The widow of a Florida man who went missing during a hunting trip in 2000 and whose body was later found 17 years later has been indicted on murder charges in his death, PEOPLE confirms.
On Tuesday, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement arrested Denise Williams, 48, at her Tallahassee accounting office at Doak Campbell Stadium at Florida State University in connection with the death of her husband, Jerry Michael Williams, who was known as Mike Williams, the Tallahassee Democrat reports.
She appeared in court Wednesday morning where a judge ordered her held without bail, the Associated Press reports.
Her husband’s remains were found in December 2017 in six feet of mud near a boat landing at the end of a dead-end road near Tallahassee, in what a law enforcement source called a “nasty, wicked place,” the Tallahassee Democrat reports.
Her arrest came shortly after a grand jury indicted her on three counts: conspiracy to commit murder, first-degree murder and accessory after the fact, local station WCTV reports.
The indictment, which was unsealed on Tuesday night and obtained by PEOPLE, alleges that Denise Williams conspired for nine months with her future-husband, Brian Winchester, to kill Mike Williams, who was Winchester’s best friend. Police believe Winchester fatally shot Williams in Jackson County on Dec. 16, 2000.
Winchester, 47, has not been charged in connection to Mike Williams’ death.
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The Tallahassee Democrat reports that Winchester helped Denise Williams take out a $1 million insurance policy on Mike Williams and then married Denise Williams in 2005. She collected a total of $2 million from insurance policies she had taken out on her husband, the Tallahassee Democrat reports.
The indictment alleges that Mike Williams’ death was a premeditated murder — and further alleges that Denise Williams covered up the crime.
Her attorney, Ethan Way, says she is innocent, WCTV reports.”I am surprised the grand jury indicted her,” Way told the station. “There’s been a drumbeat against her for years, but she has nothing to do with Mike Williams’ death. We will be mounting a vigorous defense and we are going to fight this.”
Tim Jansen, the attorney for Winchester, told WCTV, “We don’t anticipate him being charged. If he’s subpoenaed or granted immunity, he will cooperate and testify truthfully at any hearing.”
A Tangled Web of Relationships
The indictment is the latest twist in a bizarre story that has made headlines in Tallahassee and around the nation since 2000.
A day after authorities announced that Mike Williams’s body had been found, Winchester was sentenced to 20 years in prison for kidnapping Denise Williams, his now estranged wife, at gunpoint during their 2016 divorce, the Tallahassee Democrat reports.
According to court records, he allegedly kidnapped her at gunpoint because he feared she would tell authorities how her ex-husband really died, the Tallahassee Democrat reports.
“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,” her attorney said, WCTV reports. “Let’s not forget she is the victim of a kidnapping.”
Mysterious Disappearance Nearly Two Decades Ago
Mike Williams was a 31-year-old real estate appraiser in Tallahassee when he vanished during a duck hunting trip he is said to have taken alone in December 2000, on Lake Seminole in Jackson County, near Tallahassee, the Tallahassee Democrat reports.
At first, when his boat and car were found while he was still missing, he was presumed to have drowned and eaten by alligators, the Tallahassee Democrat reports.
But in 2004, authorities began reexamining the case. It was not immediately clear which new evidence led to Denise Williams’ arrest.
Denise Williams remains held at the Leon County Detention Center in Tallahassee, the Associated Press reports. She has not yet entered a plea.
The grand jury named Williams an alleged “principal” in the killing of her high school sweetheart and father to their only child. In its accessory indictment, grand jurors alleged she actively covered up the crime between Aug. 1, 2014, and Dec. 19, 2017.