Brian Winchester, a Florida man suspected of killing his friend in order to carry on a relationship with the man’s wife and obtain a $1.75 million life insurance policy, took the stand Tuesday at his ex’s trial.
The New York Post reports Winchester testified against Denise Williams, the wife of victim Jerry Michael “Mike” Williams, who was initially reported as missing following a boating trip in December of 2000. Denise is standing trial for allegedly staging Mike’s death along with her now ex-lover. She is facing charges of “first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder and accessory after the fact,” according to the Tallahassee Democrat.
The newspaper, citing court testimony, said Winchester and Denise began dating in 1997, while they were both still married to other people. The relationship eventually “snowballed” into a secret plan to kill her husband. Winchester, Denise, and their spouses had all been friends after meeting years earlier while students at Florida State University. When the couples began double-dating, Winchester reportedly began developing feelings for Denise.
#DeniseWilliams – Fuchs tells the jury Brian Winchester, Mike Williams' best friend, was having an affair with Denise for 3 years prior to Mike's death. He said the two of them planned to murder both of their spouses. pic.twitter.com/0nhkgqKNDb
— Cathy Russon (@cathyrusson) December 11, 2018
“One night, in particular, we started talking about sex a lot,” Winchester testified. “I was friends with Denise in middle school and high school, but I never was attracted to her until that point.”
The Tallahassee Democrat reported that on October 13, 1997, a spark grew stronger between Winchester and Denise, when the two couples attended a concert together. Winchester reportedly said he and Denise kissed for the first time that night as their spouses were parking a vehicle.
“We just connected like nobody else,” Winchester stated in court. “It snowballed really fast.”
While Winchester testified that the two wished to date exclusively, he said Denise didn’t want to move forward with a divorce. He said Denise thought it would be “better to be a rich widow than a poor divorcee,” and divorce didn’t align with her apparent “morals.”
“Because of the way [Denise] was raised [and] because of her pride, she didn’t want to get a divorce,” Winchester said. “But she wanted to be together, which narrowed the options.”
Winchester reportedly said he asked Mike to join him on a “duck hunting trip” on December 16, 2000. In an effort to kill him by drowning, Winchester said he shoved the man into Lake Seminole, located in Jackson County. When the purported victim was able to grab onto a rock, Winchester said he shot him instead.
“He started to yell and I didn’t know how to get out of that situation,” Winchester told the court. “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.”
Winchester was reportedly granted immunity from the alleged murder after he was “sentenced to 20 years in prison for the 2016 armed kidnapping of Denise.” The two were married in 2005, but divorced about 12 years later in 2017.
The immunity deal came after Winchester agreed to give a “full confession” before sentencing. According to WJHG, “he kidnapped her at gunpoint” because he was “afraid Denise would pin the murder on him.”
After Winchester’s reported confession, Mike Williams’ remains were subsequently discovered near Carr Lake in October 2017. Denise was arrested in May 2018, based on what investigators were apparently told about her alleged involvement in the suspected killing.
Denise reportedly continues to deny any wrongdoing in the case, with her lawyer telling the court that “there is no tangible evidence or physical evidence tying” her to it.
“All you will have to go on is the word of the man who actually committed the murder,” attorney Philip Padovano stated.
If convicted, Denise faces life behind bars.
This story is developing. Check back with CrimeOnline for the latest updates.
[Feature photo: Denise Williams, Brian Winchester, Mike Williams/police handouts]