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!

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