By: Julie Montanaro WCTV Eyewitness News
December 21, 2017
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- Mike Williams' mother said she's always held out hope that her son was alive. She's devastated by confirmation that he was murdered.
"People say I should be happy, but I'm not," Cheryl Williams said Thursday afternoon. "I honestly wasn't looking for a body. I was looking for Mike to come home."
"I've always had hope... I don't know that I could have made it all these years without it, " Williams said. She's worked diligently over the past 17 years to keep the case in the public eye in hopes the mystery of her son's disappearance would be solved.
"I've always known Mike was not in that lake. He wasn't eaten by an alligator," Williams said. "This is vindication for me."
Williams' voice faltered as she realized "he's been five miles away from me this whole time."
"Mike was a good person. He didn't deserve this," Cheryl Williams said. "Now I have to put everyone involved in Mike's murder in prison. That's my next job."
By: Lanetra Bennett I WCTV Eyewitness News
December 21, 2017
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- Wednesday, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement announced that Mike Williams' remains had been found and that he'd been murdered.
We're now learning new details. Multiple sources tell WCTV the remains were discovered at the dead end of Gardner Road. That's off Meridian Road in Leon County.
It's more than 50 miles from the lake front authorities searched years ago.
Williams disappeared December 16, 2000. He left his home in Tallahassee to go duck hunting on Lake Seminole in Jackson County. He never came home. He was 31 years old.
The new developments are bringing up many memories and emotions for many people, especially those who knew Williams well.
"We got a light, and there was hope, and there was optimism that we would find closure to Mike's disappearance," said Clay Ketcham.
Ketcham was Williams' boss at Ketcham Realty and Appraisal Group. Williams worked there starting at age 18, up until his disappearance.
Mr. and Mrs. Ketcham placed a candle in Williams' office window when he disappeared. It stayed there for one year.
Seventeen years later, the candle's back, now that Williams remains have been found.
However, that light is dimmed in a sense for Ketcham, now knowing that Williams was murdered.
"I've never experienced these kinds of emotions. It is on one end, very excited. On the other hand, I'm very sad. Murder is a horrible thing. For my friend to have been killed like that," he said.
Ketcham is also angered by news of Williams remains being found on Gardner Road--not where search crews scoured, and where Williams' truck and boat had been found the day after the disappearance.
"Then the flood of emotions of why were we out at Lake Seminole? Not only was it a horrendous crime of murder, but then the deception to go and lead the investigators and everybody into thinking it was an accident, when there was never any accident." Ketcham said.
Loved ones are now waiting on justice.
"Especially when I thought we'd never know the end of the story. Then we have hope that we will."
Investigators say they hope to have an arrest soon.
They are still asking anyone from the public with any information to call the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
There are still a lot of question to be answered in this case. What or who led authorities to the discovery site? Do they have any suspects? How was Williams killed?
Authorities say they're not sharing that information yet to try to protect the integrity of the investigation.
By: Lanetra Bennett I WCTV Eyewitness News
December 20, 2017
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- "We know what happened to Mike Williams. He was murdered."
F.D.L.E. Special Agent Mark Perez made that announcement during a press conference Wednesday afternoon.
He said authorities notified Williams' family the morning of.
Williams went missing December 16, 2000. The 31-year-old left his home in Tallahassee to go duck hunting on Lake Seminole in Jackson County, and never returned.
Perez said, "After receiving new information, FDLE's crime scene unit and special agents spent days conducting an extensive search in an undisclosed location. That search led to the recovery of human remains."
This announcement came one day after Williams' widow, Denise, was in court testifying against her estranged husband. Brian Winchester was sentenced Tuesday to 20 years in prison for kidnapping her at gunpoint.
When asked if there is any correlation between Winchester's sentencing and Williams' remains being found, Perez answered, "The only correlation we felt it necessary just to allow - that was a separate investigation. We were letting that run its separate course. We thought it appropriate to let that run its course before we made the notification today."
Williams' boat was found the day after he went missing.
"Seventeen years did not hide how Mike Williams died," Perez said.
Agents will not say at this time how Williams was killed, who did it or why.
John Fuchs with the State Attorney's Office said, "In cases I have prosecuted, I often tell the victims and the victims' family that the wheels of justice sometimes turn slowly. But, they do turn. I cannot think of a more perfect example than this case."
"Our focus has shifted to bringing those responsible for his death to justice. We will not stop until that is done," Perez said.
Authorities will not say yet where Williams' remains were found or when they were found, if there are any suspects and where they got the information that led them to Williams' remains.
Perez says he hopes for an arrest in the near future, but doesn't have a timeline.
The State Attorney's Office has said it's standing ready to prosecute whoever is responsible.
Anyone with any information regarding the case is asked to call the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Williams' family released the following statement to WCTV. It reads, in full:
"Part one is now complete, and that's finding Mike's remains. Now, it's time for part two, and that's making sure that all responsible parties are held accountable and that Mike gets the justice he deserves."
By: WCTV Eyewitness News
December 20, 2017
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- The Florida Department of Law Enforcement says a man who went missing 17 years ago this month was murdered, and his remains have been found.
FDLE agents say the discovery came after new information surfaced in the case of Mike Williams, who disappeared in December 2000.
“After years, we finally got the break we needed,” Tallahassee Special Agent in Charge Mark Perez said.
That break in the case lead investigators to conduct an extensive search at an undisclosed location. Sources tell WCTV that location is in Leon County.
Williams, a 31-year-old real estate appraiser, left Tallahassee on December 16, 2000 to spend the morning duck hunting on Lake Seminole in Jackson County near the Georgia state line. He never returned.
Initially it was ruled an accidental drowning case. But his body was never recovered. FDLE opened a criminal investigation three years later.
FDLE says forensics testing on the newly discovered remains shows Williams was murdered.
"Seventeen years did not hide how Mike Williams died and our focus has shifted from a missing person case to a homicide investigation,” said Perez.
But the agency is not commenting on how Williams was killed, where the new information on the case came from, or if there are any suspects.
Agents say they are now working on bringing those responsible to justice.
“We are currently conducting interviews and following leads. The case is moving forward,” said Perez.
He noted investigators have logged more than 3,000 hours on the case.
The revelations come one day after Williams' friend, Brian Winchester, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for kidnapping his estranged wife, Denise Winchester, at gunpoint in 2016.
Denise Winchester is Mike Williams' widow.
Click on the video player below to watch the complete FDLE press conference: