Tiny But Mighty

Reporter’s Notebook

Cheryl Williams had been waiting 18 years for her day in court.

If it had just happened a little sooner, she would have been able to walk in. Instead, she had to be wheeled in. 50 years of raising other people’s babies and hoisting them on her hips have left her body weak.

Miss Cheryl was wheeled up to the witness stand, tucked in, and microphone pulled down toward her. She’s so petite that all the jury could see was her head and signature white pigtails skimming the stand.

She looked more tired than she did 2 years ago when we first met. Her son Mike Williams disappeared during a duck hunting trip in December 2000. 16 years later she was still trying to pressure the cops to take his case more seriously, and open a criminal investigation. I’d been assigned to cover the cold case for Crime Watch Daily.

As it turns out, my reporting led to a cascade of events. Nothing like banging on a few doors to upset things. A few months later Mike’s body was discovered buried in a swamp, and his “widow” and his best friend were arrested.

Brian Winchester, his best buddy growing up, admitted to killing Mike so he and Mike’s wife, Denise Williams, could collect 1.7 million dollars in life insurance and live happily every after—without Mike. Denise denies any involvement, but Brian Winchester admitted everything in exchange for full immunity. Denise Williams is the only one on trial for murder.

Which brings us back to the tiny but mighty Cheryl Williams on the witness stand. Miss Cheryl told the jury how Denise threatened her. Apparently Denise didn’t want any publicity to help find her missing husband, and she sure as hell did not want a crimal investigation into his disappearance. Miss Cheryl paid a heavy price. Denise allegedly threaten to without access to Mike’s daughter, Cheryl’s granddaughter. Miss Cheryl never saw her granddaughter again, and to this day they are estranged.

The jury didn’t like hearing that. Many jurors shook their heads in disgust. It may not be a crime to withhold someone’s grandchild, but in the court of Life —this was surely a sin. Denise’s attorneys argued that the child was kept away so she wouldn’t be confused by Miss Cheryl’s unrealistic belief Mike could still be alive ( remember they just found his body in 2017).

But Denise missed the point. To be a mother is to believe against all odds.

Denise also underestimated the love of a mother. Miss Cheryl never gave up and because she stood on street corners with homemade signs and paid for billboards and wrote thousands of letters pleading to help find her son…ultimately Mike Williams was found. The swampy roads of Tallahassee led right back to Mike’s best friend and Mike’s wife. Funny how that turned out.

And so Miss Cheryl got her day in court in more ways than one. As Miss Cheryl was wheeled out, she glared at the defendant, and stared her down, until Denise caved and looked away.

And that my friends is just a tiny bit of justice.

At the time this blog was posted Denise Williams was still on trial for murder.