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Until Death Do Us Part: The Debra Wrinkles Story

A young Debra Jean met the man that would become her husband, Mathew Eric Wrinkles, in a pool hall. The two quickly hit it off and in 1980 they were married. They settled in the Southern Indiana city of Evansville. They became parents to Lindsay and Seth. Debbie worked outside the home and largely supported the family while her husband, known as Eric, worked from his home garage on cars.

By the early 1990s, the Wrinkles marriage had begun to deteriorate quickly. In an episode of Evil Lives Here entitled On The Run, a grown Lindsay describes her parents fighting and marital issues. She states that her mother and father often fought about money, particularly since Debbie was the breadwinner of the house but Eric liked to spend money. She says that her mother often hit her father during their fights until one day he hit back. After that, Lindsay says, he grew increasingly violent with both his wife and children.

On May 3rd, 1994, police arrived at the Wrinkles home after a 911 call regarding gunfire. Upon arrival, officers recall Eric telling them that he would kill his wife if she ever tried to leave him. The two had an argument about money and, according to a witness, Eric drew a gun and pointed it at Debbie. When Debbie tried to take the gun from her husband it discharged, not causing any injuries. Debbie covered for her husband with police and no charges were filed.

Eric Wrinkles pointing a gun at his wife was not uncommon according to Lindsay. She describes several instances of him threatening her mother with a gun on Evil Lives Here. She also describes her father’s violent temper towards her and her brother. She recalls her brother being violently beat with a belt and her father threatening her. She also states that her father became very paranoid and behaved more and more erratically as time went on.

In June of 1994, Debbie Wrinkles (left) took Lindsay and Seth and fled from her abusive husband. According to Lindsay, they stayed with different relatives until her father would find them. They would then move and stay with another relative. Eventually, they were staying with Debbie’s brother Mark Tony Fulkerson and his wife Natalie in Evansville. Debbie officially filed for divorce on June 30th, 1994. Debbie was also granted a protective order.

On July 20th, 1994, Debbie and Eric attended a provisional hearing on their impending divorce. During the hearing, Debbie was granted custody of Lindsay and Seth, but Eric would have visitation rights. The order of protection was set aside. Eric often told people that he missed his children and Debbie was attempting to hide the children from him. They agreed to meet at a fast-food restaurant that evening for Eric’s visitation. However, Debbie and the children never arrived at the visitation.

Presumably out of fear of her abusive soon-to-be ex-husband, Debbie chose not to show up at the visitation as planned. This enraged Eric, who just earlier that month had been admitted to a mental health facility by his mother. After three days of evaluation, the facility released him stating he didn’t meet criteria for an involuntary hold. According to Eric Wrinkles, he was deeply addicted to methamphetamines at this point in his life and was not sleeping. The lack of sleep and stress from his failing marriage caused him to deteriorate mentally.

Around 2 am on July 21st, 1994, Mathew Eric Wrinkles cut the phone lines at Tony and Natalie Fulkerson’s home and entered the house. He went to Tony and Natalie’s bedroom first and shot Tony four times in front of his three-year-old son. The gun shots awoke Debbie, who brandished her own gun. Eric was dressed in all camouflage including face paint according to Lindsay, who was thirteen at the time (Evil Lives Here). Lindsay watched as her mother shot her father in the hand. She then began at beg her father not to kill her mother, but he told her to shut up before shooting Debbie.

Natalie Fulkerson was running out the front door for her own safety when Wrinkles chased her and shot her at point blank range in the face, killing her instantly. Tony, Natalie, and Debbie were all dead. Eric Wrinkles fled the scene, leaving behind the Fulkerson’s ten and three-year-old children, a nineteen-year-old relative, and Lindsay and Seth. The children ran to a neighbor’s house for help and the police were called.

(Above: Tony & Natalie Fulkerson)


Mathew Eric Wrinkles was apprehended later that day and charged with three counts of first-degree murder. Indiana prosecutors quickly announced they would seek the death penalty for Wrinkles. At trial, the defense did not dispute that Wrinkles had killed Tony, Natalie, and Debbie. However, they contended that he was going through a difficult time in his life and was there only to retrieve his children which were being unfairly kept from him. The defense claimed that he would not have killed anyone had Debbie not pulled a gun on him. A neuropsychologist testified that Wrinkles had Mixed Personality Disorder and Delusional Disorder. The defense claimed his mental status was further impaired by his methamphetamine addiction.


The jury found Mathew Eric Wrinkles guilty of all three counts of murder and sentenced him to death. Lindsey says that he once expressed remorse for killing her mother but stated that he was not sorry he killed Tony and Natalie because they “got what they deserved” (Evil Lives Here). According to multiple reports, Wrinkles would eventually show some remorse as his execution date grew closer. Natalie’s mother opposed the death penalty, but Tony and Debbie’s mother supported the sentence.

Mathew Eric Wrinkles was scheduled to be executed on December 11th, 2009. In Indiana, the “last meal” is actually served a few days prior to execution because they find inmates lose their appetite as execution approaches. On December 9th, Eric Wrinkles enjoyed his special meal of two salads with ranch dressing, rolls, prime rib, loaded baked potato, pork chop, and steak fries. The two nights before his execution, Wrinkles requested and was given Ativan to calm his anxiety. He spent his last day visiting with family, friends, and spiritual advisors including his son and daughter.

Mathew Eric Wrinkles died by lethal injection at 12:39 am on December 11th, 2009. When asked to give his last words he said “Not at this time, let’s get it done. Let’s lock and load. It’s plagiarized, but what the hell” (Murderpedia). After his execution, Lindsay is quoted to have said “Regardless of what my dad has done, he’s still my dad. Having to relive this ordeal is tragic” (Death Penalty News, 2009). Wrinkles wrote a statement that was released after his execution stating “I am not proud of the man I was. But, I am no longer that man. In the past 15 years I have come to grips with the extent of the harm I caused. Although tonight I pay for my actions with my life, it has been the last 15 years that had been the true punishment” (Death Penalty News, 2009).


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References

Evil Lives Here (2017) On The Run; Evil Lives Here; Investigation Discovery

Murderpedia (2021) Matthew Eric Wrinkles; Retrieved at: Matthew Wrinkles | Murderpedia, the encyclopedia of murderers

Death Penalty News (2009) Matthew Eric Wrinkles executed for 1994 triple murder; Retrieved at: Matthew Eric Wrinkles executed for 1994 triple murder (deathpenaltynews.blogspot.com)

Wrinkles V. Buss (2008) Matthew E. Wrinkles V. Ed Buss, Superintendent; United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit; Retrieved at: rssExec.pl (uscourts.gov)

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