Of scale contains adult themes and violence and is not intended for all audiences, listener discretion is advised. The rest of my life, I to see my son clinging to a tree stump and the door and for ever.
Hello, once again, welcome to Season eight, Episode 182 of Soared Scale, a show that reveals that the worst monsters are real. On today's episode, a near perfect murder plot is foiled by the one variable of the crime, the murderer could not control a mother's love. This story has everything. Love, sex, betrayal and even alligators. So sit back right now and let us tell you a story. On the morning of December, twenty fifth two thousand fifty six year old Tallahasse woman Cheryl Williams drove to Jackson County, Florida, and arrived at Lake Seminole, a massive reservoir in the northwest corner of Florida's border with Georgia.
Lake Seminole is known for its exceptional fishing and duck hunting locations. But Cheryl had no intention of doing any fishing or hunting on this particularly somber Christmas morning. Instead, Cheryl was visiting the final resting place of her 31 year old son, Mike Williams.
It was just days earlier that Cheryl received the heartbreaking news from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. Mike Williams had gone missing while duck hunting on Lake Seminole and was presumed dead. The belief was that Mike had accidentally drowned and subsequently had been eaten by alligators, making the recovery of his body unlikely. When Cheryl arrived at Lake Seminole to see where her son had perished, she noticed that the air was considerably cold for Florida, colder than it had been in years.
And with tears in her eyes, she looked out of the large, malevolent body of water that took her child's life. Then, without warning, the wind picked up like some cruel attempt to knock her over the lake breathed a harsh and bitter cold air. But it was no match for the fire that suddenly ignited inside of Cheryl. While standing at the lake's edge, an abrupt and unexplained apprehension overtook Cheryl, forcing her to clinch her fists. And she knew something wasn't quite right.
She knew that Mike was not in Lake Seminole. Maybe it was divine intervention, maybe it was a mother's intuition, regardless, Sheryl knew in her soul that Mike had not drowned and that he had not been eaten by alligators. It was at this moment that Sherrell resolved herself, she would do everything and anything she could to find out what had really happened to her son.
Sixteen years later, in the early morning of August 5th, twenty sixteen, another Tallahassee woman, forty six year old Dennis Winchester, left her home with a purse slung over her shoulder and a travel coffee mug in hand. Denise locked her front door and walked towards her SUV, which was parked a short distance away in her driveway. Like most weekday mornings, Denise was anticipating a routine commute to Florida State University, where she worked as an accountant. Denise climbed into her SUV and started the engine.
Then she used her cell phone to dial her sister, as it was typical for the two of them to chat while Denise drove to work. But before Denise's sister could answer the call, something unthinkable happened. The man who had been hiding in Denise's back seat since two a.m. revealed himself and climbed into her passenger seat.
I was calling my sister and this person had a very bad night until the first was I was screaming and the phone helped me to turn it off. I never saw her again.
Denise's sister never heard those cries for help. But Denise quickly realized who the man in the passenger seat was. It was her husband. Forty seven year old Brian Winchester. Denise and Brian had separated years earlier, but it was only recently that Denise filed for divorce. Brian had reportedly tried to talk her out of it, but Denise held firm to her intent to end the marriage.
About two thirty in the morning, he climbed into the back of her SUV, armed with a gun, waiting for her to get up to go to work. She did eventually get up and go to work, get in the car. And when she realized that he was in the car, she screamed.
Brian and Denise Winchester met in grade school and had been friends for most of their lives. They attended high school and college together, both graduating from Florida State University in nineteen ninety two. After college, they remained close, but their relationship didn't become romantic until much later. And in 2001, they officially began dating Brian. Denise married in 2005 and their marriage started off well enough. But things began to fall apart due to Brian's admitted infidelity. The couple separated in twenty, twelve and four years later, in twenty sixteen, Denise finally filed for divorce.
Brian was desperate to reconcile. He called and texted Denise endlessly, pleading for her to take him back eventually. Denise began ignoring him, which only enraged Brian, who then climbed into the back of Denise's SUV with a handgun and waited for her to go to work.
He was grabbing me and people face pretty harsh cussing and he pulled out a gun like any right here in my wrist and. Right, right, right. Here he goes, because he's been e-mailing me, texting a lot and trying to get me to stop it.
Brian pressed a loaded gun into Denise's ribs and instructed her to drive for nearly an hour. They drove through Tallahassee as Brian held his estranged wife at gunpoint.
So then he was like, I had to do this because you weren't answering my calls. Please just call yourself. I lost everything. And as we were talking, I was just kind of agreeing with whatever he was saying. And I was like, I knew that you love me and you get us all back and you just feel like he was a Christian at one place. Cause the whole time through this way, I'm glad he's he's calm. He's calmed down.
And so it's just like, what are you doing? Why are you doing this? And I was like, I don't know. I know you want to talk to me and I know this is not the way to do it. I know I don't like it. Kind of like we're not going.
Well, fortunately, Denise was able to reason with Brian offering hope that their marriage could still be saved. And Brian relented.
Denise drove Brian to his truck, but before leaving her SUV, he begged Denise not to go to the police and report him for what he had just done. Denise wisely agreed, but as soon as Brian was out of sight, she called the Leon County Sheriff's Office who instructed her to come to their station and file a complaint. Brian was swiftly arrested and charged with kidnapping, which is a first degree felony in Florida and if convicted, carries a possible sentence of life in prison.
At Brian's arraignment, Denise begged the judge to deny bail. He was waiting for me back in my car to go grab the steering wheel shotgun, screaming profanities uncontrollably at me. I will never say I will never understand anyone. I can't sleep. I can't eat because I only see him out of the back of the car because all I feel is the gun in my ribs, because I only hear his voice screaming at me.
Denise got her wish. Bryan remained in jail for over a year while awaiting trial, during which time Denise and Brian's divorce was finalized.
Mr. Winchester is going to say that he only wanted to talk to her. He only wanted to try to reconcile. But he had a handgun. And you should also know that he had a tarp and two containers of bleach. But he says he only wanted to talk.
Bryan maintained he never had the intention of harming Denise, though his actions and the items in his possession suggested otherwise.
You crawl in the back of the vehicle at about 2:00 or 3:00 a.m.. Yes, sir, because that's when it's the darkest, right? You waiting for? Yes, sir. You had a backpack with him? Yes, sir. You had a loaded handgun? Yes, sir. You had a tarp? No, sir. I had a sheet sheet that the sheet you were going to use to wrap body in after you killed her?
No, absolutely not.
Brian ultimately pleaded no contest to the charge of kidnapping and begged the court for mercy.
Never, ever did I have any intentions of harming Denise, nor would I. Nonetheless, I do know that she was hurt by my actions. And again, I am truly sorry.
At sentencing, Denise lobbied the court and asked for life in prison, citing that her life was in danger if Brian was ever to be released. I start each day with the memory of him jumping out of the back and I end each day feeling the gun shoved in my ribs.
When I turn on my right side trying to sleep, he will finish what he has started no matter what age he is when he is released.
I'm asking you to sentence him to life in prison for the crimes he has committed. It comes down to my life or is. And I'm asking you, please choose life. Brian Winchester was sentenced to 20 years in prison for kidnapping and following his conviction, Florida law enforcement was glad to have him locked up, not only because he was guilty of kidnapping his now ex-wife, Denise, but also because he was suspected of being involved in a nearly 17 year old missing person case.
You see, according to a friend of his, Brian had been getting more and more worried that Denise knew about something that had gone missing over a decade before. He had tried to call her several times to make sure that they were still cool about that despite their deteriorating relationship. But she had not answered those calls, so he waited in the back of her car and held her at gunpoint to talk about it. What was missing, you may ask?
Well, it was the niece, Winchester's first husband, Mike Williams. Jerry Michael Williams was Denise's first husband, mostly known as simply Mike, he was born in nineteen sixty nine growing up in Bradford Ville, Florida. Mike's parents raised him in a double wide trailer. You know, it's hard to throw a dart anywhere in the panhandle of Florida and not hit someone that grew up in a double wide trailer or maybe a single slide. In any case, rather than purchasing a house, Mike's parents used their income to send Mike to North Florida Christian High School, where he actually excelled, serving as student council president and playing football at age 15.
Mike met fellow student and his eventual wife, Denise Merrill.
Denise Williams and Mike Williams knew each other from childhood, and they dated each other through junior high and high school and in college. And they maintained a long term relationship with the Winchesters. Brian Winchester and his wife, Kathy Winchester, who was then Kathy Thomas McWilliams, also met Brian Winchester.
Remember him from just a few minutes ago? Apparently, they all went to high school together and quickly became good friends.
Mark and I went to high school together and got to know each other very well. We were very good friends. Denise and Mike were high school sweethearts. My wife Kathy and I were high school sweethearts. We all dated in high school and off and on through college.
Mike attended classes at Florida State University, where he studied political science and urban planning. He graduated from FSU in nineteen ninety two, alongside Denise, Brian and Brian's girlfriend at the time, Kathy Thomas.
Mike and Denise married in nineteen ninety four and maintained a close relationship with Brian and Kathy, who also got married. The foursome, often double dated, went to clubs, concerts, events and even vacation together. It's weird to think that right now, at this moment, you could be going out on double dates with your husband and your future lover at the same time. But hey, you do you boo? In nineteen ninety nine, both couples became parents, Brian and Cathy had a son while Dennis and Mike had a daughter.
We're just totally overwhelmed. She was due Tuesday and she would have made me wait a whole nother year for Mother's Day. So she came yesterday so I can enjoy this day to day with her. It was unbelievable. I have a whole new respect for my wife and women in general and what they go through to bring a new child, new life into the world.
Following the birth of his daughter, McWilliams completely dedicated himself to his family and worked hard to provide a more than adequate lifestyle for his wife and newborn son.
Mr. and Mrs. Williams got married in nineteen ninety four and by all accounts they had a happy marriage. Mike Williams was a good husband. He was a good father, and he was most certainly a good provider.
At age thirty one, Mike Williams was considerably successful, making nearly two hundred thousand dollars a year as a Tallahasse real estate appraiser. And when it came to managing work life with family life, Mike was a machine known for working long days, going home to have dinner with his family, only to return to his office and work through the night. Mike was also known to leave his office for short periods of time to do mundane tasks for Denise, like picking up and delivering lunch or filling up her gas tank when she didn't feel like doing it herself.
Amidst his demanding work schedule, Mike remained a devoted husband, albeit an unappreciated one for sure. Still, Mike somehow made time for himself and often woke up before sunrise to go duck hunting, a hobby he'd picked up in high school during Michael Williams.
He goes, It's Mike Williams. He's an avid hunter. He likes to go out on a regular basis on this particular day. He went out and did everything he went on.
This particular day was December 16th, 2000, and coincidentally was Mike's sixth wedding anniversary with Denise. They had planned a short vacation to celebrate and Mike was expected home at noon so they could pack together and leave. But noone came and went, and Mike never came home. Naturally, Denise became concerned and she called her father, who in turn called Mike's best friend, Brian Winchester. With his own father, Brian drove to Lake Seminole, where Mike was known to frequently go duck hunting.
There they found Mike's Ford Bronco near a boat launch, but otherwise there was no sign of Mike for a wildlife commission conducted as well as other family members.
And they started trying to figure out where he is. The initial thought, of course, is that he possibly running out to get those duck hunting area. His dog possibly was thrown out before it went off and they were hopeful, able to find the day following Mike's disappearance.
His boat was discovered 75 yards away from the landing where the Bronco was parked.
Inside was all of Mike's hunting equipment and the boat engine was left in the on position, which further suggested that Mike was thrown overboard. The subsequent search of Lake Seminole was extensive and methodical in addition to Florida Fish and Wildlife. Several other agencies were brought in to assist, including a dive team from Montgomery, Alabama, and the Jackson County Sheriff's Office.
We did grid searches and only move over four to six foot at a time in the beginning. And then we come back and isolate that to a certain area and we actually put ropes out from one stop to another. And Pole would pose the first couple of days. And then after I think after the first night, we had a camera come in and put on the poles that we would monitor the bottom and we search an area with the cameras and with the poles and everything as well.
And there was nothing that we could find.
After a full week of searching, there was still no other trace of Mike Williams and reality began to set in. The rescue effort turned into a recovery operation to find Mike's body search dogs were brought in and both teams were issued probing poles which were used to prod the bottom of the lake. The search for Mike's body lasted well into February, over five weeks after he had gone missing, but still there was no sign of Mike.
Mike still has not been recovered. The case goes cold at this point in the market, the missing person. There's been no evidence of any foul play in any way, shape or form is simply a duck hunting accident.
Then, six months after Mike's disappearance, a small trace of him was finally discovered, a local fishermen as well.
He contacted me and said that he had found a set of waders floating in the area that we had been searching. I contacted the sheriff's office with the investigator and he came over and he and I went out and retrieved the evidence. The waders had a fanny pack that was strapped around the waistband with a 15 shot shell, still shot shells in them. And I think in Arkansas, hunting license, the hunting license they found belong to Mike Williams.
And this small bit of evidence only further cemented everyone's assumption that Mike had drowned in the lake.
But the question remained, where exactly was his body? To explain why Mike's body could not be found. Florida Fish and Wildlife offered a theory, a poorly considered theory that somehow developed shortly after Mike's disappearance.
Fish and Game coming to my face. Mr. Williams, I'm sorry. I don't like to tell them that her son got eaten by alligators.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement, otherwise known as the FDLE, concurred with Florida Fish and Wildlife and assumed that alligators had eaten Mike. But neither organization considered the many problems with this theory. First, alligators do not typically feed in cold temperatures in the winter, alligators spend their days basking in the sun to maintain body temperature and are not interested in food at all.
Likewise, if alligators did defy this rule and had in fact eaten Mike, it is unlikely that they would consume a full grown man without leaving any piece of him behind. Mike's mother, Cheryl Williams, quickly realized that this didn't make any sense and began a crusade to find out exactly what had happened to her son. I warn you, this next clip is heartbreaking for the next 17 years. I made telephone calls, put out missing persons signs, compiled my notes into a book, and had people post on social media.
For me, with the help of friends, we raised money and put up billboards and brought eggs in the Tallahassee Democrat and worked with the Twin City News asking everyone to help me find Mark. I stood on street corners waving my picket signs with pictures of Mike on them. I was crushed down by ministers for being too close to their church. I wrote 20 600 letters to the governor of Florida asking for help in finding my son.
Cheryl Williams eventually learned that the more than 2600 letters she wrote to the governor's office went unread and were instead forwarded to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the same agency that determined Mike was eaten by alligators. When asked how this made her feel. Cheryl told a reporter from the Tallahassee Democrat, quote, They could not have hurt me more if they had punched me in the face.
The initial theory was that he was missing and possibly by alligator fries. He never really, you know. Sure. And in fact, lots of steps to initiate an investigation. Did not yet put up posters. Yes, really, Governor? Yes. But under laws. Yes. And in fact, you were able to get an investigation launched where you are. Yes.
Eventually, Cheryl Williams convinced the FDLE to abandon their ridiculous alligator theory and launch an official investigation into Mike's disappearance. Then on December 20th, twenty seventeen, almost two decades after Mike's disappearance, the FDLE held a press conference to reveal some startling news.
I appreciate you being here today as we provide you an update of the Jerry Michael Williams investigation. 17 years ago, Mike Williams disappeared hunting on Lake Seminole near the Georgia state line. And it was initially believed that Mike had drowned. A team of law enforcement professionals from the Jackson County Sheriff's Office conducted an exhaustive search of the lake, but Mike's body was never found standing here. Now, I can tell you that we know what happened to Mike Williams.
He was murdered. After receiving new information, FDLE, crime scene unit and special agents spent days conducting an extensive search at an undisclosed location. That search led to the recovery of human remains. And FDLE crime laboratory analyst confirmed through DNA analysis that the human remains are those of Mike Williams. Further forensic analysis concluded that Mike Williams was, in fact, murder. Our focus has shifted to bringing those responsible for his death to justice, and we will not stop until that is done.
Mike's body had finally been found and forensic evidence confirmed that he had been murdered. Five months later, a Leon County grand jury handed down a first degree murder indictment. But the person charged with the crime may surprise you. It was not Brian Winchester. If you're a business owner who's hiring, you've probably faced a lot of challenges when it comes to finding the right person for your role. There's either not enough applicants or way too many of them. Finding people that have just the right skills for your particular job can be very, very challenging and sorting through hundreds of resumes.
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Authorities had to go all the way back to 1997 when the plot to murder Mike Williams began to take shape before Mike's disappearance at Lake Seminole. He and his wife, Denise, maintained a close relationship with Brian and Kathy Winchester.
The foursome had been friends since high school and remained close well into their adult lives. Both couples married in the mid 90s and at first all was well. But in 1997, Brian and Cathy's marriage began to fall apart.
At first, things were really good, I think, with all of us. But I was not a great husband. At one point I. I found a note in my first wife, Cathy's purse, and basically I came to realize that she was cheating on me. And after that happened, I began to look outside of my marriage after learning that his wife, Kathy, had been cheating on him.
Brian began to look for his own affair and found himself becoming attracted to his best friend's wife, Deniece Williams.
My wife and I, Kathy and Denise and Mike, we started going out to bars and concerts and drinking and doing a lot of things that we didn't really do while we were all in college. You know, I was friends with Denise in middle school and high school, but I was never attracted to her until that point.
Brian and Denise started having an affair in October of nineteen ninety seven. It began as a one time drunken make out session at a rock concert and quickly developed into frequent secret meetings for sex and snowballed really fast.
We started meeting in hotels. We started meeting during the work day. We started meeting whenever we had the opportunity. If Mike was at work, Mike worked a lot. He really was a workaholic. Quite frankly. We would primarily go to her house. We would meet at Home Depot parking lot or meet behind Cayzer College and leave a vehicle and go to her house or go to my house. So we started meeting very regularly and having sex very regularly.
Eventually, Denise and Brian's affair became more than just meet ups for casual sex. While still married, they began thinking of themselves as a couple, exchanging gifts on holidays and writing love letters to each other.
My dear, sweet, adorable, beautiful Brian. There are so many things I want to say to you, so many things that I want you to know. First of all, I found a present for you for Christmas that I had already bought, so I wanted you to have it. Also, I remember that real frosting was something you really wanted, so I made it for you. I hope you like it. I love you more than ever.
Denise, Brian and Denise took several trips together, including a visit to New York City and then another to South Beach, Florida, and yet another to Panama City.
Do you recognize this photograph? Yes, sir. One of the photographs of their photographs, Denise, with my first wife, Kathy, a sexual nature. And where were those photographs taken? Panama City.
In case you're wondering, Brian was the one who took those photographs. After all, no marital affair is complete without a threesome. Not that it makes it any better. But in all fairness, threesomes weren't a regular thing for Brian, Denise and Kathy.
In fact, at this point, Kathy was unaware that Brian and Denise considered themselves an item. She just happened to be present during this vacation to Panama City. By now, you may be asking how Dennis was able to get away with this, surely a husband would develop some suspicion if their wife was frequently cheating while also taking random vacations without them. Well, Mike, remember that hard working go getter Mike, from the beginning of the story? Well, as we know, he was a workaholic and it had never been unusual for Brian and Denise to spend time together.
After all, they had been platonic friends since grade school. Still, Mike did eventually begin to suspect that something was going on. Mike knew something was up, that he didn't know what was up, Denise told me that he went to Denise's mom, Johnny Merrill, and was asking her or concerned about money, cash that was disappearing from their accounts. And he didn't know if she was having an affair or what was going on, that he was very concerned and had a conversation with Johnny Merrill about that.
After questioning Denise's mother about money missing from their bank accounts and a possible affair, Mike had become even more suspicious when Denise stopped having sex with him.
And I took a trip in November out to Arkansas together. So we spent 20 hours in the car together. And I heard a lot about how unhappy he was with Denise. He was getting angrier and angrier about the fact that she wasn't having sex with him. I didn't want to having sex with her. She didn't want to have sex with him. But and we checked up on each other a lot. And he would check up to see if I was having sex with Kathy and I would check up on her to see if she was having sex with Mike, because we you know, we consider ourselves a couple together.
Why do people that do this stay married? I get that there's all kinds of financial and child custody complications. But when your secret boyfriend is calling you to make sure that you're not having sex with your husband, it's probably time to call a divorce lawyer. If you don't mind me, Tarantino, going this for you, let's briefly fast forward to the present, at least the present of where this story started. Hard working. Mike Williams had been missing for three years, during which time play all day, have a three way with your best friend's wife.
Bryan separated from his wife Kathy and eventually got a divorce in 2003.
Bryan Winchester and Kathy Winchester are now getting divorced. And now Bryan and Denise are now starting today, Bryan and Denise began dating publicly.
This caught the attention of law enforcement and their interest in the couple only intensified when Brian and Denise got married in 2005. Their marriage, along with the efforts made by Mike's mother, Cheryl Williams, finally led to law enforcement quietly reclassifying Mike's disappearance as a suspicious missing persons case.
It had changed and now was a suspicious missing person. What does that mean? Basically, we could not prove or had no information there was a homicide. But taking the information in is total. You know, just a lot of things didn't quite make sense. There's a lot of things that we needed to rule out that we really could not rule out as far as this being any sort of an accidental death.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement began operating on the assumption that the newly married couple, Brian and Denise Winchester, were somehow responsible for Mike's disappearance and likely murder.
One of the first things that the FDLE did was look at Deniece and Brian's actions around the time of Mike's disappearance. Unfortunately, Mike had disappeared in the year 2000, which was before smartphones, emails and text messaging took over everyone's lives. When authorities attempted to obtain phone records, they found that everything had already been purged.
Well, they were able to do is go back and get life insurance policies and life insurance information on Mike Williams. And what they found out is that Denise Williams has paid out one point seventy five dollars million as a result of that. Oh, yeah, baby.
Powerball now we're talking and that one point seventy five dollars million paid out in life insurance was only part of the equation. Factoring in Social Security and other benefits, Deniece Williams actually received over two million dollars as a result of Mike's death. It's Lambo time, but remember, at this point, there was no body, it hadn't been confirmed yet that Mike was dead. So how is Denise able to collect this money? It must have been such an aha moment for law enforcement when they recalled that Brian Winchester made a living as a no joke insurance salesman.
We realized it was Brian that reached out to try to find out what it would take to get Mike declared dead. We found out that Brian actually sold a million dollar insurance policy to Mike just before his death.
I sold an insurance policy to Mike probably around when he first got married, maybe earlier than that. But it was a policy for two hundred fifty thousand dollars. My understanding is Mike bought a second policy maybe a couple of years after he got married. And those five hundred thousand dollars I sold like a third policy in the year before his death for a million dollars.
OK, so if you haven't been paying attention, let's recap for you. The insurance money that Denise received was from a policy that was sold to her missing eaten by an alligator husband, by her now new husband, Brian Winchester. If that wasn't suspicious enough, there was also the way that Denise reacted to the efforts being made by Mike's mother to find her son. Oh, God, this this poor, poor woman.
I had been trying to get publicity for my wife's disappearance. I had written the letters to the editor and the Tallahassee Democrat begging them to do a story about my wife's disappearance. Finally, a reporter read my letters and he was doing a story about people who were missing locally in Tallahassee area. He called me to ask me if he could include Mike in those people. And I told him yes. When the article came out in the newspaper, Denise called me on the phone.
She was livid.
Denise wasn't happy to see that an effort was still being made to find Mike, and she made her feelings known by confronting Cheryl about it.
We went to her house. She was screaming at me. She was mad about the article and she said, I don't ever want to hear my name again. I don't ever want to see my picture in the paper again. I don't ever want to know anything you're doing about Mike again. I have to get on with my life.
Despite Denise's anger, Cheryl Williams wasn't about to give up on finding her son. So Denise did the only thing she could, which was to threaten Cheryl.
Then she said, if you persist in trying to get a criminal investigation, you will lose and insulate your granddaughter. My granddaughter. Did you ever see you again? No.
Unfortunately for Denise, her threat did not discourage Cheryl. In fact, it only spurred Cheryl on while planting the suspicion in her mind that Denise knew what had happened to Mike, she might as well have waved a red flag in front of a bull.
I knew that she knew where he was or what happened to Cheryl refused to give up and continued her efforts to find Mike.
In response, Denise followed through on her threat and removed Mike's daughter from Cheryl's life.
Cheryl never saw her granddaughter again. Still, Cheryl did anything she could to maintain contact with her son's daughter by posting open video messages on social media and open letter to my granddaughter.
And here in the day, 16 14, if your dad is 40 this birthday, I have not seen or heard from him since December 14th, 2000, two days before he disappeared. Angela, you were 19 months old and you were daddy's girl, my love, and adored him. Even though I haven't been able to hug you in the last 10 years. I love you more than mere words can ever say Insley. Always remember how much I love loves.
You are in my heart at this point.
Police and several of Mike's family members were confident that Brian and Denise were somehow involved with or even responsible for Mike's disappearance. But all the evidence against them was circumstantial. Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigators did not feel confident in making any arrests. And again, the investigation into Mike's disappearance went cold.
Then in 2016, Denise filed for divorce from Brian and Brian kidnapped her, holding her at gunpoint in a desperate attempt to save the marriage. Immediately after escaping this kidnapping, Denise went to the Leon County Sheriff's Office to report the incident.
And for obvious reasons, police were happy to have Denise and one of their interview rooms.
We have always called for I barely know you about how your family for many years. OK, the reason I say that is, you know, I am looking into my disappearance.
Investigators at the Leon County Sheriff's Office used to niece's kidnapping as an opportunity to interrogate Tannis about her possible involvement with her husband's disappearance, which I watched you.
I already had speculation always very, very I mean, I believe it really, really died. And although like I do. Why do you say my personal life? I just didn't. So, OK, that's what I always believe. That's what I believe and why I never did anything different. I have any proof if you want a person like he was town, I guess to that that's just what I believe. Right.
And when asked, Denise held firm to the theory that Mike drowned at Lake Seminole. But police believe Denise knew more than she was telling to mount pressure on her. The investigator outright told Denise that they knew Mike had not died at Lake Seminole, which wasn't actually true.
We certainly kind conclusion that Mike did not, again, perish or die. Oh, well, I would say now I'm just I'm just starting to feel very comfortable. Oh, I don't know, for a long time because we knew some things on this case. Right. And we know that one day that he's a pariah, you have to fill in some gaps. Therefore, he should apologize. But I guess right now I really need to focus on what happened this morning.
And I want to get this restraining order and you know what I mean. I want my daughter to be safe.
Throughout this interview turned interrogation, Denise does all she can to sway the subject away from Mike's disappearance and back towards her kidnapping.
But the investigator keeps pushing and reminds Denise that police are eventually going to be talking to Brian when Brian is arrested, which is going to probably provide an one around 1:00 a.m. when he starts to asked when I asked him, I have no idea what to say. They really want to focus on that. And if you I mean, I know what you want to talk about tonight. You know, it's coming. You know, we don't have it for me.
Again, I want to have a fundraiser for my so I don't know, three thirty right now is literally I have something to do that right now that is out about my situation. You want to talk about I don't want to talk about this right now. We'll tell you why later. I want to talk about this right now. I want to get this out first. This is not to me. You. No, I have not only I'm not or that what is pressing on me.
So that, again, Denice dodges the subject and attempts to keep the topic of conversation on a kidnapping. In a last ditch effort, the investigator tries to play on Denise's emotions, hoping that some bit of her actually cares about finding Mike.
And, you know, I want to talk to you about life. I mean, this is I mean, this was this was something I always thought was interesting. Well, again, this is my priority right now, and I'm just not comfortable talking about this right now.
When that doesn't work, the investigator asks Denise point blank if she thinks Brian was responsible for Mike's disappearance.
She was hospitalized. I do not. And I never had I would have never married him if I thought that I would have never wanted so bad to have children with him. I would have. I mean, in my mind and in my heart, no. Do you want to leave right here at this moment that he had anything to do with that? Absolutely not. Yeah. Did that mean that I'm not proud of this? And of course, I am about as far as I know, yours.
Well, processes in place. When you when you find Charlie come back, you need to process a whole lot about whatever happened.
After this interview, Brian was swiftly arrested for kidnapping. Within the week of his arrest, Denise placed even more suspicion on herself by attempting to get a message to Brian through Brian's first wife, Kathy.
Denise asked me to get a message to Brian that I'm not talking after that. Did you ever confront Denise about what she asked you to do that week after the kidnapping? Yes, I did. Did you record that conversation? Yes, sir.
Denise's message to Brian was, quote, I'm not talking unquote. Not talking about what the three way the insurance policy, the weather, we can only guess, but what Denise didn't know is that when she asked Cathy to deliver this message, Cathy was working with police as an informant in an effort to get Denise to outright admit she was involved with Mike's murder.
Police had Cathy call Denise and tell her that Cathy had been subpoenaed and was going to be questioned about Mike's disappearance, which wasn't actually true.
So I'm kind of freaking out about this subpoena, I'm sure. Well, here's here's my problem. And I'm going to get upset here because I know I know they're wanting to talk to me about why I've always just pretended like I don't know anything. And I mean, I do know. What do you know? Brian called me at the shop crying and he was mad at you all. And so he told me he told me about what happened to Mike.
But I would love to know what happened to my during this conversation.
Denise never admits to anything, though her nonchalant reaction to potential information about her missing first husband was certainly suspect. Months later, in December of twenty seventeen, Brian pleaded no contest to kidnapping and Denise asked the court to give him a life sentence.
I'm asking you to sentence him to life in prison for the crimes he has committed. It comes down to my life or is and I'm asking you, please choose mine.
When Denise was asking the judge for the harshest possible sentence, she didn't know that Brian had already cut a deal with prosecutors and spilled the beans about Mike's disappearance.
Denise has this thing where she gets people to do stuff for her and she minimizes her guilt or conscience or whatever. And she's unbelievably good at lying, manipulating how things work her way, not just with me, the other man. I mean, just she's very good.
This confession by Brian Winchester was part of the proffer agreement made between himself and Leon County prosecutors. A proffer agreement, which is often referred to as queen for a day, is a written agreement between a prosecutor and a witness that allows the witness to give law enforcement information about an alleged crime while limiting the prosecutor's ability to use that information against them. In short, by providing a confession, Brian Winchester had immunity and could not be prosecuted for anything he said to law enforcement during that confession.
We started having an affair October 13th, nineteen ninety seven. I, quite honestly, was somewhat content with the arrangement. As far as me and Denise. I wasn't looking or pushing to get it. I didn't want to get divorced. Basically, Denise made it clear she would never get divorced, primarily because of appearances. She is also concerned about the way that she appears to the world. And she was concerned about getting not getting a divorce because of the appearances of it, but also because she was scared to lose her daughter.
Despite their respective marriages. Denise and Brian wanted to be together, but neither one of them were eager to get divorced.
As their affair continued, it became clear that the situation was unsustainable and couldn't last forever. Something had to give.
So Denise was getting worried that things were going to blow up. The year of 2000 led us to start having conversations about Mike or Cathy's death. She wanted it all to be on me and not on her. And she wanted in her mind a scenario where it wasn't a murder, but it was an accident. There were scenarios that were discussed between me and Denise, and at times it was scenarios with Mike and Kathy. And then it started talking to scenarios with Mike.
What began as a marital affair soon developed into plotting the murders of Mike and Kathy.
And during the course of this plotting, many options were considered.
The two main scenarios that I can remember being discussed was one scenario was that we all went out on a boat before us. Mike and Kathy were pushed overboard. Denise and I found our way to safety. The other scenario was a scenario where Mike and I went hunting and there was an accident and he didn't make it. But I made it back to safety.
After considering the various ways that their spouses could end up dead, Brian and Denise settled on only murdering Mike and making his death look like a hunting accident. If this plot wasn't sinister enough, Brian and Denise decided to time the murder in a way that would ensure the largest payout possible from Mike's life insurance policies.
The plan with Mike when I sold them the million dollar policy was that he was going to draw the five hundred thousand dollars you were going to keep. And Denise knew the timing on the five hundred thousand dollar policy.
And when it was supposed to lapsing, it was agreed that that was when it was going to happen.
Brian and Denise agreed that Mike had to be murdered before one of his three life insurance policies lapsed in late December two thousand. So that month, Brian set up a hunting trip with Mike, enticing him with a duck hunting site that Brian had discovered at Lake Seminole.
So I plan to take this trip with Mike. Denise knew everything that was planned, but I got a call from Mike at the time to go, which is very early in the morning, Saturday morning, probably like 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning, saying Denise has changed her mind and she doesn't want me to go anymore. But at some point after that happened, I talked with her and she just basically said she had gotten cold feet. So we had a conversation that week.
And so it was planned again for the next Saturday.
A bout of hesitation had caused a delay in Denise and Brian's murder plot. But one week later, Denise urged her husband to go duck hunting with his best friend, Brian Winchester. Ladies, make up your mind.
So in the very early morning of December 16th, two thousand, McWilliams packed his hunting gear and left his home to meet up with Brian. Mike's plan was to return home by noon so that he and Denise could begin celebrating their wedding anniversary. But Mike never did return and he would remain missing for 17 years. Years. Everything in our lives is getting smarter. We have a little mini computer in our pocket that can tell us how long it's going to take to get to work based on an incredible amount of information like traffic patterns and speed limits and closed roads.
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Brian and Denise had been having an affair and planned Mike's murder so they could be together while also profiting nearly two million dollars from Mike's life insurance policies. Following Brian's confession nearly two decades after Mike Williams went missing. An arrest was finally made for his murder. Denise Williams now charged in his murder. Her arrest coming nearly 18 years after his disappearance. That is, her friend turned husband, Brian Winchester broke his silence in exchange for immunity, claiming the two of them plotted the whole thing.
Denise Williams was charged with conspiracy to commit murder, murder in the first degree and accessory after the fact, all of which carried a possible life sentence. Denise pleaded not guilty to all three charges and her trial began in December of twenty seventeen. Not surprisingly, Denise's defense team was quick to warn the jury about Brian Winchester's confession and testimony.
Brian Winchester is not on trial. In fact, he's never even been charged with the murder. He's going to testify here as a witness. And there's an important part of that that you haven't heard yet that I want that will be in evidence and I want to tell you about it. And that's the fact that he is going to be testifying under a grant of immunity. And what that means in this particular case, the kind of immunity that was given to him.
He will be able to testify as he pleases about this without any fear that the state will be able to use that testimony against him. But he's here as a witness and he's going to testify that Denise Williams helped him plan the murder.
Brian Winchester did, in fact, testify at Denise Williams murder trial and was undoubtedly the prosecution's star witness last night, or to do that at some point with their thoughts of how you and Denise could be together. Yes, sir. How did that get initiated? Denise did not want to get divorced. Her biggest concern with the divorce was she didn't want to share custody of Handsley with Mike, but she still had a desire for us to be together, which narrowed the options.
We wanted to be together and we weren't going to let anything stop that.
Part of the prosecution's strategy to convict Denise Williams was to point out the methodical nature in which Denise planned her husband's murder.
Mike worked a lot that night up at his office, and one of the options was that we could make it look as if there was a burglary of some sort off at his office and that he got shot in some type of robbery or something up at his office.
Denise didn't like that idea, primarily because there would be an investigation, if you remember, from Brian's earlier confession, one of the potential murder plots that Denise and Brian discussed was that both Mike and Brian's wife, Kathy, would be killed and their deaths would be staged to look like accidental drownings.
Well, the reason Kathy was spared was because Brian didn't want to kill her.
I had no desire whatsoever for anything to happen to Kathy. I didn't really emphasize that with Denise because it was not good for me to express affection or care about what happened to Kathy.
But silently to myself, I was never going to allow anything to happen to my son's mom after considering there are many murderous options, Brian and Denise settled on only murdering Mike and staging his death to appear as a hunting accident.
Another scenario that we came up with was Mike and I going on a hunting trip together and there being an accident where both he and I ended up in the water and he drowned. And I did not dislike like this idea because she felt better, I guess, about herself. Or we could feel better about ourselves if there was a chance that he could make it out of it. You know, I mean, I think there was even talk about, well, it'll be up to God.
What happened to not us. It won't be a murder. It'll be, you know, an accident. It's kind of screwed up thinking. But that was a scenario that she could live with, I guess, in a sick sort of way. You know, it was kind of like, well, if God wants this to happen, this is what's going to happen. And there would be a chance that he could get out of it. Don't you just love it when people try to justify their own disgusting behavior as God's plan?
Unfortunately for Deniece, God's plan apparently also included allowing a jury to learn about her murderous behavior, as well as the disgusting and greedy motive that fueled that behavior.
There were a lot of things that were kind of pressuring us for this to happen when it did. One was my kid intended for that policy, the five hundred thousand dollar policy to lapse. He was not intending to continue it. And so behind his back, Denise paid one more. I can't remember if it was quarterly or semi-annual premium, but we kept it going one more premium period and we knew we weren't going to be able to keep it going perpetually, that you would eventually see this money is going out of the checking account for that policy that I didn't want anymore.
The life insurance policy was in place, but time was running out. So Denise and Brian put their murder plot into action.
The plan with Mike was that I would meet him at a gas station. Denise really didn't have to do a whole lot other than come up with an alibi for herself and make sure that Mike went. I told him that we were going to go to a secret special spot to go hunting and that he needed to bring his waders. I had to make sure that he brought his waders because the belief was, if you fall overboard with your waders, you're going to sink really quick and drown.
So I had to make sure that he brought his waders. So I met him at the gas station and I followed him over to the lake.
If you're not familiar with them, waiters are basically waterproof overalls traditionally made from rubber hunters and fishermen typically wear them to stay dry while waiting in shallow bodies of water.
Since they are waterproof, they can become very heavy if water makes its way into a set of waders. Brian's plan was to murder Mike and make his death look like an accidental drowning caused by Mike falling overboard while wearing a set of waders to establish his own alibi.
Brian planned to leave Lake Seminole after murdering Mike and meet with his then father in law for a planned hunting trip. To make this work, Brian met Mike very early in the morning, the sun had not come up when the two of them parked near the boat landing, dropped a motor powered canoe into Lake Seminole and pushed out onto the water together.
I was in the back of the boat driving and he was in the front. I know I was very concerned about the time everything had taken longer than what I anticipated, and I had to be back in town early enough in time to meet my father in law for my ALIBHAI trip to occur. And so we headed out and there was a deep area. I don't remember exactly how I got on the stand up, but I don't know if I pretended something was wrong with the motor or the weight in the boat was off or something.
But I basically stopped the boat and got him to stand up. And when he did, I pushed him into the water.
It turns out that Brian's plan wasn't very well researched. The idea that hunting waders will cause a person to drown if they fall into a deep body of water is actually a myth. While it is possible you're not really any more likely to drown if you take a swim while wearing waders.
So he was in the water and he was struggling and the mother of the boat was still running. And I pulled off just a little bit to get away from him so that he couldn't reach back into the boat. And I didn't know it at the time. I didn't know if he was trying to swim or I didn't know that it was going on. But what I came to find out or eventually realized was he was taken the waiters in the jacket off and that area of the lake had a lot of snags, a lot of dead trees that come up out of the water.
And there's a lot of stocks that come up out of the water. And he swam stops and held onto it. And he was panicking and I was panicking. And none of this was going well. I thought it was going to get bad and I didn't know what to do. But he started to yell. I didn't know how to get out of that situation. And so I had my gun in the boat. And so I lifted my gun and I just I made one or two circles around and I ended up circling closer towards him.
And he was in the water. As I passed by, I shot him in the head.
Brian didn't leave my fate up to God like he and Dennis had planned. Instead, Brian loaded a gun and shot his supposed best friend in the head. Mike died instantly. And because Brian had shot him, any chance of making Mike's death look like an accident was gone forever.
So I turned back around and came back to where he was, and I knew I couldn't leave him there. So I was going to have to do something to cover this up. I reached down and he wasn't far under the water and I grabbed all of them back to my truck to the edge of the water, let the tailgate down. Ended up putting him in the back of my suburban and I pushed the boat back out into the water, make it look like his boat was out there and he had drowned or disappear.
I didn't give a lot of thought as to what was going to happen after that. I was just panicked as to getting out of that area and covering this up.
In an effort to minimize the spread of blood, Brian put Mike's body in a dog crate that was stored in the back of Brian's truck and began driving to his prearranged alibi, sped back toward Tallahassee.
And as I was driving there, I was realizing I'm not going to make it in time. And I decided the best thing for me to do was to go back to my house and pretend that I had overslept. I drove home and was really, really hoping that Kathy was still asleep. I went into the house as quietly as I could. She was still asleep. I crawled back into the bed and had a phone there on the floor. I can remember dialing my father in law and telling him, apologizing.
I'm so sorry I overslept. I didn't want to wake Cathy up, obviously, because I had what was in the driveway, but I wanted her to know I was there, confirmed that I was there, but not wake up and start asking me any questions about what happened. Why did you ever sleep anything like that after. Doing his best to establish a makeshift alibi, Brian returned to his truck intent on hiding Mike's body.
I went back out to the driveway to leave. My driveway was angled and I was walking behind my truck and I saw out of the back tailgate blood was coming out of the back of my tailgate and dripping onto the driveway. So I wrenched that off and was trying to figure out. I've been thinking on the way from Lake Seminole back to Tallahassee, what was I going to do with him? And I don't know when I decided, but ultimately I decided I had to be close and it had to be quick and it had to be obviously a location that he wouldn't be found.
But I had no I had nothing to to do this with. So I had to go to a store. And I'm 90 percent sure the store that I ended up that was Wal-Mart and I bought a shovel and I bought a tarp.
Seriously, what is it? Murder use Wal-Mart. This is just because they're open. Twenty four seven or is it their everyday low prices on shovels and tarps? After purchasing said shovel and tarp, Brian drove to a secluded dead end road in northern Leon County and buried Mike Williams body near a small lake. That would be 17 years before Brian returned to that location as part of his immunity agreement stipulated that he must lead police to Mike's remains when investigators unearthed those remains, their forensic analysis was consistent with Brian's confession.
The plan was for his death to occur, but it was not for it to occur in the way that it did. I mean, the plan was for him to fall in the water and for him to have a chance to survive it. But obviously that's not what happened. And I didn't want to tell Denise that. So we never had a conversation that was like, did it all go according to plan, that it was quite obvious from the circumstances that Mike was gone?
And she assumed that what we talked about, the plan that we had made, she assumed that that was what had happened, although she knew that her husband had been murdered, Denise was unaware that Brian had shot Mike in the head and buried his body several miles away from Lake Seminole. This became a problem when search teams couldn't find the body.
Denise and I were getting concerned that nothing else was being found out there. I was hoping that his waders and jacket and all would be found to kind of confirm that he had drowned there. And I wanted to keep the searchers in that particular area. So I took a hat that was similar to a hat that Mike used, which was real distinctive. It had a weird looking bill on it. When I was out there with another friend of mine, I threw it in the water in that area because I wanted to keep the people in that area, because I wanted the waiters.
And I can be found to confirm that that's where Mike was and where he went into the water.
The hat that Brian planted was eventually found along with Mike's waders and his hunting license. And these fines did exactly what Brian wanted them to do. Law enforcement, along with Florida Fish and Wildlife, assume that Mike had tragically drowned while duck hunting on Lake Seminole.
Still, Brian and Denise had a problem.
The concern between she and I then became, well, if his body's not found, what's going to happen with the life insurance? What we all came to learn was she was going to have to get a death certificate issued by a judge through a court.
It took Denise a mere seven months to procure a presumptive death certificate from a judge. That's it, just seven months. This process normally takes about five years. In Florida, a full year hadn't passed since Mike's disappearance, before Denise received one point seven million dollars and life insurance payouts.
Soon after, Brian and Kathy separated, allowing Denise and Brian to live happily ever after as millionaires that seemingly got away with murder, the word that we put on it was we had an agreement that she would never say anything about me and I would never say anything about her because we knew or we felt like that as long as neither one of us thought that nobody would ever find out what happened. And we decided enough time had passed from my staff who decided it was OK for us to gradually start dating.
And we were still concerned about the law enforcement side of it. But as time passed and nothing happened, we became less and less concerned about it.
Denise and Brian got married in 2005 and they likely would have gotten away with murder if not for the efforts of Mike's lovely mother, Cheryl Williams, who refused to give up on finding her son.
You know, things would come up in the media. We would see things online or in the news.
Cheryl never gave up and kept pushing things.
The outcome of Denise's murder trial was largely dependent on whether or not the jury would believe Brian's story. After all, what would stop him from blaming her even if she had no involvement whatsoever? Denise's defense team was quick to point this out and painted Brian as a liar and a murderer that acted alone.
What I think is not in question is that he did, in fact, shoot and kill Mike Williams. He didn't mention anything about her alleged participation in this murder until after he realized that he was facing a life sentence for kidnapping. So, Winchester, your murder. Isn't it true? Yes, sir. Mr. Winchester, you're a liar. Isn't it true? Yes, sir.
The defense argued that Bryan had several motives to lie, one of which was to avoid ever being prosecuted for Mike's murder. The problem with this is that it actually wasn't in Brian's best interest to lie.
It was made explicitly clear to me by the five attorneys that I had helping me on my case that if I decided to go forth and give a proffer and give information about the Mike Williams case, that I absolutely, positively needed to tell the truth.
Because if there was any element that was not true of what I came forward and said, and whatever I said could be used against me as part of the terms of his immunity agreement, if Brian was caught lying about any element of his confession or subsequent testimony, he could and would be prosecuted for Mike Williams murder.
And the state did not hesitate to point this out that normally an immunity situation, you say, well, maybe he's a. Ladies and gentlemen, that we had absolutely no reason to tell you the truth because he lies in any way, shape or form. That immunity agreement is shredded.
And he now or his own confession, the defense argued that Bryan acted alone and that Dennis had no part in or knowledge of Mike Williams murder. But if that were true, why had Dennis actively tried to stop Cheryl Williams from pursuing an investigation into her son Mike's disappearance, going so far as to threaten Cheryl if she didn't stop it?
Brian, why? Why, why are you threatening the grandmother to stop the investigation to date? If you don't stop this investigation, you'll never see your granddaughter. Why is she?
Denise's defense team also argued that Brian's motives for lying included getting revenge on Denise for turning him into police and lobbying for a life sentence after the kidnapping incident.
And you got the benefits that we talked about earlier, but you got one more benefit and you got the benefit of seeing Denise Williams arrested, locked up and brought to trial. That's not a benefit. You've got the revenge for her putting you in the same situation you wanted to put her in? No, sir. I wouldn't want to put anybody in this situation. She got herself in this situation.
The prosecution was quick to counter this argument by pointing out that Brian had talked about Denise's involvement in planning Mike's murder well before he had even been arrested, and therefore, his confession could not have been something that he merely came up with while sitting in jail.
Because one of the things the defense alluded to this was also the Brian Lynch yesterday they came up with. To get revenge on the niece for turning him in document, it says otherwise.
Dr. Steven Mnookin is a friend of Brian Winchester's and before being released, Brian met with Manoukian to talk about Deniece, the kidnapping and Mike's murder.
He called me on the morning of August. It was a Friday was the 5th and said that he hit a new low and wanted to talk to me. Did he indicate to you what was the catalyst for him performing that criminal act of kidnapping? He said that on the night on Thursday night, the night before the police came to his house and said that she is going to talk to the police about what really happened to Mike Williams.
Well, he it made him very nervous and he really wanted to talk to her about it. And he kept calling her, but she wouldn't answer. So he decided that the best way to talk to me is a kidnapper.
So it turns out Brian's kidnapping of Deniece had less to do with saving their marriage and more to do with ensuring that Denise was staying quiet about Mike's murder.
Brian Winchester's testimony is totally uncorroborated. There isn't anything to back it up. And there's no evidence, absolutely no proof that Denise Williams had anything to do with that or that she even knew about it.
Once again, the defense argument was flawed. Denise clearly knew something which was evidenced by her attempt to get a message to Brian while Brian was in jail. And we know that Denise tried to tell Brian that she wasn't going to talk about Mike's murder because of the recorded phone conversation she had with Brian's first wife, Kathy Thomas, within a week.
And Denise going and talking and being interviewed by a former law enforcement and talked to about the murder.
And why wouldn't she call her boyfriend, Kathy Thomas, a liar and say, well, I mean, I know that you know something, Danny, because you're like, come on, I'm not talking. Yeah, and I knew what that meant. Well, that's why. Because what they do is they were lie to me. So they're playing everybody against each other. They said they found his remains and he was he was shot. Brian, tell me that your it is not sure what she said is what she doesn't say in Misericordia.
She's just accused by one of her best friends of plotting to murder her husband, who was, in fact, murdered.
And then finally, the defense argued that there was no evidence that Denise had any influence on Mike's purchasing of life insurance policies.
There's no evidence that Denise Williams participated in any of these discussions about the insurance. And there's no evidence that she did anything to influence her husband, Mike, to find this insurance.
This argument on its own is ridiculous.
As a married couple, Denise would have likely had some discussion with Mike about his life insurance as well as some kind of influence on him about it. But the defense is right that there's no real evidence of this. However, Denise was the sole beneficiary, and it was particularly suspicious how quickly she went about having Mike declared dead when his body had not yet even been found.
Brian's friends, family, law enforcement, all the way looking for it, they said just sort of all the way through. February, 19 days later, she's filing for insurance they want to file. Denise was a beneficiary and the only beneficiary in all the policies. I think I would characterize it as a bonus. We wanted to be together. And the thing that we always joked about was, you know, we were together with each other because we wanted to be.
But the money was just icing on the cake.
That's some icing and that's some cake. Holy shit, that's a cake. It'll make a diabetic. After three days of testimony, the prosecution gave their closing argument and reminded the jury that although Denise did not pull the trigger, she was still responsible for her husband's murder in the first degree murder in they want be treated as if you know all the things the other person did.
The principal, the defendant is not present when the crime was committed.
Bastable, 18 years after Mike Williams was murdered on December 14th. Twenty eighteen, Denise Williams fate was left in the hands of a.
And after deliberating for only eight hours, they returned a verdict state of Florida versus Deniece Williams, we, the jury find as follows as one of the indictment the defendant is guilty of conspiracy to commit first degree murder. As to count two, the jury find the defendant is guilty of first degree murder. But the jury find as follows his count three of indictment. The defendant is guilty of accessory after the fact of first degree murder.
Deniece Williams was found guilty of all three charges against her. However, the accessory charge was diminished before sentencing as Florida law states that a person cannot be an accessory to the same murder they committed.
At sentencing, Mike's mother, Cheryl Williams, God bless her, read her impact statement to the court, not only did Dennis kill my son, she stole my granddaughter Emslie, my only child for her entire life.
And she was raised in a house with the murderers of her father while being denied the love of her father's family.
And there's no amount of personal time that will bring my back to me.
I am asking you to love Denise Merrill Williams Winchester up for the rest of her life with no chance of parole for the rest of my life. I tried to sleep at night. I will see my son clinging to a promise in the door, knowing that his best friend is trying to kill him.
I hear he screaming for help and importantly for ever, my son's horrific death demands justice with today's sentencing of Denise Merrill Williams Winchester.
There's something about this poor woman's voice that breaks my heart over and over again. Denise Williams was sentenced to life in prison for first degree murder and 30 years for conspiracy to commit murder. In November of 20 20, her attorneys successfully overturned the murder conviction and the life sentence. But the conspiracy to commit murder conviction was upheld, as was the 30 year sentence. As for Brian Winchester, he remains in prison on the kidnapping charge and will likely never be charged for Mike's murder.
His release date is July 30th. Twenty thirty six. He will be sixty five years old. Mike Williams was murdered on the day of his sixth wedding anniversary. At the time, Mike knew that his marriage was in trouble. He had suspicions of an affair, but he had no idea about the cold blooded reptile that was waiting to devour him. It wasn't an alligator. It was his wife, the wife he was hopeful he could patch things up with as he planned a trip for them, that would be a turning point, a revitalization of the commitments that were made to each other on their wedding day.
Sadly, that morning, he went duck hunting and never came home. Instead, he found himself at the last few moments of his life lying, entangled in beds of dense, high drella beneath the lake's surface, wondering why his best friend had just shot him in the head 17 years later, when police recovered Mike's remains in a shallow grave.
He was still wearing his wedding ring. Mike's murder was the ultimate betrayal that teaches a harsh lesson about trust.
Sometimes not even the closest people in our lives are worthy of it. But Mike's story also tells us something else.
When I went to the lake, God told me Mike was not in Lake Seminole. He didn't drown. He didn't get eaten by alligators. I had to find him and bring him home.
I begged Fish and Game to do a criminal investigation. They told me my dad drowned and got eaten by alligators and there was no need for an investigation. They laughed at me and called me crazy. I am a fighter, not a victim. I became even more determined to find the truth. If I had not done what I did for 17 years, Mike's disappearance would have never been solved.
There is no manual to tell mother what you do when her child goes missing. I am my mother and I did what God told me to do.
Cheryl Williams, God bless her, fought like hell to find her son. And if Mike's murder teaches us nothing, that reminds us of what we already know. There is nothing in the universe like a mother's love for her child. For. That does it for this episode of Soad and Scale, we hope you've enjoyed it.
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Don't have a threesome with your best friend's wife, sell him an insurance policy and then plan his murder and. Oh yeah, stay safe. Like, dude, I've listened to your podcast for about four years now, and I never knew that I was addicted to true crime until it started with the third scale, you know what I mean? It's a great show. You do such a great job. It feels like I'm having a conversation with somebody rather than just listening to somebody read a Wikipedia page right out there, you know, like sort of like I've tried other crime podcast and I just can't get into them.
You get me through long days of work in my factory job where I put together cars like Lego and I appreciate it. I just wanted to show my love. Thanks, buddy. Bye.