In December 2000 Mike Williams went missing while duck hunting on Lake Seminole in Florida. After a 17 year cover up it was discovered that wife Denise and best friend Brian Winchester had hatched a plot to murder Mike and take his life insurance money.
Denise had alerted authorities to his disappearance just a few hours after he was allegedly supposed to return from his hunting trip. The resulting search could only locate Mike’s boat and truck, nothing else. The search was called off after 44 days.
There were theories circulating as to what happened Mike, one theory was that he had simply run off, another more popular idea was that he had been eaten by an alligator.
Mike’s mother, Cheryl Williams, refused to believe these theories, and continued investigating what had happened to her son herself. It was due to her tenacious efforts that the case was finally reopened in 2004.
It was 2016 before police got a real break in the case, this was prompted by the arrest of Mike’s former best friend Brian Winchester for kidnapping, he subsequently confessed to the plot to murder Mike.
Winchester stated that in 2000 Denise wanted out of her marriage to Mike but, wished to avoid the shame of a divorce. Himself and Denise had been having an affair for 3 years, and they now planned to bump off their respective spouses, claim the life insurance money, and live together. The pair subsequently married 5 years after Mike’s disappearance.
In 2016 with their marriage in trouble and divorce looking likely, Winchester kidnapped Denise, in a bout of apparent paranoia that she was going to confess to authorities. Winchester was arrested and sentenced to 20 years for this crime, however he was then offered immunity from prosecution in the Williams case, in exchange for information.
He told police that he lured his friend to the lake and pushed him out of the boat, the plan originally being to make it look like an accident, however when Williams resurfaced Winchester resorted to shooting him. He also told them where to find the body, which was buried just 5 miles from where Williams grew up, and his mother still lived.
Winchester accused Denise of masterminding whole the plot. She continued to maintain her innocence, arguing that she always believed Mike had died in a hunting accident. However, in May 2018 she was arrested and charged with his murder.
In December 2018 a jury, after 8 hours of deliberations, convicted Denise of conspiracy to commit murder, first degree murder, and insurance fraud. She was sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole. Winchester is serving out his 20 year sentence for kidnapping.
This case is examined on The Object of Murder at 9/8c on Investigation Discovery.
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