames George Winkley's downward spiral into alcohol and pills for what happened to Tina Winkley, but the thought of her former husband killing another person remains unfathomable, as is the grief Malhotra must feel.
"I'm a mother, and I can hardly imagine someone doing this to my daughter," she said.
A life shattered
When Malhotra met her daughter's soon-to-be husband, her first thought was: "Is this the best you can bring?" He was still married to Elizabeth Winkley, and was 24 years older than Tina, but Tina told her mother that George was the "man of her dreams."
Maybe it was the lack of a father figure in her life that attracted Tina to a much older man, Malhotra said. Tina's own father died of liver cirrhosis when she was 9 years old and Malhotra never remarried.
She saw the way George spoiled Tina with toys, dolls and a Walt Disney World wedding, but never bought anything useful for a future home, such as furniture or kitchen supplies.
Tina's relationship with her mother also changed after she married George in January 2003.
"With me, she was a sweetheart, but her personality changed," Malhotra said. "She didn't respect me and she called me names."
During their first few years of marriage, the Winkleys lived with Malhotra. Malhotra said she heard the couple arguing but never saw any physical fighting.
George Winkley had an alcohol problem that persisted throughout the marriage, even after the couple moved into their own home on Wheyfield Drive in Frederick.
He was arrested and jailed for three months for driving under the influence, and a month before the murder-suicide, was hospitalized for an overdose of antidepressants and alcohol after a near-violent confrontation with Tina.
"She called me crying," Malhotra said. "She said 'George has changed.'"
Tina told her mother he tried to push her and had a gun. At her mother's urging, Tina Winkley reluctantly called the police, who confiscated the gun and took her husband to the hospital. Tina told George she would divorce him if he did not stop drinking, Malhotra said.
Malhotra remembers the last day she saw her daughter and son-in-law, the day before their deaths. The three of them had gone to dinner at Ruby Tuesday's.
"Tina was looking so pretty that day," she said. "I said, 'Tina you look so beautiful.' She said, 'Thank you, Mommy.'"
Malhotra said she doesn't know what drove George to kill Tina, or why Tina stayed with a threatening and alcoholic husband. Tina had a back injury from a car accident, and perhaps did not want to leave George since he was paying for health insurance.
Maybe it was Tina's talk of divorce that drove him to it, she said.
"I'm still asking him where he was to help my daughter," Malhotra said, pointing upward.
All that remains of Tina is memories, pictures, her college diplomas carefully stored in her room, a gravesite she has yet to visit and a cat named Starlet.
The tabby mewed softly and rubbed against Malhotra's legs as she talked about her daughter in her Ijamsville home. It was the first time in her life Malhotra had ever cared for a cat, she said.
Malhotra goes to counseling and takes an antidepressant to help her cope with a loss she may never recover from.
"Part of my life is gone," she said.
After her daughter was buried, Malhotra said she gave away everything she thought George had touched. She said she found George's college diploma still stored at her house. She frantically tore it to pieces.
"I pretended I was killing him," she said.
A changed friendship
Dan Hanna grew up across the street from Tina. Their friendship grew as they sat next to each other on school bus rides and took walks through their Ijamsville neighborhood. They became like siblings.
After graduating from Linganore High School in 1995, the pair remained close, even when Tina attended Towson University, but things changed when Tina met George in 2001.
Hanna and Tina had a "small falling out" after Tina and George married because he couldn't afford to fly to Florida for the wedding. They eventually made up, but their friendship wasn't the same.
"Every time we wanted to go out and do something, he had to be there with us, even though there was nothing beyond friendship with Tina and I," Hanna said. "It was no longer a friendship with Tina, it had to be Tina and George."
Hanna said drinking made George cocky and belligerent, and Tina told him she sometimes felt trapped in the marriage. As George's behavior got worse, Hanna told Tina she could come stay with him if she needed a place to go.
On Oct. 5, 2007, Hanna and Tina talked on the phone, discussing plans for his upcoming birthday. The two always did something special, even if it was just dinner and chatting about movies for an evening.
Instead, Hanna spent his birthday at Tina's funeral.
He was working at a cash register at Safeway in Mount Airy when he found out his best friend had been killed.
"Someone bought a paper and it was on the front page, and it broke my heart," he said. "It's still kind of surreal. She was a very unique young lady, very special. It's hard to try to put everything in perspective."
Hanna said he can't understand why George, or anyone else, would kill someone.
"They should try to do some research on their brain to see if there's any kind of trauma or something that would make them do this," he said.
For investigators, motive is the only unanswered question in the Winkley case, said Lt. Shawn Martyak of the Frederick Police Department.
"He claimed that he didn't want to see her in a wheelchair the rest of her life," Martyak said, referencing a note left by George Winkley, likely about Tina's back pain. Investigators have closed the case.
A secret life
Elizabeth Winkley had been married to George for more than 30 years when he ended the marriage.
The couple had settled in the Norfolk-Hampton area of Virginia when George retired from the Air Force after 20 years. He called her six years ago and said he had met someone during one of his frequent business trips to northern Virginia.
"He traveled a lot and found this girlfriend who was half his age," Winkley said. "He came here five months later to get his stuff ... I never saw him again."
After he left she spoke to him three times on the phone, but Elizabeth Winkley said it hurt her most when he refused to answer calls from their two adult children.
Their oldest, a son, was only a year younger than Tina.
"I knew that his drinking had probably gotten worse," she said.
Though she admitted George had a problem with alcohol, she said he was never violent. Her marriage had been happy.
"He was a good dad, he was a good husband," she said. "I thought our life was really good."
The two met through a mutual friend while still teenagers. She was 17 and he was 19. They lived in the small neighboring towns of Skowhegan and Madison in central Maine.
George joined the Air Force after graduation and his career took the young family around the world.
Elizabeth Winkley said her husband had a drinking problem the first eight years of their marriage but it lessened after the couple started going to church and became more devoted Christians. If he did drink, he kept it hidden.
After he retired, he took a job with a government contractor. The days and weeks away from home allowed George to indulge his vices.
"When he went out on the road he drank and gambled and when he came home he lived another life," Winkley said.
After George told his ex-wife he had met a woman who made him happy and shared his zest for life, she spent the next six years trying to heal.
She believes he became severely depressed after he left, mixing medications with his heavy drinking.
Despite the sudden divorce, George never missed the deadline for sending his monthly alimony checks.
That's how Elizabeth Winkley said she knew something had happened. The last check she received had been post-dated to Oct. 8, 2007, the day police believe George killed Tina and then himself.
Winkley said she has come to terms with the divorce, but still can't comprehend how the father of her children could have killed another person.
"It should be a warning to anyone who wants to leave his wife and family," she said.
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