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Initially, it was said he left his home in Tallahassee, Florida , United States, to go duck hunting. After subsequent investigations, he was pd to have drowned in Lake Seminole , a large reservoir straddling the Florida — Georgia state line; investigators later came to suspect he had been the victim of foul play, possibly at another location. After Williams's boat was found abandoned on the lake, the initial theory was that he had fallen out of it after a collision.
However, a lengthy and exhaustive search of the lake bed in the area failed to find his body: at that time, it was the only known occasion when no remains or body had been discovered after a drowning death in the lake. After waders and a jacket containing Williams's hunting were found in the lake six months later, he was declared legally dead , following a court petition by his widow, Denise.
She went on to marry Brian Winchester, a mutual friend who had helped her take out a large life insurance policy on Williams shortly before his disappearance. Some investigators felt aspects of the case were not consistent with the alligator theory. By then, officers had learned that alligators do not, in fact, eat during the winter months, as the water is too cold, and as such, it was suspected that foul play might have occurred. But it did not produce any new evidence, as the potential crime scene had not been secured during the search for Williams.
Cheryl Williams wrote letters daily to the governor , asking him to have the state reopen the investigation even though two later investigations were likewise unable to uncover any ificant new information, alienating many of the law enforcement officials she had ly persuaded to reopen it.
In May , Denise Williams was arrested and charged with first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder, and accessory. Jerry Michael Williams was known as Michael or Mike. He grew up in Bradfordville  north of Tallahassee , the son of a Greyhound bus driver  and a day care provider who raised him and his older brother Nick in a double-wide trailer. Instead of building a house the parents saved their money so both boys, who helped by working nights at supermarkets, could attend North Florida Christian High School.
There Mike excelled, serving as student council president, playing football and being active in the Key Club. At the age of 15, he began duck hunting as a hobby, and also came to know fellow student Denise Merrell. After North Florida Christian, he attended Florida State University , where he majored in political science and urban planning. He distinguished himself as "the hardest-working man I ever saw", according to the company's owner. After he married Merrell in , he would often go home for dinner and return to work after she and later, his daughter as well went to bed, and he sometimes went into work after going duck hunting in the morning.
In , Williams's only child, a daughter, was born. His coworkers said he was as devoted to her as he was to his work. The following year his father died. Two days before his disappearance, Mike and Denise told his mother, as well as his brother Nick, that they were planning to have another child soon. In , she said, they were planning to go on a cruise in Hawaii that spring; later in the year he expected to travel to Jamaica for work as well. According to Denise Williams, on the morning of December 16, , a Saturday, her husband awoke early, leaving the house on Centennial Oaks Circle  well before dawn, boat in tow, to go duck hunting at Lake Seminole.
The lake is a large reservoir approximately 50 miles 80 km west-northwest of Tallahassee along the Florida— Georgia state line, where three other streams merge to form the Apalachicola River. The couple had plans to celebrate their sixth wedding anniversary that night in Apalachicola. At noon, Denise called her father to tell him that Mike had not returned; Brian Winchester's Mike's best friend father drove with Winchester to the areas of the lake where they knew Mike Williams frequently went duck hunting.
Since it had been reported to them as a missing hunter, the agency handled the case that way, focusing on search and rescue or recovery. Searchers focused on the 10 acres 4. His boat was soon found roughly feet 69 m  from the ramp by a helicopter pilot, who initially assumed it was a boat being used in the search.
After retrieving the boat, investigators found Williams's shotgun, still in its case, but no of Williams himself. The cove is locally believed to have been an orchard before the Chattahoochee and Flint rivers and Spring Creek were dammed to create the lake. It took its name, Stump Field, from the many remaining stumps that protruded above and below the water level,  requiring careful handling of any powerboat in the area.
Searchers thus assumed that Williams had hit a stump with his boat, fallen out, sunk into waters 8—12 feet 2. Had Williams drowned, his body would have been expected to eventually float to the surface, making it easier to discover. Investigators assured the Williams family that his body would surface, like other drowning victims, within three to seven days, or perhaps slightly longer due to the cold front that had moved in after the first night's storm. No body was found, however. Ten days into the search, a camouflage -patterned hunting hat was found, but it could not be connected to Williams.
Efforts continued until the search was called off in early February. It has since been suggested that the search might have been continued had Denise Williams indicated an interest in such. At that time, the case was still considered open. If Williams had drowned after accidentally falling out of his boat, his body would be the only one from 80 known deaths in the lake never to have been found. The head of a private search firm that supplemented official efforts near the end of the search offered a possible explanation.
Early searchers had reported seeing many of them, and some of the officials were willing to accept the possibility. It was suggested that perhaps Williams's body had become entangled in the beds of dense hydrilla beneath the lake surface, and then found by the alligators later, with turtles and catfish finishing what they had left behind. She arranged for a memorial service for Mike to be held the day after the search ended.
In June, an angler in the Stump Field area discovered a pair of waders floating in the lake, and divers called to search the area then recovered from the lake bottom a lightweight hunting jacket and a flashlight: in one of the jacket pockets, there was a hunting with Williams's name and ature. However, there were no teeth marks or any other damage on the waders, none of the recovered items showed s of having been in the water for anything like the period Williams had been missing, and there was no DNA evidence found to link the clothing to him.
Nevertheless, a week later, a Leon County judge granted Denise Williams's petition to have Mike declared legally dead on the basis of those recovered items and an assumption that alligators and other water life had consumed the body in its entirety. Five years later, she married Brian Winchester,  who had sold Mike some of the policies a few months before he disappeared. The couple went on to live in the same house where Denise and Mike had lived prior. Denise and Brian have mostly declined to discuss the case publicly. The private search team that surmised the alligator theory had been hired near the end of the original search by Williams's mother, Cheryl.
After it ended, and after her son was declared legally dead proceedings she said in she would have contested had she been aware of them  , she was still not convinced that he had drowned in the lake, but her attempts to bring about a further investigation were unsuccessful. She has stated  that she received threats to discourage her.
For the next several years, she investigated on her own when not operating a day care at her home. She ran advertisements in local newspapers, and put up billboards seeking information. All the subsequent investigations of the case have resulted from her efforts. She believed her son might still be alive. Investigators also learned that Williams didn't usually hunt alone.
Doubts that Williams had drowned became much more serious when investigators learned that, in fact, alligators do not generally feed during the winter months due to the colder temperatures. In those conditions, "it [i]s highly unlikely an alligator would have been active" said Matt Aresco, a local herpetologist authorities had consulted. Fifty-eight degrees is too cold for an alligator to be interested in food at all. And even if an alligator had "defied all known gator behavior," and eaten Williams's body, as another investigator, Ronnie Austin, then with the state's attorney 's office, put it, it would likely have left something behind.
Williams was 5 feet 10 inches 1. It would be very, very unusual to have the complete disappearance of a full-grown man. The waders, discovered almost six months after Williams's disappearance, further undermined the alligator theory. While the diver who retrieved them reported that they were in an area of disturbed weeds with an alligator excrement nearby, consistent with the original belief that Williams had drowned while wearing them, he allowed it was "anyone's guess" as to whether they had been later planted in that spot.
Investigators suspicions' were further raised by the waders' condition—undamaged, without any tooth marks, and lacking any of the residues that would be expected to accumulate on an object submerged in the lake for as long as the waders had supposedly been.
Arnette filtered the water in them after they were recovered, and did not find any human remains. Apart from the condition of the waders was the question of why Williams would have been wearing them when he supposedly fell out of the boat. According to a friend who hunted with him frequently, including one week before his disappearance, Williams took safety very seriously, keeping his guns at work, away from his daughter, among other precautions. He added that that belief was shared by all the investigators at that point. However, the new investigation was made extremely difficult by the deficiencies of the original search, when criminal activity had not been considered.
Williams's Bronco and the boat had been returned to his family and friends, the footsteps of the many volunteers and searchers all over the lakeshore had made it impossible to collect any evidence from that area, and the items later recovered from the lake had not been retained. Without any of that evidence or Williams's body, it was impossible for police to make a case.
Derrick Wester, an investigator with the Jackson County sheriff's office, agreed that they were "trying to make up for" not having considered the possibility that things might not have been what they seemed in His office kept the case open, and had some persons of interest , although he did not identify them. The FDLE closed its case, convinced that the alligator theory was wrong, but without any le or evidence that could allow it to further investigate. By , its cold case investigators were no longer returning Cheryl Williams's phone calls.
She continued to do what she could to publicize the case, taking out in the Tallahassee Democrat. A possible new lead emerged in October , when Michael Williams's older brother found a photograph and the serial of a. Michael had inherited it after his father's death, and after Michael was declared legally dead it was the only one of his firearms that Denise Williams had not returned to her former in-laws. After Jackson County sheriff's investigator, Wester asked the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms ATF to look for it, agents visited Denise and Brian Winchester, now married, in their house the same one she had lived in with Michael , to interview them.
Several days later, their attorney delivered the gun to the FDLE. It was sent to a state forensics laboratory for DNA testing: the have not been reported. On the anniversary of Williams's disappearance that year, the Winchesters made one of their few public statements on the case: "For seven years we have prayed and hoped to find out with certainty what happened to Mike," Brian said in an to the Democrat , and "Nobody wants Mike found more than we do. Normally, under Florida law , the statute of limitations on that crime is five years, meaning it would have expired in But it can be extended by three years under certain circumstances.
Perry, the FFWCC officer who had been heavily involved in the original search, added at the time that if he or any other person investigating had known that there was a large life insurance policy on Williams, and who the beneficiary was, that search might have been handled differently. It was noted that Denise Williams's court petition to have her husband declared legally dead mentioned only the Kansas City Life Insurance Company policies Winchester had sold him, omitting policies through other companies that Michael Williams had obtained through other sources.
However, Brian Jones, an expert in insurance law at Florida State University , told the Democrat that any fraud case would have to rest on more than just those facts already known to have aroused investigative interest. But if Michael Williams was to be proven dead and the beneficiary were to have shown to have been involved, or if he was still alive as his mother and many residents of Jackson County believed possible ,  then an insurance company would strongly consider pursuing a case.
By the eighth anniversary of Williams's disappearance, however, the DIF had closed the case. He added that if new information were received, the investigation could be reopened. Another possible lead that year proved fruitless as well. Carrie Cox, a self-described psychic  and certified forensic psychological profiler from Kentucky reviewing the case had identified a possible location of Williams's body.
She gave investigators the coordinates of a location in Wakulla County near another boat launch. Cadaver dogs were brought to the area and sniffed it out, but found nothing. Cox nevertheless concluded that "we are moving in the right direction I think something is there. Despite the failure of a third investigation to discern the fate of her son, Cheryl Williams persisted. Her efforts led to the Investigation Discovery cable channel doing a segment on Michael's disappearance and the later investigations in late By then, she had become disillusioned with the FDLE, believing that it was either incompetent or uninterested in resolving the case.
In particular, she came to believe the investigation was hampered by the involvement of agent Mike Philips, a friend of both her son and his then-wife. Philips had told her early on in the search that Michael had probably been eaten by alligators, so she had assumed he had been involved in the investigation at that point. He said later he never was and was merely trying to comfort her; FDLE said his involvement was limited to asking his superiors if the agency could help with the search; it did not see a need to formally investigate his role.
Starting on New Year's Day in , Cheryl began writing one letter a day to Governor Rick Scott , asking him to either have another agency besides FDLE investigate or appoint a special prosecutor to do so. After she had written over without even an acknowledgment that they had been received, she began inquiring personally as to why.
It turned out that the governor's office had forwarded them, unopened, to FDLE's headquarters, where they were placed in the case file. She was outraged. In , Denise and Brian Winchester separated , reportedly due to his sex addiction ; she filed for divorce in As part of that order, he was to provide an appraisal of the couple's house, due early in August Denise told Leon County Sheriff's Office investigators that, on August 5, the day when the appraisal had to be filed with the court, she left her home to drive to her job at Florida State University. While she was talking on her phone to her sister, she saw someone climb over the back seat of her car.Tallahassee Florida s discreet affairs friday night
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