Man breaks down describing how he killed best friend to be with his wife

Man breaks down describing how he killed best friend to be with his wife

Brian Winchester testified in court on Tuesday, claiming that not only did he murder his best friend, but it was all part of a plan he had made with the friend's wife. He broke down into tears, describing how he had shot Mike Williams at the behest of his wife, Denise, years into an affair.

Williams disappeared on December 16, 2000, during a boating trip to Lake Seminole. Five years later, Brian and Denise got married, but later divorced. Last year, he confessed to having staged the disappearance after plotting the killing along with Denise, although she insists that she is innocent of any crime.

denise williams mugshot Credit: Florida Department of Law Enforcement

Mike and Denise were high school sweethearts, while Brian was a close friend of them both since they went to school with each other at North Christian Florida School. However, after a few years Brian started to develop feelings for Denise during double dates with her, Mike, and his wife, Kathy.

“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. We just connected like nobody else. It snowballed really fast.”

In 1997 they kissed, starting an affair that, three years later, resulted in Mike's death. He later confessed that together they staged a boating mishap, so that they could cash in on Mike's $1.75 million life insurance policy. Denise didn't want a divorce, allegedly telling him that it was “better to be a rich widow than a poor divorcée.”

Credit: Jackson County Sheriff's Office

“Because of the way [Denise] was raised [and] because of her pride, she didn’t want to get a divorce, but she wanted to be together, which narrowed the options,” Winchester told the court. Brian revealed that they had considered several options, including shooting him at his office, but ultimately decided to make the death look like an accident.

On December 16 2000, he invited Mike on a duck-hunting trip at Lake Seminole, and pushed him overboard in an attempt to drown him.

However, Mike was able to swim to a stump in the lake, where he could stay afloat. Brian described how he then drew a gun to finish the job:

“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.”

It was at this point that Winchester started to break down, crying as he described the subsequent search for Mike with the authorities. After he'd reported him missing, he joined search crews to look for a body, which included Brian's father.

“I think [my dad and I] were the last ones. My dad didn’t want to give up,” Winchester said. “He loved Mike.”

Years later, after their relationship had ended, Winchester said he had become paranoid that Denise would turn him in. In August 2016, he broke into her car, held her at gunpoint, and allegedly told her to take their secret to the grave. After an hour, he allowed her to drive him back to his vehicle. Once he had left, she reported the armed kidnapping - a crime for which he was later sentenced to twenty years in prison.

The body wasn't located until prosecutors made a deal with Winchester, offering him immunity last year, as long as he revealed information about the disappearance. These details led to authorities arresting Denise in May, charging her with murder, conspiracy and accessory after the fact. Her lawyers denied all the allegations during the trial on Tuesday, and claimed that Winchester acted alone.

“There is no tangible evidence or physical evidence tying Denise Williams to this crime,” Philip Padovano, her attorney, said. “All you will have to go on is the word of the man who actually committed the murder.”

If convicted of these charges, Williams could face a life in prison.