EVIL AT
LAKE SEMINOLE

The Shocking True Story Surrounding the Disappearance of Mike Williams

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The crisp, predawn hours of December 16, 2000, began much as they had many Saturdays for avid duck hunter Mike Williams—on Lake Seminole, where he’d go to relax after a stressful workweek. The Florida State grad was juggling fatherhood with a thriving real estate appraisal career. And that very evening? He and his high school sweetheart, Denise, planned to celebrate their sixth wedding anniversary.

But Mike Williams never returned home.

When an intense search of the lake’s marshy waters turned up only his hunting boat and a camouflage hat, investigators reached the morbid conclusion he’d fallen overboard and drowned, his body eaten by alligators. 

Nearly two decades passed before the dark secrets hidden at Lake Seminole—and elsewhere—were finally revealed.EVIL AT LAKE SEMINOLE is a diabolical tale of betrayal, greed, and deception—and of a courageous mother who devoted her life and savings to uncovering the truth of what really happened to her son.

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People

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Investigation

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Courtroom

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Why I wrote this book

There are many types of true crime books.  Some seek to analyze the psyche of serial killers like Ted Bundy.  Others sensationalize vicious murders, choosing to focus on the depravity and brutality of killers like Jeffrey Dahmer.  All of these books--and there are many good ones--certainly have their place.  I leave it to others to write them.

 

As a divorce lawyer, the slice of the true crime genre that appeals most to me is the one which focuses on romantic relationships that, for one reason or another, skid off the train tracks to the point that murder--rather than divorce--becomes the answer.  In many of these cases, like the two I have written about, the murder seemingly came out of the blue, with no history of prior domestic violence.  In other words, the would-be killers were able to control and keep at bay their feelings toward their spouses until the very end.  When they snapped.  And killed.  That is the type of murder that fascinates me the most.  And the one which I have chosen to write my first two books about.

 

Just as I ask my new domestic clients in an initial consultation to retrace their relationships from their earliest days, it is often fascinating to rewind a murder story to the earliest days of the relationship between the victim and killer(s).  And then to proceed slowly through the couple's lives to learn how the seeds of murder were first planted.  That is particularly true in this case.

EVIL AT LAKE SEMINOLE is a story about childhood friends and sweethearts, all of whom attended a small Christian school.  Those who knew them then--and who attended their weddings and baby showers--could never have imagined the unexpected ways in which these relationships would eventually intertwine, unravel, and, ultimately, explode.  That is one of many unique and fascinating aspects to this story I found so compelling.

Of course, the search at Lake Seminole, and length of time it took to figure out what actually happened, is another compelling feature of this case.  As is the sheer grit and perseverance of Cheryl Williams, the true heroine of this story.  Usually it is someone from law enforcement whose perseverance holds a true crime story like this together and makes it compelling.  Not so here.  That was nearly exclusively Cheryl Williams' role.

But at bottom, why I wrote this book is no different from why I wrote MURDER ON BIRCHLEAF DRIVE and hopefully will write several more.  From my perspective, a true crime book is always foremost about the victim of a heinous crime.  A true crime story can only be as powerful as the victim's own story.  And the more I dug into the life of Mike Williams, the more convinced I became that his was a story that needed to be told.  Of a life very well lived that touched so many others.  A life that should be remembered and glorified far more than the despicable crime that violently snatched it away.

Mike Williams led a life worth remembering and emulating.  It was a true labor of love to tell his story.

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Why I narrated this book

For virtually my entire adult life, I've been told---by friends and strangers alike---that my voice "belongs on radio."  My kids roll their their eyes every time they hear another person we meet say something about my voice.  

For my first book, MURDER ON BIRCHLEAF DRIVE, my publisher allowed me to listen to auditions of narrators for the Audible version before finally selecting the ultimate narrator.  During that entire process, it never dawned on me that I could narrate my own book.  For some reason, I had come to believe that book narrators have a special set of skills I couldn't possibly possess.
But when I appeared for readings of MURDER ON BIRCHLEAF DRIVE, I could tell I was making a connection with audiences.  Several attendees even told me that if I wrote another book, I should narrate it.  That was my "light bulb" moment.
It made perfect sense to me.  I knew who these characters I was writing about were.  I had watched countless hours of courtroom video, had interviewed some of the characters at length, and knew how their voices sounded and how they conveyed their emotions--far better than any professional narrator would.
Long before I completed the manuscript for EVIL AT LAKE SEMINOLE, I told my publisher that I wanted to narrate the Audible version.  And not long after I submitted the manuscript, I began learning about and acquiring the hardware and software I needed to create my studio, about sound editing and the technical requirements for producing acceptable sound files, and I was off to the races.
My wife's closet became my sound studio (if you squint you can make out some of her clothing in the picture above).  For five weeks, during the early part of the global pandemic and stay-at-home orders, I read through a "pop filter" into a high-quality mic, my Surface laptop recording every word into Audacity sound editing software.  For each chapter recorded, I would then have to re-listen, remove mistakes, change spacing, and use Audacity to compress and alter the sound waves to conform to Audible requirements.  And then listen once more for safe measure.
The finished product is right at 13.75 hours.  Yet the work I had to put in to get there was many times that--likely as many as 150 hours in all.  Was it worth it?  I hope so.  Audible listeners--with their discerning preferences--will ultimately answer that question.  Indeed, my very first Audible review was entitled "horrible narrator," making me question the wisdom of my decision to narrate the book (and piercing my ego just a bit).  But now with 20 reviews as I write this on July 5, 2020, it appears that first reviewer was an outlier.  I hope that will remain the case.  And hope very much that Audible listeners feel the emotion I felt not only as I wrote the words, but expressed them with my voice.