The prosecution and defense in the murder trial against Denise Williams have wrapped up and the jury will hear closing arguments Friday morning. Williams is accused of planning the murder of her husband Mike Williams 18 years ago with his best friend, Brian Winchester.
Neither side is asking a jury to consider reduced charges for Denise Williams. If she is convicted of 1st degree murder, she could face life in prison. Williams was asked by the judge whether she understood the risks:
“I guess for lack of a better word, it’s a little bit of a gamble," Judge James Hankinson told Williams. "If convicted as charged on 1st Degree Murder and to some extent the other charges, my hands are going to be tied to a large extent on sentencing. You understand that?”
Williams replied, "yes."
Jurors heard testimony Thursday from Winchester’s ex-wife Kathy Thomas, who says she suspected he and Williams were having an affair. Thomas became an informant for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement earlier this year and recorded several calls between herself and Denise Williams in January and February.
During one of those calls, Thomas alludes to an affair between Winchester and Denise, while she was still married to Winchester and Denise was still married to Mike.
"I just know he would have said, ‘why didn’t you ever tell me’. That’s how he is, he is good and honest. He’s not like us," Thomas says. She also testified that during her marriage to Winchester, he was "selfish" and that she often felt like a third wheel when the group was together.
Six months after Mike Williams was presumed to have drowned in Lake Seminole, Denise Williams was granted a presumptive death certificate. An estate attorney testified that was unusual and that the process usually takes five years.
Winchester has admitted to pushing Mike Williams overboard and shooting him in the head. He says he planned the murder with Denise and did it so the two of them could be together. Winchester is serving a 20 year prison sentence for kidnapping Denise Williams, whom he married five years after Mike Williams's death. He confessed to the murder in exchange for immunity from prosecution in the case.
Denise Williams's attorney's claim she had no involvement with the murder, and that Winchester is lying about an affair.