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Lake Wales
Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Are The Remains Of A Missing Lake Wales Woman, Debbie Williams, A 32 Year Old Cold Case File Buried Under A House On Dr. JA Wiltshire Ave.


Lake Wales Police Department Press Release

In late March 1990, Debbie Williams was reported missing by a family member. At the time of the original report, it was estimatedDebbie had been missing for approximately four weeks. Detectives have been left with a single partial page initial report to go on.

In 2019 Melvin Waldron, a retired Lake Wales Supervisor, came to Detectives with information regarding Williams’ case. The information included rumors Williams had been killed by her on again, off again boyfriend who has since passed away. The rumors were she was buried beneath the boyfriend’s residence or near the overpass of Highway 27 near Florida Natural. At that time, a Detective was assigned to accompany Waldron to conduct interviews with people Waldron believed had direct information on the case. A total of nine people were interviewed regarding the case and only one person had any direct information. This person observed Williams getting into a white and red pickup truck driven by a white male around the time she disappeared. The other eightpeople all stated they heard various “street talk” over the years saying she was buried under the house, or she was buried under the bridge, or she got into a white truck driven by a white male, never to be seen again. 

Detectives then went to the residence in question to investigate the possibility Williams was buried there. An officer dressed in protective equipment went under the residence using a metal rod to probe the area for remains. Bones were located in the area Williams was rumored to be. Those bones were examined by the medical examiner’s office and confirmed to be animal bones. No large scaledigging was done as there for safety of the officer and the structure itself. The current owners of the residence are not suspects in any way and have been nothing but cooperative in this case and great care must be taken with their property. 

The Lake Wales Police Department is networking with the Lake Wales Building Department, Planning and Zoning, and house moving companies to ensure the residence can be safely moved and any potential crime scene preserved.  The move of the residence will be done as soon as possible but due to logistics that date is yet to be determined.  Detectives have been in contact with USF for ground penetrating radar, so that once the residence had been moved a search can be conducted.  If the ground penetrating radar indicates the possibility of remains, a dig will be conducted at that point.

The Detectives in charge of this investigation have met with experts and investigators from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, State Attorney’s Office, and Polk County Sheriff’s Office who have all pledged their assistance in this case. We have also been in contact with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) regarding advancements in DNA collection and cataloging built to assist in matching missing persons with unidentified bodies found around the country. 

Going forward, Detectives are working to rebuild the case file regarding Williams.  This includes conducting interviews with those who knew Williams and the boyfriend.  This proper documentation of the investigation will provide a thorough case file if Williams isnot locate during these endeavors.

The Lake Wales Police Department is working diligently on this case and will exhaust all leads.  Should Williams not be found during these searches, the department will follow up on any future leads which may develop hoping to find closure for the Williams family.

This investigation is ongoing. 

If you have any information regarding this case please contactDetective Ricky Hartwell or Sergeant Shawn Smith at the Lake Wales Police Department at 863-678-4223. You can also remain anonymous by calling Heartland Crime Stoppers at 1-800-226-TIPS (8477).

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