Friday, August 3, 2012

David Russell Williams: The Kinky Killer Colonel

Obsession

    
Col. David Russell Williams
Col. David Russell Williams
He was the pride of the Canadian Armed Forces. But the Colonel was also a panty-stealing sex criminal whose spiral of erotic obsessions ended in multiple assaults and two murders.
Col. David Russell Williams led an enviable life. He was a respected commander in the Canadian military, and he was being groomed for higher posts. He and his wife had a long marriage and owned two houses in neighborhoods where they were parts of friendly, stable communities. His official military biography noted that the couple liked to golf, and it said that he enjoyed fishing, running and, notably, photography.
But something went wrong. This shining star of the Canadian military turned into a sex criminal. And his love of photography, along with the obsessive attention to detail that made him such an able commander, would not only spur his deviance, it would provide the evidence that would sink him.
Williams' self portrait
Williams' self portrait
Over the course of two years, the mild-mannered colonel abruptly manifested a cascade of perversion and violence in Ottawa and the eastern Ontario towns of Belleville, Brighton and Tweed . He began by breaking into neighbors' homes and photographing himself in womens' and girls' underwear; then he sexually assaulted a pair of women; finally, he murdered two victims.
And all the while he kept detailed records, including photographs, videos, and notes, that would aid in his prosecution—and make him infamous one of North America's sickest sex criminals.

The Making of a Killer?

  
David Russell Williams
David Russell Williams
Nothing in Col. Russell Williams' background marked him as a potential sex offender. He enjoyed a privileged childhood and youth, marred only by his parents' divorce, and he went on to become an extraordinarily successful military man.
He was born in 1963 in Bromsgrove in the English Midlands but the family soon moved to Deep River, Ontario. A small town in the southeastern part of the sprawling province, Deep River is a planned community that the Canadian government founded for workers at the nearby Chalk River Nuclear Research Laboratories, where Williams' father, Cedric David Williams, was a metallurgist.
The town's affluent, educated professionals saw themselves as set apart from the provincial rural residents living beyond the planned community's borders. The residents of Deep River formed a tightly knit group, frequently availing themselves of the town's carefully organized social possibilities. Like most of their neighbors, the Williamses joined the Deep River Yacht and Tennis Club.
David Russell Williams, young
David Russell Williams, young
In 1970, though, Cedric David Williams and Christine "Nonie" Williams divorced. Christine quickly remarried Jerry Sovka. The son of Czech immigrants to Canada, Sovka had originally met Christine Williams in England back when he studied at the University of Birmingham. A nuclear engineer, Sovka got a new job with Ontario Hydro shortly after his wedding to Christine. With his new wife and stepsons Russell and Harvey, Sovka relocated to Toronto, moving the family into a pleasant house that looked down on Lake Ontario from the Scarborough Bluffs.
In Toronto, Russell took piano lessons and trumpet lessons, developing a life-long love of jazz. He worked as a paperboy delivering The Globe and Mail, which would later chronicle his trial. In 1979, Jerry Sovka's career uprooted the family again, this time to South Korea. But Russ Sovka, as he was then calling himself, stayed behind to finish high school.
He transferred from Toronto's Birchmont Collegiate to an elite boarding school, Upper Canada College. He quickly fit in and continued to excel. Fellow students elected him to serve as one of their boarding house's two prefects in his final year, 1982. His peers did once lock him in his room as a prank, but the clever and resourceful young man escaped by tying his bedsheets together and climbing out the window.
He went on to study economics and politics and earned a degree from the University of Toronto Scarborough. During his college years he learned to fly at Toronto's Buttonville Airport. When he and a girlfriend broke up soon after graduation, he didn't date for a while, and he announced he had decided to become a pilot in the armed forces.

A Military Career

  
By the time David Russell Williams began his military career in 1987, he'd dropped the name Sovka and returned to his original name. His first military assignment made him a flying instructor with the CT-134 Musketeers at Portage la Prairie, just west of Winnipeg on the Manitoba prairie. Maj. Greg McQuaid remembered Williams as an intense young man who was full of promise. McQuaid would help to promote Williams from lieutenant to captain in 1992, and Williams was transferred to Canadian Forces Base Shearwater, in Nova Scotia.
Mary Elizabeth Harriman and David Russell Williams
Mary Elizabeth Harriman and David Russell Williams
Williams married Mary Elizabeth Harriman in 1991. She'd grown up in Madsen, a mining town in northwestern Ontario where her father worked as a geologist. She had attended Red Lake High School and then graduated from the University of Guelph with a degree in applied science, and later earned a master's in adult education from St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia.
In 2003 Williams obtained a master's degree in defense studies from the Royal Military College. His 55-page thesis argued in favor of a preemptive war in Iraq. His military career continued to blossom: He'd been promoted to major in 1999, and became a lieutenant-colonel in 2004, when he was selected to lead the No. 437 Transport Squadron at Canadian Forces Base Trenton. He flew Canadian officials and foreign dignities on the Canadian Armed Forces' Bombardier Challenger fleet. In 2005 and 2006, Williams served six months in Dubai at Camp Mirage, a secretive base that provides logistics support for Canadian activities in Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, Williams faced a personal disappointment: His mother's 2001 divorce of Jerry Sovka led to a fall-out between family members. Williams cut all ties with his mother and with his younger brother, Harvey. Sovka relocated to Aix-en-Provence, France; Nonie Williams worked as a physiotherapist in Toronto; Harvey had become a doctor in Ontario. Williams distanced himself from all of them.
Williams on airstrip at CFB Trenton
Williams on airstrip at CFB Trenton
Williams was busy with his career. In 2009, Williams became commanding officer of Canadian Forces Base Trenton, Canada's largest air force base. CFB Trenton has a fleet of jets that serve government officials, and the base also functions as a search-and-rescue center and a rapid deployment force hub.
Williams and Mary Elizabeth Harriman then sold the house they'd bought in 1996 in Ottawa's Orleans neighborhood, and bought a new townhouse in the city's trendy Westboro Village. They would split their time between the townhouse and a weekend home they owned on the outskirts of Tweed, considerably closer to Williams' command. They'd bought the lakefront vacation home on Cosy Cove Lane in 2004.
Mailbox at Williams/Harriman home in Tweed
Mailbox at Williams/Harriman home in Tweed
In Tweed and Trenton, the colonel established himself a good neighbor and a civic leader. He posed for press opportunities, showed up at charity events, and was invariably helpful to those under his command.
His wife became an associate director with the Heart and Stroke Foundation, a Canadian charity. Williams spent his weekends with her in Ottawa, but he lived alone in the cottage in Tweed during the week.
This arrangement seems to have left the colonel with plenty of time on his hands.

And a Criminal Career

   
Photo of part of Williams' panty collection
Photo of part of Williams' panty collection
Experts tell us that most sex offenders start their habits young and wind down in their 40s, but investigators are confident that Col. David Russell Williams' crimes didn't begin until he was 44, when he started breaking into neighbors' houses.
In September 2007, Cosy Cove Lane neighbors Ron and Monique Murdoch and their children were visiting Monique's dying mother in nearby Sudbury. Williams entered the unlocked and empty Tweed house and went into their 12-year-old daughter's room.
Photo of part of Williams' panty collection
Photo of part of Williams' panty collection
The colonel spent three hours there, trying on different pairs of the girl's underwear and photographing himself. He left with six pairs of her underwear and bras.
He'd return twice more to this girl's room over the next few years, and he'd break in to 47 other neighbors' homes too, returning to one of them nine times. He scoped out the homes—and their female inhabitants—during the jogs that he took to maintain his military physique.
No one seems to have suspected that the colonel was unleashing a dark side. Williams kept playing cards and drinking beer with the Murdochs. He continued to practice his French with Monique. Their daughter taught him cribbage and baked cupcakes and cookies for him and his wife; she cat-sat his new cat, Rosebud, and even did a school project on him. Williams took the girl and her brother tubing on the lake.
Williams' self portraits (front)
Williams' self portraits (front)
In retrospect, some neighbors say now that 2007 was a rough year for Williams. His elderly cat, Curio, had to be put to sleep; he cried when telling friends about the loss. And he began a battle with chronic pain.
He started taking a roster of drugs for his aches. Prednisone, used to treat a variety of inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, has been blamed for manic behavior and even bipolar disorder and psychotic disorders. In an anonymous letter to the Toronto Star, a writer claiming to be a former coworker said that Williams had been on strong medications that changed his behavior. Another unnamed source confirmed this to the Star, and identified the drug as prednisone.
Next-door neighbor Monique Murdoch has also confirmed that Williams had been taking prednisone since returning from Dubai, and that the pain or the medications that combated it contributed to the colonel's insomnia.
Williams' self portraits (back)
Williams' self portraits (back)
Canadian Air Force flight surgeon guidelines warn that systemic corticosteroids like prednisone are not compatible with flight duties. Williams' medical treatment would have been supervised by a military doctor.
But at the time no one seems to have been concerned about the colonel's behavior. Residents in this small town often didn't lock their doors, and they never noticed anything amiss. If it hadn't been for his more severe later crimes and the meticulous documentation Williams compiled of his offenses, they might never have known there was a dangerous pervert next door.
In September 2009, though, he escalated his crimes, and attacked two women.

From Panty Raids to Assault

 
Col. David Russell Williams returned to Tweed from a routine trip to a Canadian Forces Base in Nunavut on September 16, 2009. Just after midnight he broke into a cottage on Charles Road, a few blocks from the lakefront place he shared with his wife.
Masked, he entered the house. A woman was alone there, watching a Law & Order rerun.
Williams' self portrait
Williams' self portrait
He tried to knock her out with his flashlight but she remained conscious. He then blindfolded her and tied her hands with wire. Williams sexually assaulted her, but he told her that he wouldn't rape her, that he just wanted some photos of her naked body. He photographed himself too: He wore a black ski cap and draped her underwear over his face.
The woman had moved to Tweed just a few months before. She had wanted to raise her child in the safety of a small town. The baby was in the next room throughout the attack.
Hours later, Williams attended a Criminal Intelligence Service Ontario conference at the Ramada Inn in Belleville, south of Tweed. On behalf of his base, Williams accepted the criminal investigators' donation to Soldier On, a charity for wounded veterans. A few days later he would drop the puck at the season-opener for the Belleville Bulls, a local junior-tier ice hockey team, and then attend his base's Battle of Britain memorial parade.
David Russell Williams
David Russell Williams
Just two weeks later he struck again. His victim lived just a few doors down. On September 30, she was awakened by a masked intruder who stripped off her clothes, tied her to a chair, sexually assaulted her—and began taking pictures.
The victim thought her attacker was another neighbor, Larry Jones.
Two days later, the colonel attended a ceremony to present a check to his wife's charity. And police meanwhile searched Larry Jones's house, looking for items stolen from the two attacked women: assorted panties, bras, and a baby blanket.
Police met Larry Jones in his driveway when he returned home from a trip. They confiscated his hunting equipment, camera and computers, but nothing incriminated him. Jones offered DNA evidence and a polygraph, and he was cleared.
But Williams was still on the loose, and increasingly out of control.

The Death of a Corporal

 
On November 17, 2009, Col. David Russell Williams broke into another home near Belleville. He stole dozens of pieces of lingerie, a pornographic video, and a sex toy. He left the resident a taunting message on her own computer: He dared her to call the police and said that the judge would enjoy seeing her dildo. Among the relics that investigators would later find from this attack, was a photo Williams took of that message, and a photo of the woman's cat.
Cpl. Marie-France Comeau
Cpl. Marie-France Comeau
But that was nothing compared to what he would do next.
To keep his flight status as a pilot active, Williams flew at least once a month, usually in an Airbus A-310 that was part of the No. 437 Squadron that he'd once commanded. Cpl. Marie-France Comeau, 38, worked as a flight attendant on many of these flights.
Cpl. Comeau came from a military family. Her father was a Canadian Armed Forces medic, and a grandfather had been a Spitfire pilot who'd earned honors in World War II. She followed eagerly and capably in their footsteps, proudly serving on the crew of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's flight to Mumbai in November 2009.
When she missed a shift after returning from India, her boyfriend looked for her at her house on Raglan Street in Brighton. He found her dead.
Masked, Col. Williams had broken in and hidden behind Comeau's furnace, waiting for her to go to bed. But he attacked when she came downstairs to search for her cat. He beat her with a flashlight. Then he tied her to a pole. His artistic ambitions had grown with his criminal ones: He brought in a few lamps to better record himself as he repeatedly raped her.
Cpl. Marie-France Comeau
Cpl. Marie-France Comeau
At one point, Cpl. Comeau asked if he was going to kill her. She begged for her life. He bound her mouth and nose with duct tape, nearly suffocating her. Then he brought her unconscious body upstairs to her bed, and raped her again. When he went outside to make sure they were alone, Comeau came to, and almost got away. He caught her in the bathroom and beat her again with the flashlight.
Williams seems to have calmly killed her, then driven three hours to a meeting. He removed his restraints and tape, but left a shoe print in her blood.
When her boyfriend found Cpl. Comeau's body on November 25, Col. Williams was at a United Way fundraiser. There his colleagues jokingly charged him with "being too young to be a wing commander" and planned to throw him in "jail." Williams gamely posed in handcuffs, but he refused to enter the cell, insisting he was too busy to go through with the entire fundraising skit.
Comeau was buried at the National Military Cemetery in Ottawa on December 4, 2009. As her base commander, Williams wrote an official letter of condolence to her father.

The Disappearance of Jessica Lloyd

 
Jessica Lloyd Missing poster
Jessica Lloyd Missing poster
Jessica Lloyd, 27, lived alone on rural Highway 37, between Belleville and Tweed. On January 29, 2010, she didn't show up for her job at Tri-Board Student Transportation Services, where was an administrator of a school bus line. Coworkers called her family, who rushed to her house.
Lloyd's purse, containing her wallet, identification and glasses, lay in the driveway next to her car, but she wasn't there. Police wouldn't find her body until February 8.
Col. David Russell Williams was on one of his diligent runs when he had seen her in late January. She was exercising on a treadmill in her basement.
A few nights later, Williams broke in as she slept. He followed what was becoming his usual routine: He bound her, put duct tape over her eyes, and assaulted her, all while snapping photos and recording video footage.
Jessica Lloyd
Jessica Lloyd
He raped her at her home, then drove her to his Cosy Cove Lane cottage and attacked her again there. He made her shower in front of him. As she shivered in the bathtub, she begged him for clothes and pleaded for him to take her to the hospital. She warned him that she was going to die.
"Hang in there, baby," he told her. "Hang in there."
She complied with all of his requests, alternately begging for her life and pleading with him to tell her mother that she loved her. He made her model lingerie for his snapshots, and fed her some fruit to keep her going. But then he struck her from behind with a flashlight, and strangled her to death. He then moved her lifeless body to his garage before dumping on a rural road a few minutes from his cottage.
Later that morning, Williams piloted a troop flight to California. He must have thought he'd gotten away with it once again.

Arrest

     
Williams/Harriman Ottowa townhouse
Williams/Harriman Ottowa townhouse
Police blocked off roads around Belleville as they struggled to find Jessica Lloyd and her abductor or killer.
Among those stopped on February 4, 2010, was Col. David Russell Williams. An officer at the roadblock recognized that the tires on Williams' Pathfinder SUV matched the unusual tracks which police believed had been left by an SUV that a passerby had noticed on the day of Lloyd's disappearance parked incongruously in the middle of a field near Lloyd's home.
Williams' videotaped confession
Williams' videotaped confession
On Sunday, February 7, Williams received a call at his Ottawa townhouse. The Ontario Provincial Police requested that he come to Ottawa Police Service Headquarters for questioning. Once there, he grinned at his interrogator and announced he'd never been "in a room like this." Told about the matching tire treads and the mounting evidence linking him to the other crimes, Williams confessed. And then he spent nearly 10 hours giving Inspector Jim Smyth, a behavioral science expert in the Ontario Provincial Police, the full details of his weird and finally lethal criminal desires. Consistent with Monique Murdoch's memories of chronic pain making it difficult for Williams to sit through their card games, Williams remained standing for most of his ten-hour confession.
The colonel wasn't able to explain his motivations fully to Inspector Smyth. All he could say was, "I don't know the answers, and I'm pretty sure the answers don't matter."
But he could explain why he confessed: to make things easier on his wife. At the end of his signed confession, he wrote her a note apologizing and asking her to take good care of their cat, Rosebud .
Williams/Harriman Tweed property
Williams/Harriman Tweed property
As Williams told them they would, investigators found Jessica Lloyd's body near his Tweed cottage. They determined she'd been alive in the cottage for 15 hours before being strangled.
Investigators searched the cottage and his home and Ottawa, and discovered the copious notes, photographs and souvenirs that corroborated Williams' account of the attacks. He'd twice burned his stash of lingerie in a rural area outside Ottawa, but there was plenty of material left to incriminate him, including photos of a stuffed animal-filled room shared by twin 11-year-old girls, and 87 pairs of underwear from a single underage girl.
Within 24 hours of his arrest, the case against Williams was all but wrapped up.

Trying the Colonel

    
John R. Williams
John R. Williams
In April 2010, Mayor John R. Williams—no relation to the colonel—started hearing about the crimes from his constituents. Some of them had heard rumors that, unbeknownst to them until the scandal broke, their own houses had been among those which David Russell Williams had confessed to burglarizing.
That same month, Col. Williams tried to kill himself in his cell by stuffing cardboard down his own throat; he was put on suicide watch.
On October 18, 2010, at his Belleville trial, Col. David Russell Williams pleaded guilty to two murders, two additional sexual assaults, and 82 break-ins.
Prosecutors showed as evidence many of the photos that Williams had taken of his tortured victims, and of himself, visibly aroused, modeling their undergarments. In some, he donned cotton panties emblazoned with cartoon characters; others were close-ups of his erection as he modeled silk lingerie. Prosecutors merely described the contents of his collection of videotaped performances, rather than showing them. The press printed a number of the photos.
Artist's sketch of David Russell Williams at trial
Artist's sketch of David Russell Williams at trial
On October 21, 2010, Justice Robert F. Scott sentenced Col. Williams to two life terms for murder and another 120 years for the other crimes. The judge ordered the destruction of Williams' SUV and all of his meticulously maintained records of his crimes and the hundreds of stolen garments. He also ordered that Williams pay a fine of CA$ 8,800 (CA$100 for each of the crimes to which he pleaded guilty) to a fund for crime victims.
As the media publicized Williams' crimes, many Canadians called out for the death penalty, which the country had abolished in 1976. Williams is now in solitary confinement at a maximum security prison in Kingston, Ontario. He'll be eligible for parole in 2035, at the age of 72.
The Canadian Armed Forces stripped Williams of his commission. Four military officials ceremonially burned his uniforms and medals. He was the first Canadian officer to face that humiliation. But he'll still get a pension; nothing in Canadian law bars him from this.
Mary Elizabeth Harriman
Mary Elizabeth Harriman
His wife, Mary Elizabeth Harriman, did not attend the trial, but her husband's actions are having an enduring effect on her life. On top of learning that her husband of nearly 20 years stole women's lingerie, killed two women, and sexually assaulted two more, and seeing him sent to prison, Harriman is facing a lawsuit herself.
One of Williams' surviving sex-assault victims has filed a CA$2.45-million suit against the couple. The woman not only wishes to hold Williams accountable for his crimes and for the mental anguish they caused her, she also accuses Harriman and Williams of fraudulently transferring assets to shield their money from potential legal claims. Shortly after Williams' arrest, Williams and Harriman split their property: the cheap Tweed cottage became Williams', while Harriman allegedly paid him $62,000 for his share of their pricier townhouse.
The civil suit remains unresolved, but Col. David Russell Williams will spend at least the next 25 years in jail for what he's acknowledged are despicable crimes.

3 comments:

  1. I'm not too sure what to think about the wife. I know she isn't the criminal here, but how could she not have a clue about anything, including all of the stash of lingerie, and hours away without knowing what he is doing??! They must have had a pretty distant marriage. If my husband farts in another town, my instinct lets me know, lol.

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  2. they DID have a distant marriage...he told the cops they hadn't had sex in years and they were often living in separate residences.

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  3. just watching his confession on YouTube. There are many reasons his wife didn't know what was going on. He appeared to revert back to his cover lifestyle with no qualms. There was a lot of distance between them she had no reason to believe any different they were together a long time. She trusted him. She shouldn't be held accountable she has been robbed of her life and has to face that the man she loved wasn't the man she thought. She has been handed a life sentence too..she is probably hated and has done nothing wrong

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