Denise Williams has been convicted of plotting the murder of her 31-year-old husband Mike Williams in 2000
Denise, with the help of Mike’s best friend, Brian Winchester, planned his death, according to prosecutors
Alleged plan hatched by Denise was to kill Mike Williams, collect nearly $2million on a life insurance payout, and then marry her lover and Mike’s best friend, Brian
Mike Williams was pushed from a boat and shot at close range by Brian Winchester on a hunting trip, Winchester testified in court
Brian Winchester was granted immunity by state prosecutors who then indicted Denise Williams
Winchester and Denise Williams eventually married, but the relationship soured
Winchester’s first wife Kathy Thomas, who was also a longtime friend of the victim, testified on Thursday that she began to suspect the affair
Denise Williams was convicted on all charges, which included conspiracy to commit murder, first-degree murder and accessory after the fact
She faces a maximum life in prison, at sentencing
Jurors convicted Denise Williams of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder Friday for her role in a case that echoed the worst form of betrayal of lifelong friendship.
As the verdict was read, Denise Williams was stoic and did not express emotion.
Prosecutors contended Denise Williams plotted with her lover to kill her husband in a scheme seeking a $1.75 million life insurance payout on her spouse.
Brian Winchester testified the pair were having an extra-marital affair when he shot her husband in December 2000.
Related:Florida man relives killing best friend to be with his wife and $2m cash – Accused pair of Brian Winchester and Denise Williams Salo, were childhood friends of the victim, Mike Williams
Mike Williams, 31, was pushed from his boat, then shot point-blank by Winchester, his best friend, during a hunting trip 18 years ago this Sunday.
His widow immediately claimed $1.75million on hiss two life policies. Winchester eventually married Williams in 2005 but the relationship later soured and the pair divorced in 2016.
Denise Williams has maintained all along that she is innocent and that Brian Winchester acted alone.
She countered that Winchester of implicating her only after he was sent to prison for kidnapping her at gunpoint in 2016.
‘We got justice for Michael,’ she said.
Mike Williams was fatally shot in the head by Winchester while the two were on a duck hunting trip near Tallahassee in December 2000.
It was speculated at the time that he drowned and his body was devoured by alligators.
His buried body was found last year.
Denise Williams was convicted on all charges, which included conspiracy to commit murder, first-degree murder and accessory after the fact.
During the closing arguments earlier on Friday, prosecutors reminded jurors of how Denise Williams showed little emotion when her former lover testified how he shot and killed her husband.
‘She sat here stone-faced. Didn’t bat an eye. Didn’t shed a tear,’ Assistant State Attorney Jon Fuchs told jurors.
On December 16, 2000, Brian Winchester and Mike Williams went duck hunting at Lake Seminole.
During testimony, Winchester recalled how he shot Williams in the face from a yard away.
He then stuck his best friend’s body into a dog crate and quickly traveled to Tallahassee to bury the body at a familiar hunting spot.
Winchester tried to make it appear as if Williams went missing in a boating mishap – and the plan appeared to work.
Authorities kept searching for weeks and were unable to find Williams.
Almost three weeks after he went missing, Denise Williams filed an insurance claim.
‘That’s a cold individual. That’s a person who is involved in a homicide,’ Fuchs said of Denise Williams.
Kathy Thomas, who was married to Brian Winchester, testified on Thursday that she began to suspect her husband was having an affair with Denise.
She revealed in court how she suspected an affair between her husband and Denise, after Winchester suggested they have a threesome together.
After Mike’s death, she acted as a police informant to bring down her husband’s mistress.
The two couples had been close because they all attended North Florida Christian School together, but Thomas, also a longtime friend of Mike, testified on Thursday that Denise and Winchester’s ‘friendship’ had begun to make her uncomfortable.
Thomas confirmed that she went on a spring break trip to Panama City Beach with Denise and Winchester in 2001 after Mike’s death. The court had earlier heard that photos were taken during the trip of the two women kissing at a strip club.
‘Whenever it was just me with Brian and Denise it was uncomfortable,’ Thomas said, speaking about her suspicions of an affair.
I felt like the third wheel, I felt like I was on a date with the two of them.’
The marriage of Kathy Thomas and Winchester eventually broke up. He then moved on to marry his late friend Mike’s widow, five years after his death. Their relationship soured and they later divorced in 2016.
When Mike first disappeared, it was initially presumed he had fallen off his boat and that his body had been devoured by alligators, but it was revealed years later that Williams had died from a shotgun blast to the head and had been buried near a lake.
Winchester confessed last year to the cold case murder, which resulted in Denise’s arrest in May on murder, fraud, conspiracy and accessory after the fact charges.
Mike’s body wasn’t found until last year after prosecutors offered him immunity in the murder case while he was being sentenced to 20 years in prison for kidnapping Williams at gunpoint.
He had kidnapped Denise and made her promise not to reveal their alleged secret.
Thomas testified on Thursday that a week after Winchester was arrested in 2016, Denise had contacted her and asked her to tell him that: ‘I’m not talking’.
After Mike’s body was discovered, Thomas said she began working as an informant to record phone conversations with Denise.
Denise Williams seen [left], during her first pregnancy, now 48, [right], is accused of plotting her first husband Michael ‘Mike’ Williams’ murder. She was arrested in May, stood trial and charged with murder, fraud, conspiracy, and accessory after the fact in the relation to Mike’s death
‘Brian told me that ya’ll planned it,’ Thomas told Denise.
Denise responded: ‘Planned what? Oh my God.’
Thomas later said: ‘I know that you know something Denise’.
Her testimony on Thursday brought an end to the prosecution’s case against Denise.
Earlier in the trial, prosecutors argued that Winchester was the person who helped Mike fill out forms for a $1 million life insurance policy.
He also helped Denise apply for $1.75 million in insurance funds following Mike’s death.
Winchester also took to the stand to detail how he and Denise allegedly plotted the murder during their three-year affair.
Winchester told the court that his friend Mike told him Williams had stopped having sex with him and that he was growing suspicious about her activities.
He said the growing suspicion and the fact that one of Mike’s insurance policies was about to lapse led him and Denise to kill him.
‘We knew our window of opportunity was closing,’ Winchester testified.
Winchester then tearfully described the plot to kill Williams.
High school sweethearts Mike and Denise Williams wed in 1994 and welcomed a daughter with her five years later. The child was 18 months old when Mike vanished and is now aged 18
But he said he panicked when he saw Williams struggling in the water to get out of his jacket and duck waders and shot him.
‘He started to yell and I didn’t know how to get out of that situation. I had my gun in the boat, and so I loaded my gun and I just made one or two circles around and I ended up circling closer towards him and he was in the water, and as I passed by, I shot him,’ he said.
He said he dragged Williams’ body back to shore, put him in his truck and buried him hours later.
‘When I shot him, it was dark and there was a bright flash,’ Winchester testified, adding later, ‘I had to make it happen, I had no choice.’
‘I think (my father and I) were the last ones. My dad didn’t want to give up… He loved Mike.’
Philip Padovano, defense attorney for Denise Williams Salo, told jurors on Tuesday there is no evidence his client was having an affair with her eventual second husband, Brian Winchester at thee time, or that she helped plot the killing of her first husband Jerry Michael Williams.
‘There’s no tangible evidence or physical evidence to connect Denise Williams to this crime,’ Padovano said.
He told them that Winchester has been given immunity from murder charges in exchange for his testimony and that he was given a lighter sentence in his kidnapping case. In order to find Williams guilty, Padovano told the jury that ‘you will have to rely on the word of a murderer and a convicted felon.’
On cross-examination, Denise’s attorney asked Winchester if he was a murderer and a liar, to which Winchester said: ‘Yes, sir’.
Mike and Denise were high school sweethearts and married in 1994 before welcoming a daughter five years later. The child was 18 months old when her father vanished and is now aged 18.
He disappeared on what would have been the couple’s six wedding anniversary.
Authorities launches an exhaustive 44 day search for Mike’s body after he vanished in 2000.
Six months after his disappearance, waders believed to belong to Mike were found floating in perfect condition in the search area. They reportedly showed no signs of an alligator attack.
Without a body, Denise petitioned to have her husband declared dead due to accidental drowning and she collected his death benefits.
She married Winchester in December 2005 before they divorced in 2016.