Florida authorities say man missing since 2000 was murdered

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — A 17-year-old missing person's case is now considered a homicide after authorities found the man's remains, investigators said Wednesday.

The discovery of Mike Williams' remains happened the day after his best friend was sentenced to 20-years in prison for kidnapping Williams' widow, but authorities aren't saying yet who they think was involved in the killing.

Williams was 31 when he disappeared in December 2000 after he purportedly went duck hunting at a lake near Tallahassee. His case has been considered suspicious for years, and the Tallahassee Democrat has extensively covered the mystery.

Williams' 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 was later debunked. His widow, Denise Williams, petitioned to have him declared dead. Shortly afterward that was granted, she married Brian Winchester, Mike Williams' one-time best friend and the man who sold him a $1 million life insurance policy six months before he disappeared.

The marriage between Winchester and Williams didn't last, and last year Winchester was charged with kidnapping Denise Williams at gunpoint. He pleaded no contest, and on Tuesday was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which took over the investigation into Williams' disappearance in 2004, said it was able to find Williams' remains after receiving "new information."

"Seventeen years did not hide how Mike Williams died," said agent Mark Perez. "Forensic analysis concluded Mike Williams was, in fact, murdered."

Perez was tightlipped about the investigation and wouldn't say who told authorities where to find the remains or specifically how they know he was killed. Nor would he talk about how the timing of the discovery. He said he doesn't want to make public any information that would only be known by people involved in the killing.

"I cannot, and will not those questions," he said. "While this case is 17 years old, it just recently turned into a homicide investigation. I can tell you that we are currently conducting interviews and following leads. This case is moving forward."

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