Watch: Denise Williams Love Triangle Murder Trial Day 1

Denise Williams stands trial in the shooting death of her first husband Jerry Michael Williams. Can prosecutors in Leon County, Florida win a conviction when their star witness admitted to being the gunman? Opening statements are scheduled to begin 9:00 a.m. ET.

The charges are first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder in the first-degree, and accessory after the fact in first-degree murder. Prosecutors said Williams and her second husband Brian Winchester plotted the victim’s death, and collected on a huge life insurance policy. The issue is, Winchester admitted to his role in the killing as part of a plea deal.

The victim went missing December 16, 2000 when he went on a duck hunting trip on Lake Seminole. Authorities didn’t find a body. No forensic evidence indicated his possible whereabouts, or what happened. Some believed he might have been eaten by an alligator. They are known in the area.

According to court documents obtained by Law&Crime, Denise Williams moved pretty fast to get Michael declared dead. In Florida, five years must pass before a missing person is presumed deceased under the law. Nonetheless, she waited only 19 days after her husband’s disappearance to finish a claimant statement form for insurance money, records show. The death was treated as an “accidental drowning.”

She married Winchester. Brian was Michael’s friend and a life insurance agent who gave him a $1 million policy just six months before the so-called drowning. Records show Denise collected $1,750,000 from three separate policies after her husband’s death.

Fast forward to 2016. It’d be an understatement to say the second marriage “fell apart.” Winchester was charged with kidnapping Denise at gunpoint. He pleaded no contest in the case, which meant he didn’t admit to the crime. Remarkably, he instead fessed up to another case as part of an agreement with prosecutors. He said that he and Denise plotted her first husband’s death.

Winchester claimed that Denise pressured him to go through with it because the victim wanted to have another child, and because one of the life insurance policies was about to run out. Their plot was to make it look like an accidental drowning, he said.

Jerry Michael Williams’ body was found in 2017.

You can listen to some audio of Winchester’s confession via 48 Hours. He said he shot the victim.

Winchester could be prosecutors’ biggest asset. He may also be the defense’s biggest target.

Williams’ attorney Ethan Way insists on his client’s innocence. He was asked in a 48 Hours interview whether she knew about Winchester killing Michael. His answer: “Not before. Not during. Not after.”

He put the murder on Winchester, and only Winchester.

[Mugshot via Leon County]

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