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Testimony in the trial of a Florida woman accused of plotting to kill her husband with his best friend revealed a complex relationship between the group of long-time friends that included threesomes, affairs, and scandalous spring break photos.
Denise Williams, now 48, is on trial for allegedly plotting to kill her husband, Mike Williams so that she could be with her husband's best friend, Brian Winchester, a man who says they'd been carrying on an affair for years before Mike's death.
Winchester admitted in court earlier this week that in December 2000, he lured Mike, then 31, out to Lake Seminole under the guise of going on a duck hunting trip together. He shoved his best friend in the water, with the expectation that he would be weighed down by his waders and drown. When he didn't, he shot him in the face.
Winchester said he then loaded Mike's dead body into his vehicle and buried it at another location, leaving behind Mike's vehicle and fishing boat to make it appear like a solo fishing accident.
Winchester and Mike had been best friends since high school along with Denise and Winchester's first wife, Kathy Thomas. All four attended North Florida Christian School together, and got married to their respective spouses in 1994. However, the relationship between the close-knit foursome was much more complicated than it appeared from the outside, the New York Post reports.
Not only were Denise and Winchester allegedly having an affair with one another, but the jury was also shown scandalous photos of Denise and Kathy Thomas, including one where the duo is kissing, on a spring break trip with Winchester in Panama City Beach.
"They are photographs of Denise with my first wife, Kathy, of a sexual nature," Winchester said, according to The New York Post, after seeing the images.
Winchester testified that the shots had been taken after Mike's death; however, Thomas allegedly told authorities that she, Denise, and Winchester had a sexual experience together on a trip before Mike's death, The Post reports.
Thomas took the stand in the case Thursday and confirmed that the photos shown to the jury were taken on a trip in 2001 to Panama City Beach with Denise and Winchester. She said they partied and went to a strip club while on the vacation, according to The Tallahassee Democrat.
Thomas also told jurors that she had suspected Denise and Winchester were having an affair during her marriage to Winchester and said she hadn't wanted to go on the Panama City Beach trip.
"Whenever it was just me with Brian and Denise it was uncomfortable," she said on the stand, according to The New York Post. "I felt like the third wheel, I felt like I was on a date with the two of them."
Winchester and Thomas divorced in 2001 after both allegedly had extramarital affairs, The Post reports.
After Mike's death, Winchester said he and Denise continued their relationship, eventually getting married in 2005.
Mike's mother, who long believed her son's death was not an accident years before his body was discovered, also took the stand to say that Denise had been angry about the attention she was trying to get for the missing person's case through purchasing billboards and holding up signs at intersections, according to the Tallahassee Democrat.
"Denise called me. She was livid," Cheryl Williams said. "She said, 'I don't ever want to hear Mike's name again. I don't ever want to see Mike's name in the paper again. ... I have to get on with my life."
The prosecution rested its case Thursday morning. Denise's defense attorneys will now get their chance before the jury.
In opening statements, defense attorney Philip Padovano told jurors that there was no tangible or physical evidence that ties Denise to her husband's death.
"The issue you're going to have to decide is whether to believe [Winchester]. All you're going to have to go on is the word of the man who actually committed the murder," he said, according to The Tallahassee Democrat.
Investigators discovered Mike's body after Winchester was arrested in 2016. He had been charged with armed kidnapping after he climbed into Denise's car and held her at gunpoint while the pair's marriage was crumbling. Winchester, who is serving 20 years in prison for the armed kidnapping case, agreed to provide investigators details about Mike's death in exchange for immunity.
[Photos: Leon County Sheriff's Office]
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