In the weeks following the capture of the infamous Golden State Killer, in which the survivors of the victims were finally given some closure, the family of a missing Florida man may finally have some answers as well after seventeen years of silence. Denise Williams, 48, was arrested on May 8th, 2018 for the first-degree murder of her first husband, Mike Williams. Her ex-husband, Brian Winchester, who is currently serving time for kidnapping her at gunpoint in 2016, was also identified in the court documents released on Tuesday as the person who shot his best friend, Mike Williams, on December 16th, 2000. The murder came just six months after Winchester had sold Williams a one-million-dollar life insurance policy, which his wife was able to collect, despite the fact his remains would not be found for seventeen long years.
In an astonishing coincidence, WCTV Eyewitness News in Tallahassee was able to locate archived footage from the year 1999, in which both Denise and Mike Williams appeared in a segment in early May as part of Mother’s Day. Their daughter was born in said year on the eve of Mother’s Day, prompting the media outlet to cover the new family as a human-interest story. In the footage, Mike Williams expresses how much more respect he has for his wife and women in general for their ability to bring a child into the world. This eerie footage is now being re-examined, with investigators and armchair detectives alike, wondering how this picturesque nuclear family unraveled in a story of greed, betrayal, and murder.
Investigators postulate Denise Williams and Brian Winchester started conspiring to kill Mike Williams less than a year after the human-interest piece aired on WCTV in Tallahassee. Six months before the fateful duck-hunting trip, Winchester sold Williams a life insurance policy in the sum of $1 million dollars, a decision raising no eyebrows at the time. Williams had a wife and 18-month-old daughter who would need caring for if something were to happen to him, so he purchased the policy.
When Williams did not return from his duck hunting trip on December 16th, the authorities were called. When the police found Williams’ abandoned boat on the water, the investigation tapered off after the theory was floated he was eaten by alligators. Despite dragging Lake Seminole, police were not able to recover a single trace of Mike Williams’ remains.
From the jump, there were people who did not believe the story police had given as an explanation for Williams’ disappearance, most significantly his mother, Cheryl Williams. In 2016, Cheryl Williams told The Daily News she did not believe her son was the victim of an alligator attack, but rather the victim of a black widow. She told her story to the media outlet as part of the coverage of Brian Winchester’s 2016 kidnapping and holding Denise Williams at gunpoint. It was her assertion from the beginning, she said, her daughter-in-law was involved, “I lost my son, his daughter lost her father and Denise is the only one who got millions of dollars,” Cheryl Williams said. “She and Brian are the only ones who profited from his death.”
The theory of Mike’s death, in which he’d been eaten by alligators, left a loophole allowing Denise Williams to collect on her husband’s insurance policy despite the fact authorities never recovered a body. A complete search of the lake left law enforcement and Mike’s mother without answers. In an additional tragedy to losing her son, Cheryl has also lost contact with her granddaughter, whom Denise Williams has barred Cheryl from visiting for the past ten years after Cheryl convinced law enforcement to open an investigation. These devastating losses were what propelled her to go to the police with her suspicions. Cheryl was finally able to persuade law enforcement to open an investigation into her daughter-in-law, but only for insurance fraud. It was a start, Cheryl told the media, and ever since, she has been championing for those responsible for her son’s disappearance to be brought to justice.
Five years after her husband went missing, Denise Williams married Brian Winchester. The couple separated in 2012, which sparked a series of domestic incidents ultimately culminated in Williams filing for divorce in 2015. The ongoing investigation into Mike Williams’ death left law enforcement with little recourse other than to turn up the heat on Brian Winchester.
According to the Tallahassee Democrat, friends reported Brian Winchester was acting strange around the time of the kidnapping, “In an interview with investigators, anesthesiologist Dr. Stephen Mnookin said he went to lunch with Brian Winchester hours after the Aug. 5, 2016 incident involving Denise Merrell Williams…At Village Pizza off Thomasville Road, Mnookin said a nervous Winchester told him the police were “after him” and kept contacting him, warning once their divorce was final, “his wife is going to say something about this guy who died 10 or 12 or 15 years ago.” The increased pressure on Winchester as a suspect, the news of his mother’s terminal cancer, and rejection from his son, who wanted to live with his mother, Winchester’s first wife, allegedly triggered his ex-wife’s kidnapping. On August 5, 2016, Winchester snuck into his ex-wife’s car and laid in wait for her to return. When she did, he held a loaded gun against her ribs for almost an hour. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2017.
Now with Winchester behind bars, negotiating with law enforcement, it seems investigators might finally be closing in on the truth behind Mike Williams’ cold case. In late December of 2017, Mike Williams’ remains were finally found—not in Lake Seminole where he allegedly drowned and was devoured by alligators—but in northern Leon County. Armed with this new evidence, the state was finally able to secure an indictment against Denise Williams. She was arrested on May 8, 2018 at her office at Florida State University. She is officially charged with first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and accessory after the fact. Presentation of the state’s case to a grand jury resulted in jurors naming Williams as the mastermind of the insidious plot to have her husband murdered for the insurance money. Ethan Way, Williams’ attorney, addressed the public about the innocence of his client in court, “My client had absolutely nothing to do with Mike Williams’ disappearance and had absolutely nothing to do with any of the crimes that Brian Winchester committed. We will fight this until the end.” Judge Nina Ashenafi Richardson of Leon County denied Williams’ request for bail, resolving to detain her in the Leon County Detention Center. Ethan Way has filed a motion seeking bail to be heard at an impending court date later in May.
By: Kym Pasqualini, Feature Crime Writer for Lauth Investigations
On February 13, 2017, best friends Abigail “Abby” Williams, 13, and Liberty “Libby” German, 14, planned to go hiking near the beautiful area of Monon High Bridge Trail, east of their small town of Delphi, Indiana.
Libby German and Abby Williams, Best Friends
At approximately 1:45 p.m. that afternoon, a family member dropped them off at the abandoned bridge where they planned to hike. It was agreed they would meet their family back in the same location later in the afternoon. They both had the day off school, it was an unseasonably warm winter day, and Abby Abby and Libby shared a special friendship. They both loved hiking, taking photographs of flowers and trees, and adventuring the scenic trails about a mile east of their home.
Libby posted, this now haunting photo, while atop Indiana’s second highest bridge on her Snapchat at 2: 07 p.m. This was the last post anyone would see the two girls alive.
Photograph Libby posted on Snapchat of Abby walking on the Monon High Bridge, Dephi, IN.
When the girls did not show up at the agreed upon the location as planned, the family reported the girls missing to Delphi Police Department and the local sheriff. Immediately police and firefighters were dispatched to canvas the area.
Over 100 searchers responded to the area. Arial searches began utilizing the remaining daylight hours. Later the same evening, authorities began trying to “ping” the girl’s phones, with no success. The sheriff stated he felt the girl’s phones were either turned off or the batteries had gone dead.
Police searching for Abby and Libby in the area surrounding Monon High Bridge and Deer Creek trails.
At approximately midnight, the search was called off, though volunteers continued searching throughout the night. The search resumed the following morning along Deer Creek and farther out from the trail. Searchers prayed the girls had simply been lost but soon those hopes were dashed. Approximately one mile from where the two young girls vanished, searchers found two bodies on a piece of private property along Deer Creek, north of the bridge.
February 14, 2017, at approximately 1:50 p.m., Sheriff Leazenby, Delphi Police Chief Steve Mullins and Indiana State Police (ISP) representative Kim Riley held a joint press conference to announce two bodies were found during the search for Abby and Libby, stating the bodies had yet to be identified.
February 15, 2017, 2:33 p.m., authorities held another press conference and announced the bodies had been identified as Liberty German and Abigail Williams.
A community was heartbroken. Children were terrified, and parents held their children closer.
Haunting Images and Audio Found on Libby’s Phone
At the February 15th news conference, ISP proceeded to release a photo of an unidentified man walking along the Delphi Historic Trail found on the girl’s phone. Authorities announced they wanted to speak to anyone who had parked in the nearby lot or anywhere around the trail the day the girls had visited the park.
FBI names individual in photograph suspect in murder of Delphi girls.
Five months into the investigation, ISP released a composite sketch of the man on the bridge hoping someone may recognize him and make a call.
Chilling audio of the killer’s voice Libby captured on her phone was also released generating thousands of leads.
In an Indy Channel report, “Delphi Investigation: Why state police say Libby and Abby’s case isn’t cold,” Indiana State Police Superintendent Doug Carter says, “There’s a person out there that knows who did it. Not a hunch. They know who that person is,” said Carter. “They know that voice and they know those clothes. They know that posture. They know that stance and they know who murdered those two little girls in that quiet place.”
March 1, 2017, former Indianapolis Colts punter Pat McAfee and team owner Jim Irsay donate $97,000 to the reward fund. The reward is now $230,000 for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of the individual who murdered Abby and Libby.
In an ABC RTV6 report, “Delphi, Indiana: FBI seeks tips on behavioral changes to help catch Delphi killer,” the FBI makes a plea to the public to think back to Monday, February 13th, the day the Delphi teens went missing asking questions like, “Did someone you know make an excuse for missing an appointment?”
“Just think if you had an interaction with an individual who inexplicably canceled an appointment that you had together,” said Greg Massa of the FBI. “Or an individual called into work sick and canceled a social engagement. At the time, they gave what you thought would have been a plausible explanation. ‘My cell phone broke’ or ‘I had a flat tire on my car.’ In retrospect, (that) excuse no longer holds water,” Massa added.
Other behaviors might now be considered suspicious. It is often a seemingly inconsequential detail someone calls in that can break a case wide open.
“Did an individual travel unexpectedly?” Massa said. “Did they change their appearance? Did they shave their beard, cut their hair or change the color of their hair? Did they change the way they dress?”
Even behavioral changes occurring shortly after February 13, 2017:
- Someone who developed a different sleep pattern
- Started abusing drugs or alcohol
- Has become anxious or irritable
- Someone who has followed this case to an extreme
- A person who has ongoing conversations about where they were February 13th
- Someone who has visited the location where the girls were murdered
- Someone who has taken photographs around the trail and bridge
Police say don’t ever feel bad about reporting odd behavior. It could have everything to do with finding justice for two little girls brutally murdered. It could save other children from a similar and tragic outcome. In addition, if the person is innocent, it will only take a couple minutes of their time and they will never know you were the one who made the report.
A Person of Interest Dismissed
Johnson County Sheriff’s Office sent officers to Colorado to retrieve a “person of interest” in the murders of Abby and Libby.
Daniel Nations had been arrested in Colorado for threatening hikers with a hatchet on a Colorado trail. Investigators traveled to Colorado to question Nations.
Nations was wanted on an outstanding warrant in Johnson County, Indiana for failing to register as a sex offender so authorities brought him back for further questioning in the Delphi murders.
Police have not formally named Nations as a suspect stating they have no information specifically including or excluding Nations in the killings. However, ISP has since said they are no longer actively investigating Nations as a person of interest in the case.
Memories Keep the Families Going
In “Delphi Daughters: The Untold Story of Abby and Libby”, a News 6 report, Mike Patty Libby’s grandfather states, “They didn’t leave each other’s side,” about the afternoon the two girls vanished. “I don’t know what happened out there that day, whether there was a chance or an opportunity for one to break off or split, or make a break for it or whatever but you know, I look at it as two young soldiers who covered each other’s backs, two best friends, I wouldn’t leave my best friend’s side. Neither did they.”
They both loved music. Both played the Alto Saxophone in their middle school band. They loved photography and painting, and both were signed up to play softball.
Life has changed for both families. Libby is remembered as the “baker” of the family. She loved making chocolate chips cookies. Becky Patty, Libby’s grandmother said, “She was a baker. She could throw a batch of cookies together like no other.”
Libby loved using sticky notes. She would leave sticky notes on her grandmother’s car visor. One read, “I love you! Thank you for everything you do for me and Kelsie – Libby.” She would leave sticky notes all over the house, even giving her teachers sticky notes, and always showing her appreciation for everyone around her.
Libby German and best friend Abby Williams, loved and remembered by all who knew them.
In the aftermath of her murder, Libby’s class presented her grandparents with jars filled with “sticky note” messages from each child. A way of dealing with the loss for her classmates, and a reminder of how much she is missed.
Libby had dreamed of becoming a science teacher and loved finding cures and solving crimes, so much so, she took additional classes at Purdue University.
Like Libby, Arika Gibson, a friend of the pair said, “Abby also dreamed of doing something within forensics and police work.” For two amateur sleuths, clearly, the evidence the girls left on their cell phones was clues to their own murders.
Abby Williams’ grandparents, whom she called Mee-maw and Papaw, keep her belongings right where they were the day she disappeared. “We just can’t erase her from our lives, we just don’t want to.” She added, “We treasure her coat hanging on the coat hook, her shoes on the shoe rack and her bedroom just the way she left it – she may have walked out the door, but she is here with us,” said Diane Erskin, Abby’s grandmother. With tears in Abby’s mother’s eyes, Anna Williams added, “Abby smiled all the time.” Her voice to a whisper, “All the time.”
Abby’s favorite thing to say was, “Is there anything I can do to help?” Always with a joyful spirit. Anna and her daughter Abby both shared a love of photography. She loved arts and crafts even knitting hat for newborns with her Aunt Maggie. She was especially good at volleyball and had planned on starting softball with Libby in the new year. Her grandfather Cliff was so excited he drove down from Michigan to take Abby out shopping to buy all new gear.
Investigation Continues at God Speed
The search for a killer has reached national proportions. Approximately 6,000 electronic billboards in 46 states have been utilized to solicit information from the public.
Billboards with information about the Delphi murders have been placed throughout the country.
A year later, investigators have received over 30,000 tips and interviewed thousands of potential suspects.
ISP, FBI, Carroll County Sheriff and the Delphi Police Department still follow up leads and vow to solve this murder case.
Investigators have a motto, “Today is the day,” and each day at the department, the day starts out with a prayer. “As we gather together today for our work we have been assigned to, let’s pray,” as each investigator bows their head.
“Today’s the day, today is the day we are going to get closer to the end, today is the day we are going to get closer to getting justice for Abby and Libby,” said ISP First Sergeant Jerry Holeman. “We have all worked tragic cases. Nothing like this. I can’t put anything close to this case.”
Police continue to work 20 hours days, with sleepless nights, with one goal in mind. A team of hundreds of investigators continue to work the case, tracking down thousands of leads. Holeman admits it has been rough on everyone involved. Investigations can become a roller coaster ride with hopeful leads and dashed hopes when those leads are eliminated. When it gets tough, Holeman goes back to the saying, “Today is the day.”
Indiana State Police Sgt. Holeman interviewed by Alexis McAdams. Photo courtesy Alexis McAdams TV.
“I need to be here for Abby and Libby,” says Holeman, “Because I am going to find who did this and we are going to hold them responsible for their actions.”
When Anna Williams was asked what justice will look like for her, “Justice will be that deep breath we get to take when my friend’s children are sleeping in their beds again. When people don’t worry about their children playing outside.” Williams continued, “Justice is in law enforcement. We believe in law enforcement. We believe in the FBI and everyone else that has worked on this case. That’s where justice will come from.”
Unsolved homicide posters still hang in local company’s windows. The community stands united behind Libby and Abby’s families and law enforcement still working the case.
Source: Facebook Light Up for Abby and Libby.
Orange bulbs light up the entire town of Delphi. The community has committed to ensuring the golden glow lights the town until the killer of Abby and Libby is caught and brought to justice.
If you have any information about the murders of Abby Williams and Libby German, please call 844-459-5786 or ABBYANDLIBBYTIP@CACOSHRF.COM.
Murder of Natalie Bollinger, Leaves Clues on Facebook
Natalie Marie Bollinger, 19, was reported missing on Thursday, December 28, 2017. She had last been seen leaving her Broomfield, Colorado residence and reported missing when her family had not heard from her later in the day.
On Friday, December 29, 2017, a body was discovered in a wooded area located at 11600 Riverdale Road on the property of McIntosh Dairy farm in Adams County. By Tuesday, January 2, 2018, authorities identified the body as Bollinger. Cause of death has not been released due to the ongoing investigation.
About two weeks prior to Bollinger’s death, she had made several posts on Facebook about a man who had been harassing her and identified him as Shawn Schwartz.
On her Facebook status, she indicated she had met Schwartz about two years ago, gave him rides and went on to explain recent events.
“He drove across the country to see me . . slept behind my work for weeks. When I told him, I didn’t want to see him anymore, he sent me hundreds of texts and calls. He parked his car in front of my house, blocking Military Highway for hours . . . laying on his horn. . he was arrested”, she wrote. “Since then, I’ve asked him to leave me alone . . and he won’t.”
Bollinger goes on to explain Schwartz was harassing family and friends and slandering her on FB, asking others to ignore him.
“Please ignore him . . . it only encourages him when he gets a response (Much like a child). He is mentally ill, and I am trying to fix this,” wrote Bollinger.
On December 22, 2017, Bollinger was granted a “restraining order” against Schwartz and posted she finally felt safe. A haunting reminder that , in face, she was not.
Ramblings of a disturbed individual
According to his Facebook profile, Schwartz attended Chappell High School in Chappell, Nebraska. He also boasts he is “blacksmith” and makes his own hammers, anvils, mallets, and axes. Not much is known about his past.
However, Schwartz has had his own very active presence on Facebook and YouTube. Considering Bollinger’s murder, many now find his ramblings and videos deeply disturbing.
During the time Bollinger was missing, Schwartz posted on Facebook, asking people to help search for his friend (Bollinger).
According to a 9News report, in September, Schwartz posted a status saying, “Natalie, I wanted only the best for you. Now all I want is for you to go through the hell I have lived. I want to blow my head off in front of you so close you can feel the warm spatter of my blood on your face.”
According to Bollinger’s posts on Facebook, she indicates Schwartz used multiple alias Facebook accounts to harass her.
The information he posted there is not only disturbing, it may be downright “telling.”
Schwartz called a ‘person of interest’ in Natalie Bollinger Murder
In a press conference, Adams County Sheriff Mike McIntosh said, “There is a 26-hour time period that is missing where we don’t have anyone talking to her through social media or by text, or in person or on the telephone. That’s a critical time we are looking at.”
McIntosh said detectives have followed leads gathered from social media but cautioned social media can also lead to false conclusions. Clearly, police have proceeded carefully.
Without mentioning Schwartz by name, when asked by reporters about the man who Bollinger had obtained a restraining order, McIntosh only said, “We have talked to him, but we are not ready to call anyone a suspect, but it’s certainly a part of our investigation.
Schwartz had initially been questioned by authorities when Bollinger was still missing, and one post might have quickly drawn authority’s attention. According to Bollinger’s own Facebook posts, Schwartz used aliases. Posting as a possible alias of “Joanna Taylor,” it is believed Schwartz is posting about himself, referring to what a nice man he is, saying Bollinger may be dead but people need to stop blaming him.
Schwartz also confirmed he was questioned by authorities, posting on his Facebook page, Schwartz talked about his time with investigators. He said he provided them his cell phone, computer, and a DNA sample, and ultimately he was let go. He did not specify if it was the Bollinger Police or Adams County sheriff authorities that questioned him.
However, McIntosh said, “We have talked to him again, and again, we are not ready to call anybody a suspect, but it’s certainly a piece of our investigation, a piece of our timeline.”
Schwartz made a public Facebook post called, “Why I am a person of interest and not a suspect.”
The fact is, until authorities say otherwise, as compelling as his statements and behavior has been, Schwartz remains only a “person of interest” and not named an official suspect.
Schwartz arrested on unrelated charges
As the Bollinger death investigation continues, Schwartz was booked into Boulder County jail on Saturday, January 6, 2018, on unrelated charges.
According to jail records, Schwartz was charged with second-degree assault, obstructing a police officer and resisting arrest when police were conducting a welfare check.
According to an arrest affidavit, Broomfield police were monitoring Schwartz’s Facebook page and observed some potentially suicidal references. Boulder police found Schwartz at St. John’s Episcopal Church at 1419 Pine Street, in Boulder.
According to officers, Schwartz told them he missed “his friend” Bollinger and wanted to talk to her but could not because she was dead.
Police convinced Schwartz to accompany them to Boulder Community Healths Foothills Hospital, but once there he began screaming at staff, trying to leave the room and not listening to staff instructions.
At that point, Schwartz began kicking and biting officers who then arrested him and transported him to the jail where he was later released on a $5,000 personal recognizance bond.
While Schwartz remains a compelling “person of interest” in the murder of Bollinger, he remains just that, a lead.
Family just wants justice for Natalie
While Bollinger was still missing, like other families of missing persons, the family used Facebook to search for her, distributing photographs and information. In addition, Natalie’s mother confronted Schwartz in a post that was followed by a disrespectful and deeply disturbing response.
To add insult to injury, on January 15, 2018, Schwartz made a post on Facebook stating, “How can you, her family, who she should have been able to trust, have failed her so badly? She did what you wanted. Give her back.”
Natalie’s family is not only dealing with the trauma of losing their daughter to homicide, they are victims of an ongoing online assault by someone who threatened their daughter’s life. A person she feared.
Now dealing with a parent’s worst nightmare, understandably the family is quiet. However, they did release a statement through Adams County sheriff McIntosh.
“Our family has been deeply devastated by this loss and cannot fully express how much we miss our beautiful Natalie,” wrote Ted Bollinger, Natalie’s father. “Our hearts are absolutely broken.”