Brian Winchester admittedly shot his long-time friend Jerry Michael Williams on December 16, 2000, buried his body near a lake north of Tallahasse, Florida, and kept the murder secret until 2017. And yet, he’s never going to get charged in the case unless he is found to have lied to investigators about what happened. Assistant State Attorney Jon S. Fuchs revealed on Monday why he agreed to the controversial immunity agreement used against Denise Williams, the victim’s widow. In short, there would have been no case whatsoever.
“It was a very, very difficult decision to do the proffer agreement that we ended up doing,” he said in a interview with Law&Crime President Rachel Stockman. “It wasn’t one that was taken lightly. The problem was that without doing that proffer agreement, Mike Williams is still a missing person, he’s never recovered, and his family does not have closure, nor the ability to properly bury him.”
The victim, who went by the name “Mike,” went missing while out on a duck hunting trip on Lake Seminole in Florida on December 16, 2000. The disappearance baffled investigators. Search efforts turned up no body. Years passed. Winchester married Williams’ widow Denise in 2005. The couple separated in 2012, but the breakdown got uglier. As established in testimony, an armed Winchester broke into her vehicle in 2016, hid there for hours, and confronted her when she entered. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison after pleading no contest. During this process, he and prosecutors reached an immunity agreement in which he admitted to killing Mike, correctly claimed that he buried the body near Carr Lake, and implicated Denise as a co-conspirator.
As Fuchs said, Winchester’s allegations were prosecutors’ biggest asset. It was also a ripe target for the defense. Denise’s attorneys Ethan Way and Philip Padovano attacked the story, and said this claim was just Winchester throwing his ex-wife under the bus over the kidnapping case.
Fuchs argued that testimony from Katherine Thomas, Winchester’s first wife, bolstered the case. She agreed to record a conversation between her and Denise Williams in February 2018. In it, the defendant apparently confirmed that she once wanted to relay a message to Winchester in August 2016, that she wasn’t going to talk to investigations. Fuchs argued in trial that this referenced their pact never to admit plotting Mike’s death.
The prosecutor reiterated on Monday that in the recording Thomas accused Denise of murder twice, and yet the defendant’s only response was to ask whether Winchester’s father was involved as well.
[Screengrab via Law&Crime Network]