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Widow of Florida man who vanished in 2000 arrested for murder

Denise Williams

WCTV

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida authorities have arrested the widow of a man who was reported missing in 2000 and whose remains were found five months ago. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement arrested Denise Williams on Tuesday after a grand jury indicted her for first-degree murder in the death of Mike Williams.

State attorney Jack Campbell said Denise Williams also faces a count of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and a count of being an accessory after the fact. Williams was booked into Leon County jail and is being held without bail.

FDLE agent Mark Perez said in a statement that agents and analysts have logged over 3,000 hours on the case since taking it over in 2004.

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Mike Williams

WCTV

Mike Williams disappeared in December 2000 after he had supposedly gone duck hunting alone on a lake near Tallahassee. The 31-year old's body wasn't found after an extensive search in and around Lake Seminole. One theory at the time was that he drowned and was eaten by alligators, but that theory was later debunked.

The case has been considered suspicious for years and has been covered extensively by the Tallahassee Democrat. Williams' best friend, Brian Winchester, helped him write a $1 million insurance policy six months before he disappeared. Five years later, Winchester married Williams' widow, Denise.

Last year Winchester was charged with kidnapping Denise Williams at gunpoint. He pleaded no contest and was sentenced to 20 years in prison. FDLE announced it had discovered Mike Williams' body the day after Winchester was sentenced.

Authorities said they were able to find Williams' remains after receiving "new information." His death was reportedly ruled a homicide.

The indictment unsealed Tuesday night says Denise Williams conspired with Winchester to kill Mike Williams and indicates Mike Williams was shot and killed in Jackson County, reports CBS affiliate WCTV.

In a statement released to WCTV Wednesday, Florida's chief financial officer Jimmy Patronis said he is directing his division to investigate "whether or not [Williams] death was part of a scheme to fraudulently profit from his life insurance policies."

Patronis asked for anyone with information to come forward.

Denise Williams' attorney Ethan Way told the station she denies the charges.

"I am surprised the grand jury indicted her," said Denise Williams' attorney Ethan Way. "There's been a drum beat against her for years, but she has nothing to do with Mike Williams' death. We will be mounting a vigorous defense and we are going to fight this."

Way told the station it's "very coincidental" the remains were found after Winchester was sentenced and now Denise Williams is being indicted.

"Let's not forget she is the victim of a kidnapping," Way said.

Brian Winchester's attorney Tim Jansen would not comment on whether Winchester was involved in the alleged murder plot, the station reports.

"We don't anticipate him being charged," Jansen told the station. "If he's subpoenaed or granted immunity, he will cooperate and testify truthfully at any hearing."

The state attorney says currently no one else is charged in Williams' murder and "they will continue to follow the evidence."