A woman has been charged with the murder of her husband more than 17 years after he went missing.
Denise Williams, 48, was arrested at her office at Florida State University and led away in handcuffs on charges she murdered her husband Mike Williams.
Mike, a good-natured 31-year-old real estate appraiser, supposedly left home to go duck hunting alone on the morning of Dec. 16, 2000. He never returned home and no one was arrested as the case went cold.
For more than 17 years Denise Williams stuck by the story that her high school sweetheart was the victim of a tragic boating accident. She asked the media to respect her privacy and took offense when Mike’s mother Cheryl Williams refused to buy the theories he fell from the boat and was eaten by alligators. She cut her mother-in-law off from her life as a result and refused to let her have a relationship with her granddaughter.
Cheryl Williams hold lone vigil for her son in 2011
Just six months after his disappearance, Denise, without notifying Mike’s family, convinced a county judge to declare him dead. She collected more than $2 million in life insurance and later married Mike’s best friend, Brian Winchester, who sold Mike one of the policies six months before he went missing.
However, five months ago, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement revealed the first major breakthrough in the cold case — the discovery of Mike Williams’ murdered body – and this changed everything.
Denise Merrell Williams, who was planning to spend Tuesday evening celebrating her daughter’s 19th birthday, ended up spending it in custody as she was led away from work at FSU. Minutes before her arrest at about 4 p.m., a Leon County grand jury indicted the 48-year-old on charges of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and accessory after the fact.
Former Jackson County Sheriff’s Office Detective Derrick Wester, one of the first to investigate the case, recalls what it was like interviewing Denise Williams.
He said on Tuesday after her arrest: “She’s the coldest person I’ve ever been around. I hope they’ve got a good case and she gets what she deserves.”
Mike with Denise and their daughter weeks before he disappeared
Clay Ketcham, Mike’s boss and a close friend, reacted to the arrest, saying: “Oh, my gosh. I never thought this day would get here. It’s horrible. But it’s a feeling of coming to resolution.”
Officials, who orchestrated the arrest, have not disclosed what happened to Williams, only that evidence proved conclusively he was murdered