For 17 years, the fate of Jerry Michael “Mike” Williams remained a mystery.
The young father packed up his gear on Dec. 16, 2000, and drove out to Florida’s Lake Seminole to spend a few hours duck hunting on his boat. It was his last solo outing before he was supposed to go on a weekend anniversary trip with his wife, Denise.
The hours passed, and Mike never returned.
His father-in-law went looking for him and found his abandoned boat. His vehicle was still on the shore. But there was no sign of Mike.
During their investigation, police speculated he had fallen into the waters and was eaten by alligators. That explanation seemed to satisfy most people, including Mike’s wife, Denise.
But one person didn’t buy into the speculation. Mike’s mother, Cheryl, didn’t believe her son had accidentally drowned — and she pushed police to continue the investigation. After 17 years, police found a shocking explanation for what had happened to him.
The years-long mystery is featured tonight’s episode of People Magazine Investigates on Investigation Discovery.
Titled “Mystery in the Swamp” the episode airs on tonight at 10 p.m. ET. (An exclusive clip is shown above.)
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Authorities now credit Mike’s mother for helping solve the mystifying case.
“Cheryl Williams was right for 17 years that it was not a disappearance, that Mike Williams was not eaten by an alligator,” Assistant State Attorney Jon Fuchs said in a June court hearing.
During those 17 years, Cheryl stood on street corners with signs imploring police to solve the case and wrote more than 200 letters to the governor.
The results of her efforts — and the resulting police investigation — shocked all who knew Mike.
People Magazine Investigates: Mystery in the Swamp airs tonight at 10 p.m. ET on Investigation Discovery.