Tag Archives: alligator

Yoga Pants are not an Efficient Way to Smuggle An Alligator

Is that a gator in your pants, or are you just happy to see me?

A couple in Charlotte County were pulled over when they failed to come to a complete stop at a stop sign in the wee hours of the morning. The deputy gave them a warning for the sign and asked where they were coming from. They told him they’d been collecting frogs and snakes. The deputy then asked them if he could see what they caught, to make sure they were complying with the rules. The woman opened a backpack to reveal 42 small turtles; one softshell and the rest three-striped mud turtles. The deputy then asked her if she had anything else, and she pulled a foot long alligator out of her yoga pants!

The deputy called in FWC to take over the wildlife investigation. The driver and passenger were cited for possessing protected species and for a bag-limit violation and released. The animals were returned to the wild.

It might seem silly, but wildlife management is key to protecting the flora and fauna of our habitat. These guys don’t seem like pros, but there is a black market for some protected animals. Just a couple years ago, an alleged alligator poaching ring was busted up, recovering 10,000 gator eggs. Investigators created a fake alligator farm as part of the sting operation! One of those defendants has been sentenced to three years in prison for racketeering and other wildlife related offenses. Know the rules before you fish… or collect reptiles! (Some people call reptile and/or snake collecting “herping“… now you know.)

photos via CCSO

Yoga pants do not seem like the best place to stash a gator… or any wildlife, for that matter.

Love-triangle Murder Case Results in Conviction and Life Sentence for Wife, after Claims of Threesomes and Alligators

 

denise williams

Denise Williams with Mike, and Brian Winchester (inset)

Mike Williams body was never found after his friend told police that he had drowned in a lake while they were duck hunting back in 2000. At they time, they assumed his body had been eaten by alligators, but his mother never believed it, and never gave up. She even paid for signs and billboards to get the police to investigate, right out of a movie. But the break in the case didn’t come until year later.

Denise Williams collected a $1.75 million dollar life insurance policy payout when her husband was declared dead. His best friend, Brian Winchester, had been fishing with Mike on the Williams’ sixth wedding anniversary, and apparently explained the disappearance well enough that the cops bought it. A few years later, Brian and Denise got married.

It turns out, Denise and Brian had been having an affair- a juicy affair involving threesomes with other parties, trial testimony revealed. She and Brian ultimately got married a few years after Mike’s death, in 2005, and their marriage lasted ten years, falling apart after both of them had additional affairs. Things came to a head in 2016 when Brian, apparently worried that his now-ex-wife would spill the beans about murdering Mike, that he kidnapped Denise at gunpoint. Major backfire, as Brian was now facing a possible life sentence for the armed kidnapping and armed burglary charges. Desperate to make a deal, Brian offered to come clean about Mike’s death. The prosecutors agreed to offer him immunity if cooperated, and 20-years on the kidnapping case. Brian explained that Denise has conspired with him to stage Mike’s death as a boating mishap so they could be together. Brian led authorities to Mike’s remains and charged Denise with murder, conspiracy, and accessory.

The trial was a juicy one, replete with intrigue and affairs. Denise’s defense suggested that Brian was lying to try to save his own skin, and that he had lied repeatedly to investigators. At trial, prosecutors introduced images from one of the threesomes with Brian’s first wife, but they brought her in and she testified that there had been a sexual encounter with she, Brian, and Denise prior to Mike’s disappearance. They also brought in a woman who testified she had had an affair with Brian while he was married to Denise, and that Denise had walked in on them together at one point.

ID Photo

Brian Winchester, via DOC

Ultimately, Brian Winchester’s testimony about Denise’s involvement persuaded the jury, who found Denise Williams guilty at her December trial. The sentencing occurred last week and was mostly perfunctory, as the court was required to impose a mandatory life sentence. Winchester still has most of his sentence in front of him, Florida DOC estimates his release date is not until July, 2036. Denise Williams is not eligible for any form of parole or early release.

Below is a great behind-the-scenes interview with Winchester’s attorney about how he was able to get the immunity deal on Winchester’s kidnapping case- cool insights from an interview with the Law and Crime network. Sounds like the state was leaning hard on the new case to compel him to cooperate on the murder. Also, much of the trial testimony is available online, here.

Croc-wearing Crocodile Jumper Florida Man gets a Year in Jail

Brandon HatfieldCredit: SJSO

Brandon Hatfield: Crocodile Jumper

We introduced you to Brandon Hatfield a few months ago– the croc-wearing guy who jumped into a crocodile pit at a St. Augustine alligator park, and got bitten, was arrested after he was found almost-naked in a lady’s front yard. He got brandon hatfield footsentenced last week, and he got dinged pretty good. Hatfield was sentenced to a year in jail, followed by 2 years of community control (similar to house arrest), in addition to being ordered to pay over $5000 in restitution for the damage he caused. He was charged with trespass and criminal mischief for the alligator park escapade, but he was already on probation for something else, which is probably why he got so much time in jail.

No animals were injured, but Hatfield nearly lost his foot after the incident. Apparently the whole escapade was due to his drug use, so hopefully this will serve as a wake-up call and he will get help for his substance-abuse issues. Court image via Beth Rousseau:

 

And in case you didn’t see the video, here’s a clip with highlights:

It’s Illegal to Hold Someone Hostage with an Alligator

isaias garcias

Isaias Garcia

As the leading authority on Alligator related laws, I have to say this is something that I would not have thought needed explanation. It’s not really an alligator-specific law… it’s pretty much unlawful anywhere to restrain someone through the threat of harm. This week a Texas man plead guilty to one count of unlawful restraint after he allegedly made a ransom claim for $800 in an alleged kidnapping in Connecticut. When the victim contacted his aunt, he asked for the money to be set free, then sent a proof of life photo: which featured the victim lying in a bathtub, with a 3-foot alligator sitting on top of him.

Police traced the ransom call to a hotel room, and there they found the defendant’s girlfriend and the aforementioned crocodilian. However, the Defendant and alleged victim were nowhere to be found at that time. Police ended up charging Garcia with kidnapping, larceny by extortion, and unlawful restraint.

However, the facts of the case started showing flaws. “Our investigation developed information that contradicted the original statement of facts,” Garcia’s lawyer, Senior Assistant Public Defender Jonathan Demirjian, told the judge. For instance, after the ransom call… the phone was used to order some Chinese food. Prosecutors eventually agreed to let Garcia plea to the lesser count of unlawful restraint. He will be sentenced in March. Still, let this be a reminder, don’t threaten people with alligators.

Apparently the gator was rescued, unharmed.

You Need a Permit to Kill an Alligator in Florida

molest gator

Alligator Warning Sign

Apparently it bears repeating, as a man was arrested this week in Palm Beach County for illegally killing an alligator. Yes, they are everywhere, but Florida has a complex wildlife management system, and you have to have a permit and tag before you can hunt for gators. If not, you can be convicted of a crime! Florida takes its wildlife regulations very seriously…

Florida Woman gets to Keep her Pet Gator

rambo-the-gator

“Rambo” the Alligator

Lakeland resident Mary Thorn has been granted permission to keep her pet alligator, Rambo. She’s had him for more than a decade, and he lives in her home. He’s famous in Lakeland, as he’s made appearances at local events: Thorn dresses him up like Santa and in other outfits.

Thorn has had a permit for Rambo, but a recent law states that gators over 6 feet must have at least 2.5 acres of land. Thorn was given permission to keep him, with the caveat that she can no longer take him out to public events. I haven’t been able to find the specifics of the ruling, but presumably Thorn was able to grandfather him in, since she had him for so long before the rule was passed.

Watermelon Thief

alligator watermelonThe Florida Agricultural Crimes Intelligence Unit shared this photo of an alligator sneaking into a watermelon field and making off with a melon. This pic was snapped at a field in Hendry County last week. I’m glad they shared.

I didn’t even know alligators would eat melons… look how sneaky he is…