The upcoming episode of Dateline: Secrets Uncovered is all set to dive into the complicated case of Michael and Denise Williams, which spanned nearly two decades.
31-year-old Michael disappeared during a simple duck hunting session on the morning of his sixth anniversary. Though the authorities declared him dead, a long and complicated saga unfolded over the next few years, spearheaded by his mother, Cheryl, who was resolute about getting justice for her son.
When the conspiracy unfolded, owing to a confession over 17 years later, it was way more complicated than the initially assumed alligator attacks. Michael Williams' wife, Denise Williams, was revealed as the mastermind behind this elaborate plan of getting Michael killed and taking nearly $2 million from insurance policies after his death.
She was charged after her lover, who happened to be Michael's best friend, confessed to killing him in 2017. She was sentenced to 30 years in prison. She remains incarcerated at Florida Women's Reception Center in Ocala, Marion County.
Who was Denise Williams, and what did she do?
Michael and Denise Williams were high school sweethearts who married and settled in Tallahassee, Florida, living a quaint and peaceful life on the surface. They were close friends with another couple, Brian and Kathy Winchester. Brian and Michael were very good friends.
On December 16, 2000, Mike went on a duck-hunting trip and never returned. This prompted the authorities to investigate the case thoroughly. After days of searching, authorities alleged that Michael could have accidentally fallen into the lake and been eaten by alligators.
Soon, investigators declared him dead, leading Denise to receive hefty insurance. Cheryl, Michael's mother, was the only one who kept fighting for justice, claiming that her son was a victim of foul play. Her relentless efforts also got the police to start investigating the case as a homicide in 2004.
In 2005, Denise married Brian Winchester, who had divorced his wife. The two of them would have gotten away with this murder if not for some turbulence in their relationship that set off a chain reaction, bringing out the truth about Michael's disappearance.
In a bizarre turn of events, Winchester was convicted of kidnapping Denise at gunpoint after she filed for a divorce. As things soured between the two and Denise threatened to expose him to the cops, Winchester voluntarily gave a confession to the police in exchange for immunity. He was charged with kidnapping at gunpoint but was excluded from Michael's murder case.
He also agreed to testify against Denise Williams in court. He was the star witness in the case. He revealed that he and Denise had an affair that spanned over three years. One of the times, they allegedly spoke about their spouses dying. This conversation snowballed into an elaborate plan.
On the morning of Mike's disappearance, Winchester took him on the duck hunting expedition and pushed him off the boat. When he did not die, Winchester shot him. Later, he buried the body in a remote area.
Where is Denise Williams now?
A jury found Denise Williams guilty in December 2018. She was charged with first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder, and accessory after the fact. For this, she was sentenced to life. Two years later, the First District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee overturned her murder charge, but the conspiracy conviction was still valid.
She was sentenced to 30 years in prison. She is currently in Florida Women's Reception Center in Ocala, Marion County.
Cheryl said after Denise's conviction:
"I’ll be happy with 30 years for conspiracy if she can’t get out … I do not want her out. God has a plan, but I still don’t know what that plan is."
The upcoming episode of Dateline: Secrets uncovered will cover this case in detail.