Williams gets 2 life terms for 'despicable crimes'
WARNING: This story contains disturbing sexual and violent details
A judge has sentenced Col. Russell Williams to two terms of life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years for the first-degree murders of Cpl. Marie-France Comeau and Jessica Lloyd.
The decorated former commander of Canadian Forces Base Trenton was also sentenced in Ontario Superior Court in Belleville on Thursday to 10 years for each of his two charges of sexual assault and two charges of forcible confinement. He was also sentenced to one year for each of the other 82 lesser charges he faced.
Just before sentencing, Williams told Justice Robert F. Scott he is "indescribably ashamed" of the crimes he's committed, and especially apologized to the families of the two murdered women.
Williams, 47, had pleaded guilty Monday to 88 charges.
He blew his nose before standing in the eastern Ontario courtroom to address Scott. Williams was shaking, tearing up and paused between sentences during his five-minute address.
"Your Honour, I stand before you indescribably ashamed. I know the crimes I have committed have traumatized many people," he said.
Have you been affected by the Williams story? Has your sense of security been eroded? A psychologist joins CBC News Your Voice on Friday, Oct. 22, at 12 p.m. ET to answer your questions on dealing with traumatic events.
"The family and friends of Marie-France Comeau and Jessica Lloyd in particular have suffered and continue to suffer profound, desperate pain and sorrow as a result of what I’ve done."
Williams said he understands "the hatred expressed yesterday and that has been palpable throughout the week. I deeply regret the harm I know I've caused."
He also said: "I committed despicable crimes, your honour, and in the process betrayed my family, my friends and colleagues and the Canadian Forces."
Before delivering his sentence, Scott said nothing surprises him anymore and that he believed Williams's apology was sincere.
"Fortunately for all, the nature of these crimes are very rare in our society. The depths of depravity demonstrated by Russell Williams have no equal," Scott said.
Williams's sentence also includes:
- That he be prohibited for life from possessing weapons.
- That he be registered for life as a sex offender.
- That he submit DNA samples to the police data bank.
- That he pay a $100 victim surcharge for each charge, for a total of $8,800.
While Williams is eligible to apply for parole in 25 years, Scott said there is no guarantee he will be released.
Crown lawyer Lee Burgess said he would not seek to have Williams declared a dangerous offender because it would have just prolonged the hearing. He called it "superfluous" because he believes the facts he outlined during the week will prevent a parole board from ever allowing Williams out on parole.
Williams will serve his sentence at the Kingston Penitentiary.
The prison has a maximum-security area called G Block, where dangerous offenders like Paul Bernardo spend the rest of their days in small isolation rooms, some for 23 hours a day.
Earlier Thursday, Burgess had asked Scott to sentence Williams to one-year concurrent sentences on each of 82 break-ins and 10-year concurrent sentences on each of two sexual assaults.
"They were violated, sir, not only by this man's hands, but by his lens, two young women terrorized in their last hours, just for the sexual gratification of this man," Burgess told the judge.
Burgess contrasted the image of Comeau, blindfolded and bloodied yet still fighting for her life, with the image of the man who murdered her with a piece of duct tape. Burgess also mentioned how Lloyd co-operated to try to save her life and how Williams knew he'd kill her but told her she would live if she did not fight.
"David Russell Williams is simply one of the worst offenders in Canadian history," Burgess said.
Applause could be heard in court after Burgess finished his statement.
What Williams said:
Your Honour. I stand before you indescribably ashamed. I know the crimes I have committed have traumatized many people. The family and friends of Marie-France Comeau and Jessica Lloyd in particular have suffered and continue to suffer profound, desperate pain and sorrow as a result of what I’ve done. My assaults of Ms. [name redacted because of publication ban] and Ms. Massicotte have caused them to suffer terribly as well. Numerous victims of the break and enters I have committed have been very seriously distressed as a result of my having so invaded their most intimate privacy. My family, your honour, has been irreparably damaged. The understandable hatred that was expressed yesterday and that has been palpable throughout the week has me recognize that most will find it impossible to accept, but the fact is, I deeply regret what I have done and the harm I know I have caused to many. I committed despicable crimes, your Honour, and in the process betrayed my family, my friends and colleagues and the Canadian Forces.
Burgess asked that some of the items used in evidence be destroyed, including Williams's digital cameras, the ropes and the stolen lingerie, as well as the Nissan Pathfinder he used to abduct Lloyd and dump her body. This request was granted by Scott. The thousands of photos and videotapes Williams took documenting his crimes will be kept for possible review by a future parole board, Burgess said.
"We are a community that's been shocked and saddened by all that's transpired," Burgess said. But he stressed that Williams's crimes don't define the region; it is defined by how it pulled together in the wake of them.
"You could hardly open your eyes in the days after Lloyd's disappearance without seeing posters or something about her. We're a community that has also been transformed by his crimes. The impact of his crimes extends far beyond his crimes. What makes it more despicable is this is a man considered above reproach," he said.
Burgess said Williams no longer represents the Armed Forces, which the community continues to support.
"He betrayed this community and he betrayed the military and he betrayed the men and the women who serve in the military. He was a leader in that base and in the community. He exploited that to divert suspicion from himself," he said.
He contrasted how in one night, Williams dropped the puck at a Belleville hockey game, and then later tried to break into the home of a woman he had sexually assaulted. When he carried the Olympic torch, the community came to cheer him on, "this man who had already committed the crimes," Burgess said.
Defence lawyer Michael Edelson said he had no issue with what the Crown proposed.
"There is nothing that can be said to change the legal outcome and consequences here today," Edelson said. "It is not the role of the defence to specifically address the victim impact resulting from the crimes. But we wish to acknowledge their suffering and we take no issue with what Crown counsel [is] proposing."
Edelson pointed out mitigating factors that Scott should consider when sentencing Williams. He said a lengthy and costly trial — a case of this magnitude could take several years to reach a conclusion — was avoided by Williams confessing to the crimes and pleading guilty.
"It is important to note that only 17 of 48 homeowners had reported homes were broken into. Until he confessed, they were unable to identify a suspect," he said.
Edelson also noted how detailed Williams's confession was and how he assisted police to locate Lloyd's body and told them where he hid his copious images and trophies of the crimes.
Outside court Thursday, Andy Lloyd, Jessica Lloyd's brother, said: "As long as he dies in jail, I'm happy."
He thanked everyone who worked on the case and said his family is indebted to them.
"It's over with, it's done with," Lloyd said. "This is the best thing that's happened to our family since this stuff has happened…. We just want to be normal again."
In St. John's Thursday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper commented on the case.
"Our thoughts, our prayers, our hearts obviously go out to the victims and to their families," Harper said.
"Also, our thoughts go out to all the members of the Canadian Forces who knew the commander, and who have been very badly wounded and betrayed by all of this."
He reiterated that the military intends to take the necessary actions to ensure that all sanctions that are possible are applied.
With files from CBC's Amber Hildebrandt and Dave Seglins