The making of the Keller black widow: Did Michele Williams get away with murder?
Editor’s note: Initially charged with murder, North Texas resident Michele Williams, now 44, pled guilty October 9 to deadly conduct and tampering with evidence in the 2011 death of her husband, Greg Williams. She will be sentenced to 18 years in prison in April 2014, after she gives birth to twins. This story relies on police documents, Texas state records, and interviews with family and friends of Michele and Greg Williams. Some names have been changed by request.
When Michele Williams dialed 911, the lies came quickly and easily. Playing the part of hysterical wife, she screamed through tears, “My husband was shot. Somebody was in the house.”
The call came in at 4:40 am on October 13, 2011, and Keller police rushed to the Williams’ lavish home in the Twin Lakes subdivision. Michele met them in the front yard, spouting the same story about an intruder. Inside the home, detectives found the television on full blast and a child asleep on the sofa.
The gated community was soon swarming with cop cars, detectives and forensic analysts. The corner lot was cordoned off with crime scene tape, and police searched every inch of the nearly 5,000-square-foot home.
Michele, fully dressed with her hair fixed, was behaving oddly. For starters, she told police she’d been asleep, but her clothes and demeanor didn’t seem it. “Women do not typically sleep in their bra,” one detective noted in his report. Another catalogued Michele’s emotional state. “She was not crying. She was screaming.”
After a few hours of police questioning, Michele’s implausible intruder story began to fall apart.
Michele was taken to the Keller police station for questioning, and after a few hours, her implausible story began to fall apart. Her husband, Greg Williams, had been shot in the head while lying in bed. The .45-caliber gun purportedly used by an intruder was found near the back door next to a wrench.
Both weapons were clean of fingerprints. There was no sign of forced entry, and the $20,000 the couple kept in the house hadn’t been touched.
Michele claimed an intruder dressed in black smacked her in the head with the wrench before shooting Greg in the right temple and fleeing out the back door. The couple’s 4-year-old daughter had slept through the entire ordeal. Michele was the sole witness to the crime.
A neighbor’s security camera footage showed only one car entering the gated subdivision in the hours surrounding the murder. Police confirmed the vehicle belonged to a newspaper delivery person.
With her first yarn unraveled, Michele needed to switch spools. After two hours of questioning, the Keller police officer interrogating Michele provided her with a new cover story.
The officer told her about a case where a husband killed himself, and the wife cleaned up to the scene in order to collect on a life insurance policy.
“If there was something that happened that was unintentional, or if something happened and you covered it up, please tell me now,” the officer said. “[It’s] either self-inflicted and you covered it up or potential you may be involved.”
Caught between a scenario in which she was a cold-blooded murderer or one that painted her as a frantic wife and mother acting impulsively, Michele chose the latter.
“He did it,” she said, with her head in her hands. Ever the charmer, Michele even congratulated the detective on cracking the case. “I would not have made it through the day,” she said. “You won.”
Michele didn’t have an explanation as to why a successful businessman and devoted father would commit suicide, but now she could explain her own behavior.
Michele didn’t have an explanation as to why a successful businessman and devoted father would commit suicide, but now she could explain her own behavior. Claiming that she wanted to spare their young daughter from the painful truth, Michele told police she cleaned the gun and Greg’s hands before frantically staging a home break-in and calling 911.
That explanation, however flawed, provided a reason why the house was devoid of forensic evidence. Michele admitted she wiped down the crime scene with bleach and — to really sell her story to their sleeping child — hit herself in the face with a wrench.
Although the suicide claim was flimsy, Keller police struggled to find a motive for murder. There’s only one recorded instance of police asking Michele if she was having an affair. It occurred less than an hour into her interrogation, and she skillfully dodged the question.
“No issues with you and him? No affairs?” the officer asked. Michele responded, “We are [together] almost 99 percent of the time. We are side by side. We work together on everything.”
From the start, Keller police doubted Michele’s credibility. But without any physical evidence to tie her to the murder, she was arrested for filing a false police report and allowed to go home.
According to sources close to Michele, she didn’t spend the days following her husband’s death in mourning. She went to her sister’s house around 5 pm the day of the murder and never mentioned Greg’s name.
“Michele was crying on and off, but it didn’t seem genuine,” her sister, Laura Cusick, said in a police interview.
Michele spent the night there and awoke the next morning with a big appetite. Laura says Michele came into the kitchen about 8:30 am, all dressed up, with her hair fixed and makeup on. “She said she wanted to go to IHOP for breakfast,” Laura told police. “I found it odd.”
After a leisurely breakfast, Michele met with her lawyers and wrote an $18,000 check from Greg’s business account to attorney Kenneth Wincorn. Then she hopped in Greg’s BMW and took her children on a week-long vacation at Great Wolf Lodge in Grapevine. She was later spotted at sports bars and shopping for adult Halloween costumes.
With Greg dead, Michele began liquidating his assets. She sold Blueberries, the frozen yogurt shop she’d begged him to buy her, for $50,000 on Craigslist. She also sold the client list from his computer company, DFW IT Pro, for $8,000.
But time was running out on Michele’s holiday. The Tarrant County medical examiner’s office ruled Greg’s death a homicide on November 3.
The autopsy was not consistent with a self-inflicted wound and instead proved someone shot Greg from a distance of 12 to 18 inches. The toxicology report determined Greg had a large dose of Diphenhydramine (a sedative common in sleeping pills) in his system at the time of his death.
The couple’s 4-year-old daughter — who inexplicably slept through the television blaring, a gun being fired and police storming the house — was never tested for a sleeping agent. Child Protective Services placed her in a family friend’s home in the days following her dad’s death, and she remains in their care now.
Keller police continued to comb the Williams’ home, hoping to find a shred of evidence Michele had overlooked in her cleaning frenzy. But she wasn’t one to get caught in a lie. By the time she met Greg, she’d already had a lot of practice.
* * *
Sex, lies and audiotape
Like Michele, Brandon Dixon grew up in Hurst. He went to elementary, middle and high school with Michele and her sister, Laura.
Michele’s father worked odd jobs in construction and as a handy man. But Brandon likens his real job to a con man.
“He would get hurt on purpose and try to sue the company,” Brandon says. “He was caught on camera jumping in front of car and then trying to say it was their fault.”
In a small town like Hurst, news travels fast. And even though Michele’s father never went through with filing a lawsuit, his failed exploits were well-known.
“Michele is very manipulative, and she is very good at it. She can make you believe a fence post talks,” ex-husband Brandon Dixon says.
“Lies, cheating and manipulation, that was normal for her,” Brandon says. “It has been nonstop for Michele her whole life.”
Michele, a petite brunette with an athletic build, developed a taste for younger men as a student at LD Bell High School. She was pregnant by age 15. At 17, Michele dropped out of school and married her first husband, 16-year-old Kenneth O’Brien.
Ken joined the military, and the couple moved around a lot. The marriage fell apart while her husband was stationed in Germany, and Michele returned to Hurst with three young children in tow.
Brandon was in his 20s, and reconnecting with Michele after so many years felt magical.
“I was head over heels in love with this girl and her kids,” Brandon says. “I was unaware of a lot of things that were happening until after the fact.”
Brandon’s first clue that his new girlfriend wasn’t who she said she was came right before the couple planned to marry. Michele revealed she was still married to her first husband.
Brandon was furious that she’d lied about being divorced, but Michele insisted she had a good reason. Her husband had been abusive and cheated on her. She was embarrassed to tell the truth and scared to send him divorce papers.
“The real truth is that she was the one cheating on him, and there was no abuse, ever,” Brandon says. “She is very manipulative, and she is very good at it. She can make you believe a fence post talks.”
Unfortunately, Brandon didn’t find that out until after his own marriage was in shambles.
Brandon and Michele married in 1994, and things went well at first. Michele worked as a dental assistant, and Brandon owned his own IT company. Michele changed jobs a lot, but Brandon didn’t think much of it. She also brought home all sorts of dental equipment and supplies.
“To say the least, I probably had the cleanest teeth in town,” Brandon says.
“Michele did not like living paycheck to paycheck,” said her former common law husband, John, in a police interview. “She wanted a better life.”
Eventually, Brandon says Michele was fired for stealing and took a night job in telemarketing. “She started coming home with tons of cash,” Brandon says, “and I immediately got suspicious.”
Brandon asked Michele for her work number in case he or the kids needed to get in touch with her. “She was dumb enough that she gave me a real number, and when I called, I found out it was a topless bar. I walked in there and I said, ‘You’ve got five minutes to get your clothes on and get out of here, or you’re coming home to an empty house.’”
Michele quit on the spot, but Brandon’s trust issues with his wife were just beginning. Acting on neighbors’ reports that cars frequented the house while he was at work, Brandon installed an audio recorder. In the span of one day, he says he heard Michele having affairs with two different men.
“She couldn’t deny it. I had it on tape,” Brandon says.
After Brandon confronted her, he demanded a divorce. Michele was furious, and while Brandon was at work, she sought revenge.
“I had a really nice saltwater fish tank, with thousands of dollars worth of fish in it,” Brandon says. “She poured Comet in it and killed everything.”
But Michele didn’t stop there. Brandon also had a dog, a healthy Dalmatian mix named Domino. In what was perhaps her first experience drugging and killing a living being — Brandon believes she drugged the dog to make it seem sick — Michele had Domino put to sleep.
“If you are shocked at this point, we have only scratched the surface,” Brandon says. “This has been a nightmare that has not stopped. You cannot get this girl gone.”
Although abominable, what Michele did to Brandon Dixon pales in comparison to her adventures with other men. John Paul Ray, also a student at L.D. Bell High School in Hurst, is the father of Michele’s first child.
Instead of revealing this information to John, she told Kenneth O’Brien the baby was his. The couple got married, and Ken joined the military to support his new family.
Two more kids and five years later, their marriage fell apart. But Michele kept the ruse alive for 13 years. John told police that Kenneth paid child support from ages 5 to 18 and was unaware he was not the father.
Once Brandon and Michele divorced, she moved in with John, and the two had a common law marriage for eight years. Their relationship ended abruptly when Michele met Greg Williams.
Suspicious that Michele might be cheating, John searched her purse for signs. He found receipts for a dog collar, whipped cream and cherries, along with a to-do list that mentioned buying a birthday card for someone named Greg.
With her affair confirmed, John moved out and left most of his possessions behind. When he returned to retrieve them, John found Michele running a garage sale, selling off his tools and other personal effects.
“Michele did not like living paycheck to paycheck,” John said in a police interview. “She wanted a better life.”
* * *
Good life gone wrong
Before his death, Greg Williams was married three times. He had two daughters, one with his first wife, Kathy, and one with Michele. Greg and Kathy remained on good terms, even though he’d remarried twice. The tension between Michele and Kathy, however, was palpable even before the murder.
“I knew from day one she was nothing but trouble,” Kathy Williams says. “She was fake, and she lied all the time.”
When Kathy was married to Greg, he had just started his computer company, DFW IT Pro. He spent a lot of time at the office, building the business from the ground up. By the time Greg met Michele, however, he was already living the good life. He paid for her to get breast implants, and the couple had a maid and a nanny.
Despite a picturesque suburban home and a precocious toddler, Greg and Michele were not the all-American couple. The pair met through an online community for bondage, domination, sadism and masochism, and their wild house parties led to multiple complaints with the Twin Lakes homeowners association.
“I knew from day one she was nothing but trouble,” says Kathy Williams, ex-wife of Michele’s deceased husband, Greg. “She was fake, and she lied all the time.”
Nevertheless, the couple seemed committed to making their third marriage work. They hosted birthday parties for their children from other marriages at their Keller home, and Michele’s three adult children held barbecues and swimming parties there. Her oldest son often invited his friend, Gene Wallis, to the house. Trim, young and fit, Wallis was a personal trainer and body builder.
“I’d see him at the house when I went to pick my daughter up from their parties,” Kathy says. “He was always there.”
Another fixture at Greg and Michele’s parties was his attorney and friend Kenneth Wincorn. “He was close with Greg,” Kathy says. “He came over for holiday parties at Christmas and Thanksgiving.”
Wincorn says he knew Greg — and later Michele — through DFW IT Pro, and the parties he attended at their home were for company clients.
Taylor, Greg and Kathy’s daughter, was also included in the cast of characters who frequented the Williams’ Keller home. At first, Michele was nice to Taylor.
“We used to go out shopping all the time, and we’d go to a movie afterward,” Taylor, now 16, recalls. Taylor even joined Michele, Greg and their daughter on a cruise to Mexico.
Since Greg and Kathy’s divorce in 2003, the couple had agreed to share custody of Taylor. Kenneth Wincorn’s firm drew up the papers. Kathy says there was no formal child support arrangement.
“There didn’t need to be,” Kathy says. “I knew Greg would take care of his responsibilities. He was that kind of man.”
As time went on, Michele began to grow increasingly jealous of Greg’s relationship with Kathy and Taylor. During the summer of 2010, Taylor was spending weekdays with her dad and weekends with her mom. That meant a lot of time with Michele. The two started butting heads, and Michele claimed Taylor, 12, was addicted to prescription drugs.
“She wanted to get Taylor out of the house, and she wanted me out of Greg’s life,” Kathy says. “But her actions actually made us closer, and that really bothered her.”
“Greg said he didn’t understand how life could get bad enough that you would want to kill yourself,” said his friend, Ryan Robinson, in an interview with police.
Pre-teen Taylor had never been in serious trouble, and her parents doubted she had a drug problem. Not getting the results she wanted, Kathy believes Michele slipped prescription painkillers in her own coffee and blamed Taylor.
Michele spent two days at Baylor Grapevine hospital for benzodiazepine opiate ingestion, and Greg sent Taylor to a drug rehab facility. There was never any evidence that Taylor was responsible for Michele’s overdose on antidepressants and narcotics, but she was labeled a drug abuser and ordered to undergo therapy.
After that incident, Kathy stopped letting Taylor spend the night at Greg’s. “If I had the money, I’d be suing a lot of people,” Kathy says.
Even before the police admitted they had doubts about Michele’s story, few people believed Greg committed suicide. He had too much to live for, and he knew all too well how much pain an untimely death caused.
In December 2010, Greg’s best friend and brother-in-law Byrnn Fletcher committed suicide. “He was devastated,” Kathy says. “It was one of the very few times I saw Greg cry.”
Of all the people Keller police interviewed after Greg’s death, the only one who believed he could have committed suicide was Michele’s oldest son. Citing Greg’s confidence and his passion for DFW IT Pro, everyone else strongly denied the possibility.
Ryan Robinson, a DFW IT Pro client, told police he didn’t believe Greg would ever leave his business in limbo. Ryan recalled a conversation he’d had with Greg after Byrnn committed suicide.
“Greg said he didn’t understand how life could get bad enough that you would want to kill yourself,” Ryan said in an interview with police. “He told me that no matter how bad life got, he could never do that to his family.”
Greg valued his family very highly because he didn’t have an easy childhood. He grew up with an abusive father and poured his frustration and anger into fitness from an early age. A fourth-degree black belt, Greg worked out three or four times a week with a trainer. Michele told police Greg had started talking steroids to bulk up even more.
In addition to a love of exercise, Greg was also a gun enthusiast. Both he and Michele owned guns that they kept in their Keller home. Michele’s gun, a silver .40-caliber pistol, was stored in the safe.
But Greg kept his gun, a black .45-caliber Les Baer, loaded in a bag underneath his night stand. Michele told police she didn’t like Greg’s gun being there, unsecured.
Due to the success of DFW IT Pro, Greg was able to invest in several other businesses. He owned Blueberries, a frozen yogurt shop in Keller where Michele worked, and a weight training gym. Michele and Greg were just days away from closing on a $4.5 million home in Keller when he died.
“Greg wasn’t a perfect man, don’t get me wrong,” Kathy says. “He had a temper like you wouldn’t believe, and he always put work first. But he didn’t deserve to die, and he definitely didn’t kill himself.”
The Tarrant County medical examiner’s toxicology report found sedatives and painkillers in Greg’s system. Michele told police Greg regularly took Tylenol PM, and she saw him pop a couple of pills in his mouth the night he was murdered. Kathy finds that story hard to swallow.
“He wouldn’t have taken an aspirin to save his life,” Kathy says. “He did not take pills. He worked through the pain.” Kathy says Greg even declined prescription pain pills when he had surgery on his throat.
Michele, however, had no trouble knocking back a couple of pills to dull her pain. Due to chronic shoulder and back problems, Michele had multiple prescriptions for pain medicine.
“Percocet, Vicodin, you name it,” Kathy says. “It was all over the house.”
Greg’s niece, Ashley Austin, told police that she had trouble sleeping one night when she was staying with her uncle. Michele asked Ashley if she could slip something in Ashley’s drink to help her relax.
“I slept that night and most of the next day,” Ashley said in an interview with police.
* * *
The night Greg was murdered started out like any other. Greg and Michele took their daughter to see Taylor’s choir concert. Greg videotaped the performance and gave Taylor and hug and a kiss goodbye. Greg and Michele stopped at Taco Bueno for dinner and returned home to Keller.
Michele told police the couple was excited about closing on their new home the next day, and they stayed up late into the night discussing all the details. One crucial fact never came up, though. The financing for their home was a fraud.
According to the Williams’ mortgage lender, the Capital One account used to secure the loan was bogus. Although they’d reported an average monthly balance of $141,061, the real amount was $10,018.
Someone had altered the account numbers, and the lender hadn’t noticed the sophisticated fraud right away. With Greg dead, Michele canceled the meeting with the mortgage company, and the phony account was never discussed — until the police came calling.
The first words out of Michele’s mouth after she told police that Greg had killed himself were, “I don’t care about a penny.”
The first words out of Michele’s mouth after she told police that Greg had killed himself were, “I don’t care about a penny.” But her actions proved otherwise. In addition to putting his businesses up for sale almost immediately, Michele continued to cash checks for DFW IT Pro after she’d sold the company.
Two of the DFW IT Pro checks Michele cashed in the months after Greg’s death were from attorney Kenneth Wincorn. The amount was undisclosed.
Michele Williams was arrested on January 9, as she headed to Lifetime Fitness in Flower Mound. She was indicted for murder, tampering with evidence and making a false police report. The only adult present at the time of Greg’s murder, Michele was at once the crime’s sole witness and its sole suspect.
Her bond was set a $522,000. But Michele’s charms worked wonders even while behind bars: She spent just over a week in jail before making bail at the drastically reduced price of $85,000. Dressed in athletic clothes, Michele walked out of jail with a GPS monitor and a bounce in her step on the arm of attorney Kenneth Wincorn, who was now officially representing her.
Kathy was livid when she learned Wincorn was defending Michele for Greg’s murder. “That money she paid him was part of Greg’s estate, and it never should have gone to pay the legal bills of the woman accused of his murder. The fact that he first represented Greg makes it almost unbelievable.”
Wincorn says his professional relationship with Greg Williams was limited to being a client for DFW IT Pro. Online court records list Wincorn as the attorney for Kathy and Greg’s 2003 divorce, and Wincorn’s name and signature appear on legal documents regarding the couple’s child custody agreement as recently as 2008. Wincorn says his firm was involved in the divorce, but he denies ever representing Greg personally.
According to Wincorn, he first learned of Greg’s murder from an associate at DFW IT Pro. “It was very shocking,” Wincorn says, adding that Michele later sought his representation.
A week after Michele was indicted for murder, she attempted to make a claim on Greg’s $150,000 policy. Michele stated Greg’s cause of death as homicide. Suspicious, the insurance clerk did a quick Google search on Michele. Then, instead of sending a check, the clerk called the police, who noted it in their investigation.
Once her plot to cash in on Greg’s death was foiled, Michele Williams got to work reinventing herself. With three marriages under her belt, she was no stranger to changing names. This time, she went with Shelley Williams, a fitness guru and single mom.
“You can get away with murder in Texas as long as you know how to clean it up,” says Robb Conover, a friend of Greg’s.
On Facebook, Shelley publicly announced her relationship with Gene Wallis — the friend of her oldest son, a man nearly 15 years her junior and a frequent guest in Greg’s home. Shelley and Gene opened a Kettle Bell fitness business in Bedford and promoted it vigorously online.
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram featured Shelley and Gene in a video just three months after Michele’s indictment for murder. No connection between accused murderer Michele Williams and fitness instructor “Shelley” was made.
Outfitted with a GPS ankle bracelet, Michele spent the following months juggling her young boyfriend, fitness classes and court dates while she awaited trial. She’d often show up to court dressed for a night on the town, sporting mini skirts, knee-high boots and low-cut blouses.
“She has never mourned Greg’s death for a second,” Kathy says.
Robb Conover was friends with Greg Williams for more than 20 years and attended many of Michele’s hearings. He recalls how she manipulated the courthouse.
“When Michele went to leave, she asked a group of police officers to escort her out. She knew how to twist people. She got these cops to see her as an innocent woman who needed protection,” Robb says.
Michele may not be innocent in the eyes of Tarrant County, but she’s not guilty of murder, either. On October 9, 2013, Michele reached a plea deal with the county and is expected to face 18 years in prison for tampering with evidence and “deadly conduct” — a third-degree felony that exists in only a few states. Even though Michele admitted she cleaned the gun and Greg’s body, the lack of DNA at the crime scene created doubts that a first-degree murder charge would stick.
Michele’s sentencing is set for April 21, 2014. Why such a lengthy delay between plea deal and punishment? Because she is pregnant with twins.
Kathy Williams thinks Michele’s relationship with Gene Wallis started while Greg was still alive and could be the elusive motive behind his murder.
“If Greg found out that she was sleeping with her little boyfriend, he would’ve left her, and she would have gotten nothing,” Kathy says. “Greg would put up with a lot, but he wouldn’t put up with cheating.”
With her husband dead, Michele is the only other person who could say what Greg knew before he died, and she has already admitted to lying to police and 911 operators about the circumstances of his death. She also has a track record of cheating on every husband she’s ever had.
Michele was the beneficiary on Greg’s life insurance policy, which was taken out on August 12, 2011 — almost exactly two months before he was murdered. The terms of her plea deal mean she won’t see a dime of that money. Of course, neither will Greg’s family, unless they win yet another court battle.
“She has ruined so many lives through this, you can’t even imagine,” Brandon says. “She is a professional manipulator. If the courts would have gone ahead and interviewed all of us, this may have gone in a different direction.”
Citing the pending sentence, a spokesperson for the Tarrant County DA declined to comment on the case. Robb Conover offered his own assessment of the deal.
“You can get away with murder in Texas as long as you know how to clean it up,” he says.
In response to an interview request, Michele’s attorney released a statement on her behalf. Wincorn talked about the complications in the case created by a squeaky-clean crime scene.
He said the prosecution would have struggled to prove intentional murder without a shred of DNA evidence. The problems with defending Michele were equally as complicated.
“If a jury concluded that Michele tampered with the evidence, the jury could then conclude that she intentionally killed her husband, manipulated the crime scene and then lied about it,” Wincorn wrote.
Assuming Michele’s sentencing goes through as scheduled on April 21, no jury will ever get the chance to hear the full story and decide on an appropriate punishment. With an 18-year sentence, Michele might serve 10 years, leaving her plenty of time to reinvent herself once again.
UPDATE: After this story was published, Michele withdrew her guilty plea in a dramatic bout of testimony during a sentencing hearing. Her murder trial is slated to begin September 15, 2014. A number of new questions have emerged in the case since Michele went to jail in January. Check out these links to our recent coverage:
January 30, 2014: Keller black widow Michele Williams lands back in Tarrant County jail