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Attorneys Due Back In Court Tuesday To Talk Sentencing For Denise Williams

Denise Williams and her attorney face Judge James Hakinson as he explains her decision not to let the jury consider reduced charges. 12/13/2018

Attorneys in the Denise Williams case are expected back in a Tallahassee courtroom Tuesday after Williams was found guilty of first degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder and accessory after the fact. The convictions stem from the death of her first husband, Mike Williams, 18 years ago.

Today’s hearing will focus on setting a sentencing date but Williams won’t be there. She’s waived her right to appear.

Her first husband, Mike Williams disappeared while on a solo duck hunting trip at Lake Seminole, the day of the couple’s sixthwedding anniversary. His boat was found the next day and after a weeks-long search, It was assumed he’d fallen overboard and drowned—his body eaten by alligators.  Denise Williams, and her missing husband’s best friend, Brian Winchester, perpetrated the lie until it fell apart completely last year. That’s when the Florida Department of Law Enforcement made an announcement.

“After years of interviews, forensic and investigative analysis…we finally got the break we needed. Standing here now, I can tell you we know what happened to Mike Williams. He was murdered," FDLE Investigator Mark Perez said during a December 2017 press conference.

In May, Denise Williams was handcuffed and escorted from her job at Florida State University to the Leon County jail, where she has remained ever since.

Two months before FDLE’s announcement, Winchester, who married Denise Williams five years after Mike’s death, confessed to investigators that he pushed his former friend overboard and shot him in the head when he did not drown.  At the time of the confession, Winchester’s marriage to Denise had deteriorated, and he was sentenced to 20 years in prison for kidnapping her at gunpoint the year before. Winchester received immunity from prosecution in exchange for the confession.

During trial, he testified he killed Mike Williams so that he and Denise could be together, and that they planned the murder together.

“She told me she assumed when his body was never found that what we’d planned didn’t happened and that it never made sense to her that I was able to get to the shoreline and he wasn’t. But that it was okay and we were forgiven and we were like David and Bathsheba and God was going to forgive us," Winchester said.

A jury deliberated for about 8 hours before returning three guilty verdicts on December 14th. Denise Williams was charged with conspiracy to commit murder, first degree murder and accessory after the fact—all three carry sentences up to and including life in prison. 

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Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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