Lawyer: Canadian ex-commander who flew queen to plead guilty to murder, sexual assault chargesBy Rob Gillies, AP
Thursday, October 7, 2010
Lawyer: Top Canadian commander to plead guilty
BELLEVILLE, Ontario — The lawyer for a military commander who flew Queen Elizabeth II and other dignitaries around Canada said Thursday his client will plead guilty to murder, sexual assaults and dozens of breaking and entering charges.
Col. Russell Williams was the commander of Canada’s largest Air Force base until he was charged earlier this year with the murder of two women, the sexual assault of two others and 82 break-ins, during which he stole women’s panties.
Michael Edelson, Williams’ lawyer, told a judge at a hearing Thursday that Williams intends to plead guilty to all the charges at his next court appearance on Oct. 18. Williams appeared at the hearing but did not speak.
The case shocked the country, hurt soldiers’ morale and prompted fears that the commander of Canada’s most high-profile military base and the man who once flew the country’s prime ministers could have been a serial killer.
Williams, who was born in England and raised in Canada, was pictured with the British queen and her husband, Prince Philip, on the front page of the newspaper of Canadian Forces Base Trenton while he served as their pilot during a 2005 visit.
Williams waived his right to a preliminary hearing in August and was ordered to stand trial and return to court on Thursday. The 47-year-old is charged with the first-degree murder of Jessica Lloyd, 27, whose body was found in February, and Marie Comeau, a 38-year-old corporal under his command who was found dead in her home last November. Both women were asphyxiated.
He faces an automatic sentence of life in prison with no possibility for parole for at least 25 years.
Andy Lloyd said he doesn’t want an apology from Williams for his sister Jessica’s death, just the truth.
“I think everybody would like to hear him explain what happened,” Lloyd said outside court. “I’m not looking for an apology. It’s not going to hold its weight in anything.”
Lloyd’s mother, Roxanne, held a photo of Jessica in court.
Williams is also charged with forcible confinement, breaking and entering and sexual assault after two other women were attacked during separate home invasions in the Tweed, Ontario area in September 2009.
One of the women, a 21-year-old single mother, alleges in a US$2.4 million lawsuit that she was tied up, blindfolded, stripped and held captive for more than two hours while he forced her into sexual acts. She also alleges Williams photographed her.
Williams is also charged with breaking into 47 homes 82 times, beginning in 2007, including one home nine times. Most homes were burglarized repeatedly on the same street.
Most of the homes Williams was accused of breaking into were in Ottawa, where Williams has a house with his wife, and in the Tweed, Ontario, area, where Williams lived while he worked at Canadian Forces Base Trenton in Trenton, Ontario.
“He’s just a very twisted individual, there’s no two ways about it,” said retired Lieutenant-General Angus Watt, who once promoted Williams.
“He was able to lead an elaborate double life and was able to keep it successfully concealed. This was the act of a depraved individual and really has no reflection on the men and women of the Canadian Forces.”
Angela McCanny, whose Ottawa home was broken into on back-to-back days in 2008, said that all the women’s underwear in the house was stolen.
Anne Marsan-Cook, whose Belleville home was broken into on consecutive days in 2009, said her sex toys and all her underwear were taken. She also said a chilling message was left on her computer: “Go ahead, call the police. I want to tell the judge about your really big dildos.”
“I was one of the lucky ones,” Marsan-Cook said Wednesday.
The Ottawa Citizen cited police sources as saying police seized 500 women’s undergarments from Williams’ home.
Court documents allege Williams broke into Comeau’s home days before he is accused of killing her. Another alleges that Williams twice returned to the home of one of his victims to steal items after he sexually assaulted her.
Williams was escorted into court on Thursday in handcuffs, wearing a dark suit and crisp white shirt. He looked down as he entered the courtroom and he showed no emotion as his lawyer spoke on his behalf in an appearance that lasted about 15 minutes.
Many of the courtroom seats were filled with Lloyd’s extended family and friends. Andy Lloyd said victim impact statements will be read at the next court date and said his family will finally be able to let Williams know how his actions have greatly affected them.
Authorities said Williams came to the attention of investigators during a police roadblock on Feb. 4, six days after Lloyd was deemed missing. The tire tracks from his vehicle allegedly matched the ones they were looking for. Police arrested and charged Williams on Feb. 7.
Williams, a 23-year military veteran, has never been in combat but has been stationed across Canada and internationally, including a stint in 2006 as the commanding officer for Camp Mirage, the secretive Canadian Forces base widely reported to be near Dubai. Investigators looked into other areas where he has been posted.
Williams’ wife, Mary-Elizabeth Harriman, works as the associate executive director at the Heart and Stroke Foundation in Ottawa. Michael Gennis, who lives next door to Williams’ Ottawa home, has said she’s devastated and won’t discuss the case.
Gillies reported from Toronto and Associated Press news researcher Rhonda Shafner in New York contributed to this report.