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Wife, not alligators, behind Florida man's death in 2000, officials say

TALLAHASSEE (WFLA) - For years, investigators thought Mike Williams was eaten by alligators after he fell from a boat on Lake Seminole.

The "affable" real estate appraiser was 31 when he vanished during a duck hunting trip in December 2000.  Nearly two decades later, after an extensive search in and around the lake, his body was found buried in six feet of muck.

On Tuesday, Denise Williams, Mike's wife and high school sweetheart, was charged in connection with his murder, the Tallahassee Democrat reported, painting a picture of a stone-faced killer who acted as a grieving widow to play the system.

After her husband's disappearance, Williams reportedly collected more than $2 million in life insurance and married Mike's best friend, Brian Winchester, who sold her former husband a life insurance policy six months before he presumably died.

Winchester is currently serving a 20-year prison sentence for kidnapping Denise at gunpoint shortly after she filed for divorce in 2016.  According to court records, he was afraid she would confess to Mike's murder once their divorce was finalized.  A day after he was sentenced, Mike's body was found tangled in weeds near a boat landing on Lake Seminole. It's still unclear if Winchester provided information leading detectives to the body.

Investigators have not disclosed exactly how Williams was murdered, but according to a grand jury indictment, Williams and Winchester spent nearly nine months conspiring to kill Mike. Winchester eventually pulled the trigger, shooting and killing the father of one, the Democrat reported.

On Tuesday, Denise Williams was cuffed in front of coworkers inside of her office at Florida State University. She's facing charges of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and accessory after the fact.

Video shows Williams appear before a judge Tuesday. She said virtually nothing, giving only one-worded responses when the judge asked her questions. 

“She’s the coldest person I’ve ever been around,” Former Jackson County Sheriff’s Office Detective Derrick Wester told the Democrat. “I hope they’ve got a good case and she gets what she deserves.”

Williams is being held at the Leon County Detention Center without bail.

Winchester's attorney Tim Jansen said he does not expect his client face charges in connection with Mike Williams' death, but he said Winchester will testify truthfully if subpoenaed and given immunity.  


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