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Florida Man's Wife And Best Friend Indicted For His Death After He Was Missing For 17 Years

Denise Williams and Brian Winchester allegedly wrote a $1.75 insurance policy months before the killing. 

By Jon Silman

Two people were indicted this week for allegedly killing a man more than 17 years ago to collect a life insurance policy: His wife and his best friend, who ended up marrying each other.

Denise Williams was arrested Tuesday and charged for the December 2000 death of former husband Mike Williams. An indictment says she and her husband's best friend Brian Winchester planned the murder for nine months and passed it off as an accident. Winchester also allegedly pulled the trigger, a grand jury found, according to the Tallahassee Democrat.  

Williams pleaded not guilty to charges of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder and accessory after the fact. She is being held without bond.

Winchester and Denise Williams have known each other since pre-school and married five years after Mike’s disappearance. Winchester is currently serving 20 years for kidnapping Denise Williams at gunpoint in 2016, after their marriage fell apart. Winchester said the divorce was driven by his fear that his wife would tell investigators what really happened to Mike Williams, according to court records cited by the Tallahassee Democrat.

Despite the indictment, Winchester has not been charged for Mike Williams' death. State Attorney Jack Campbell said Tuesday that pressing charges against anyone else would be based on “where the evidence and the investigation goes.” Winchester's lawyer, Tim Jansen, said his client will testify truthfully if subpoenaed or given immunity.

Mike Williams' body was not found for years, but his wife had successfully petitioned a judge to have the death declared an accidental drowning. Many thought he could have been eaten by aligators, according to the Democrat.

She collected $1.75 million in life insurance benefits. Winchester allegedly helped Mike Williams write an insurance policy six months before he disappeared.

Authorities in December announced that Mike Williams' remains had found at the end of a dead-end road after they received "new information." 

Williams and Winchester could face insurance fraud charges. Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis said Wednesday that he has directed the state's Division of Investigative and Forensic Services to investigate.

[Photo: Leon County Detention Center]

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