True Crime: Murder and Mayhem in Florida

Murder in Paradise is a tantalizing theme. Don’t you agree? There’s something about the contrast between beautiful weather and mystery that makes stories more compelling, I think. That’s what compels me to set a lot of my books in Florida — especially my Hunt for Justice series.

While researching my plots to make them as clever as possible, I usually run across unbelievable true stories. Truth is so often stranger than fiction, isn’t it?

Here’s one true crime story I read that demonstrates this. 

In 2018, Denise Williams, then 48, was charged and found guilty of first-degree murder for the death of her late husband Mike William’s 18 years earlier. This convoluted tale of love, betrayal, and murder is as baffling as it is tragic. 

Image courtesy of NYpost.com

Mike Williams was a well-loved member of his community when he disappeared on Dec. 16, 2000, at age 31, leaving his infant daughter fatherless. Mike was a successful real estate appraiser who had married his high school sweetheart, Denise. On the date of their sixth anniversary, Mike had gone out to hunt ducks at Lake Seminole in Jackson County, Florida. 

When Mike failed to return, authorities and close friends began to search the area where he’d been hunting. Among the searchers, was Mike’s best friend, Brian Winchester. Mike’s truck and boat were found, but a body was’t. 

Investigators believed that Mike had drowned and his remains consumed by alligators which were prevalent in the area. Mike’s mother, Cheryl Williams, refused to buy this theory and spent nearly two decades campaigning for authorities to uncover the true story of what had happened to her son. 

Mike’s mom Cheryl Williams – Image courtesy of Tallahassee.com

Meanwhile, Mike’s young wife, Denise, claimed an insurance policy of over a million dollars.

In 2005, five years after her husband’s disappearance, Denise married Brian Winchester. Coincidentally, it was also Winchester who had sold Mike his million-dollar life insurance policy only months before Mike’s death. Although this behavior raised suspicions, there was no actual evidence for investigators to follow up on.

The case remained cold.

In 2016 an unexpected break occurred after Brian was arrested and charged with kidnapping Denise. He had broken into her SUV and hidden in the back with a gun. Shortly after Brian’s arrest, police-reported that Mike’s body had been found near a boat landing on Gardner Road in north Leon County.

Image courtesy of Tallahassee.com

In return for immunity, Brian revealed to authorities that he had shot Mike the day he disappeared and hid the body. Brian and Denise’s marriage had ended in 2012. After the divorce, Brian became paranoid that Denise would turn in him for the murder of her first husband. During his confession, Brian implicated his ex-wife in the planning and concealing Mike’s murder, resulting in her eventual conviction, too. Brian is serving out the rest of his 10-year sentence. 

What say you? Do you think Mike and his family received justice? Should Brian have received full immunity in exchange for cooperative testimony while Denise now faces a life sentence without parole? 

You can find my Hunt for Justice Thriller Series books on my website.

Meanwhile —

Caffeinate and Carry On!

Diane Capri

p.s. Are you a member of the Diane Capri’s Exclusive Reading Group mailing list? It’s FREE! Just CLICK HERE to sign up and refer your friends, too. You’ll be glad you did, I promise. Can’t wait to see you there!

 

Continue Reading

Tampa, Books, and Coffee!

Regular readers know I love coffee. My morning always starts with three mugs of black coffee and some days, more. Not surprisingly, coffee features prominently in my books, too.  Judge Willa Carson from my Hunt for Justice Series loves Coffee Con Leche, and understandably so. You would caffeinate aggressively too, if you were a busy […]

Continue Reading

Where to Dine in Tampa

One of my favorite things about the Tampa Bay Area (besides the natural beauty, of course…) is discovering the little nuggets of its unique history. That’s what a writer loves to do — we soak up everything. And in the process we’re able to see how the big picture developed and show it to you […]

Continue Reading

Tampa Bay Runners

Are you a runner? I’m an occasional runner, but Judge Willa Carson is devoted to the sport. She’s the star of my Hunt for Justice Series. Running isn’t just a random activity that I drew out of a hat for Willa Carson. It makes perfect sense that she’s a runner, based on the numerous benefits […]

Continue Reading

Florida’s Real Life Mysteries and Bizarre Crimes

My readers know that I’m dedicated to writing thrillers that are believable as well as exciting. My plots are always at least theoretically possible. Very often, the things I learn about inform the fiction in my books. This was the case when I was writing my Hunt for Justice books set in Tampa, Florida, home […]

Continue Reading

Strange and Unique Attractions in Tampa

There are lots of reasons to love Florida. Which is why my Hunt for Justice books are set in Tampa, Florida, where the fictional star of this series, Judge Willa Carson, lives. One of my favorite things about the Tampa Bay Area (besides the natural beauty, of course…) is discovering the little nuggets of its […]

Continue Reading

Strange Crimes in Tampa

By now, you know that I love Florida. I know, I know— who doesn’t? But bear with me. I’m not talking only about Disney World and the beaches. As a mystery writer, I try to peer into the strange and mysterious side of Florida, which is part of the intrigue. It’s not only my love […]

Continue Reading

It’s a Dog’s World in Tampa Bay

As you might have guessed – I love dogs and Florida! Apart from making wonderful companions, dogs are often the unsung heroes involved in solving many mysteries. In my Hunt for Justice Series books, the main character Judge Willa Carson lives in Tampa Bay and has two adorable labradors, Harry and Bess.  It’s no coincidence […]

Continue Reading

So what is Prepper Cuisine? Find out!

If you’ve read books in my Hunt for Jack Reacher series, you know Reacher is an expert at living off the grid. With an estimated 3 million Preppers living in the US, he’s not the only one.  A ‘Prepper’ is someone who prepares for emergencies. The level of preparedness and types of emergencies that Preppers […]

Continue Reading

The Sunshine Skyway Bridge

One of my favorite things about the Tampa Bay Area (besides the natural beauty, of course…) is discovering the its unique history. That’s what a writer loves to do — we soak up everything. And in the process, we’re able to see how the big picture developed and show it to you through our stories. […]

Continue Reading

Get Jack in the Green—Free!

Sign up FREE to my email list & start reading Jack in the Green in minutes...