Florida Widow Charged in Cold Case Murder of Late Husband, 17 Years Later

May 09, 2018
By: Catherine Townsend

Denise Williams

Photo by: Leon County Detention Center

Leon County Detention Center

Denise Williams

TALLAHASSEE, FL — The widow of a Florida man who mysteriously vanished almost 18 years ago after he supposedly went duck hunting alone has been arrested and charged with his murder.

Denise Williams, 48, was arrested on Tuesday by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and has been charged with first-degree murder in connection with the death of Mike Williams, according to the Tallahassee Democrat. Williams also faces a count of being an accessory after the fact, state attorney Jack Campbell said.

Mike Williams, who worked as an appraiser with Ketcham Realty Group, vanished on December 16, 2000. Denise told police that he had gone duck hunting alone on Lake Seminole, near Tallahassee.

Authorities searched for his body, but no trace of Williams was found until December 2017.

The cold-case murder has mystified investigators for years. Over time various theories were proposed — and some people reportedly believed that Williams had been eaten by an alligator. Eventually, his body was found buried in mud near a boat landing in Tallahassee, according to the Tallahassee Democrat.

Investigators were suspicious when they learned that Mike Williams' friend Brian Winchester helped him write a $1 million insurance policy six months before he disappeared and that, after Mike's death, Winchester began dating Denise Williams.

Denise convinced a judge to declare Mike legally dead, and was reportedly able to collect around $2 million in insurance money. Winchester and Denise eventually married.

Former Jackson County Sheriff’s Office Detective Derrick Wester interviewed Denise in 2004, when Mike's mother, Cheryl Williams, attempted to open the case for investigation. Wester says he will never forget interviewing Denise. "She’s the coldest person I’ve ever been around," he said. "I hope they’ve got a good case and she gets what she deserves."

In 2016, after Denise filed for divorce, Winchester was charged with kidnapping Denise at gunpoint and was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Authorities discovered Mike Williams' body one day after Winchester was sentenced.

"It's very coincidental that Brian Winchester gets sentenced to 20 years in prison, and now they miraculously find Mike Williams' body, and now they're indicting Denise Williams," Denise's attorney, Ethan Way said.

Court records indicate that he kidnapped Denise because he was afraid that she would tell investigators what really happened to Mike Williams.

According to a charging document obtained by the Tallahassee Democrat, Denise and Brian conspired for nearly nine months to kill Mike — and Brian fatally shot his friend.

Florida Department of Law Enforcement agent Mark Perez praised the efforts of investigators. "We've had this case for 15 years, and the relentless effort in working with prosecutors and then ultimately the grand jury in bringing those responsible for Mike Williams' [death] to justice is a great reward," Perez said. "Hopefully, this will bring peace and resolution to the Williams family."

Denise Williams is expected to be arraigned Wednesday.

For more on this case, watch the "Mystery on Lake Seminole" episode of Investigation Discovery's Disappeared on ID GO now!

Watch Now:

Next Up

'Your Story Is B.S.': Police Say Husband Charged With Wife's Murder 'Fake Cried' Over Her Death

Said a Florida detective after a husband claims he found his wife dead in a bath tub "The evidence and her body speak for itself and your story is B.S."

When Gerald 'Mike' Bullinger’s Secret Lives Intersected, The Result Was Deadly

Gerald Michael Bullinger seemed to be a loving, doting boyfriend who wanted his family to have it all. No one but Bullinger knew it was all a ruse. He was living a double life, and when he was finally exposed, everyone in his path was taken out.

Yoga Teacher Shoots Ex-Husband’s New Girlfriend In Front Of Twin Toddlers

The Utah mom brought a gun rather than the medicine she was to drop off for one of her ill children.

Chris Watts Is Getting Love Letters; His Former Mistress Is Receiving Death Threats

Nichol Kessinger, Chris Watts’ former mistress, has been placed in the witness protection program after receiving death threats.

Harold ‘Butch’ Knight: 'I Strangled Her; She’s Dead & Laying On The Living Room Floor.'

In a package sent to the victim's mother after her murder, Knight included $2,000 to cover the cost of cremating his wife, because he said that’s what she had wanted.

Man Wanted In Wife's Death Caught Near Mexican Border With 'Large Amount' Of Cash

Police are now taking a second look at the circumstances surrounding the death of Keel's first wife, Elizabeth “Bess” Edwards Keel.

Scott Peterson’s Family Claims They Have New Evidence That Proves His Innocence

Janey Peterson said that police failed to question 14 witnesses, including a mailman whom she claims has key evidence that would contradict the police timeline.

Captured! Luis Frias: Wanted For Stabbing Janett Reyna 41 Times In Front Of Their 3 Children

Monique Hudson tells In Pursuit, “It was a really strong, strong smell [of blood] … there was blood everywhere. I never really smelled blood, that's a smell you can't mistake or forget.”

Black Widow Grandma Charged With Murder Of Husband Whose Scalp Was Found In A Bag

Michael Harris said his grandmother often talked about the best way to get rid of a body, including telling him that you have to stab a corpse before putting it into water so that it won't float, and telling him that a perpetrator could use a victim's heart medication to make it appear as though they had a heart attack.