Katherine Thomas, ex-wife of Brian Winchester, testified Thursday in the trial of Denise Williams, who is accused of plotting the murder of her first husband Jerry Michael Williams. Winchester has admitted to killing Mr. Williams in 2000 while he was having an affair with Denise, whom he later married and divorced. Thomas told the court about a suspicious comment Denise Williams made after Winchester’s 2016 arrest for kidnapping Williams.
“She wanted me to tell [Winchester’s father] Marcus to tell Brian that she wasn’t talking,” Katherine said.
That conversation was recorded by law enforcement, with Thomas acting as a source. Prosecutors are trying to suggest that the defendant’s statement referred to a murder plot between Denise and Winchester.
You can watch Thomas’s testimony, including the recorded conversation, in the player above.
Jerry Michael Williams, also known as “Mike,” went missing on December 16, 2000. His body didn’t turn up, and he was presumed dead. Meanwhile, Denise collected a total of $1.75 million from three life insurance policies. Winchester, a financial planner, sold two of those. Testimony established that Brian divorced Katherine in 2003, and married the defendant in 2005.
Thomas testified that she suspected the duo of having an affair as early as Sept. 1999. A police officer had called her about Brian’s vehicle being in a church parking lot near Denise’s home, but Winchester had said that he had gone to Arkansas to hunt, according to Katherine’s testimony.
Things became awkward from that point onward, and strained their long-time friendship. She said that she, Brian, the defendant, and Mike all planned to visit Panama City in the spring of 2000 to celebrate Denise’s 30th birthday. She decided she wanted to back out when she realized Mike wasn’t going. She didn’t want to go alone with the others.
“I felt like I was on a date with the two of them,” she said.
Nonetheless, Denise and Brian convinced her to go, she said. Thomas recalled there being a lot of drinking and dancing during the trip. She claimed not to remember much specifically about the weekend.
Earlier testimony established that Winchester took sexual pictures of the women together. Thomas saw the photos on the stand, and knew what these were.
She said that the suspected affair continued after Mike’s death. Thomas came across a receipt dated 07-28-2001, she said. It was for a necklace spelling out the name Meridian. That’s a “party name” for Denise, based on a street she used to live on, Thomas said.
Under cross-examination, she admitted she never caught her ex-husband and former friend in the act.
The relationship between Katherine and Denise grew distant after Mike’s disappearance, but they grew closer after the defendant’s marriage to Winchester, she said. Thomas has a son with Brian, and she described Denise Williams as a good stepmother to the boy. The friendship between the two women became stronger yet again with Denise’s separation and divorce from Winchester.
The turning point with Mike’s disappearance came when Brian kidnapped Denise in 2016. He was trying to “save” their disintegrating marriage, Assistant State Attorney Jon S. Fuchs told jurors on Tuesday. Defense lawyer Philip Padovano pointed out that Winchester had a tarp and two cans of bleach with him during the incident.
Brian pleaded no contest to the crime in 2017, but reached an immunity agreement with prosecutors, in which he admitted to luring Mike out to Lake Seminole in Tallahassee, and shooting the victim in the face. He alleged Denise to be his co-conspirator.
This is where Williams’ apparently suspicious comment comes into play.
“She wanted me to tell [Winchester’s father] Marcus to tell Brian that she wasn’t talking,” Katherine said on the stand.
This account happened a week after Brian’s arrest for the kidnapping. Thomas said she contacted the authorities about it, and they had her record a phone conversation with Denise in February 2018. During it, she confronted Williams about the statement, and the defendant acknowledged making it.
Denise said she had no knowledge of what happened to Mike, however, besides what investigators publicly said.
[Screengrab via Law&Crime]