When Col. David Russell Williams finally folded, he felt not for his victims but for his wife, wishing to minimize the harm of being married to a sexual predator and serial killer. Later, in jail, he would worry about his pension.
It was 7:41 pm, Feb. 7 and Williams had confessed to police.
Det.-Sgt. Jim Smyth, an investigator with the Ontario Provincial Police’s behavioural sciences unit, had just played cards that the colonel realized he could not beat. His tire treads matched those found at the murder scene of Jessica Lloyd. So did his boots. They were in the process of searching his vehicle, cottage and home.
“Mr. Williams advised Det.-Sgt. Smyth that he wanted to minimize ‘. . . the impact on my wife,’ ” Crown attorney Lee Burgess told court, closing the Crown’s second day of Williams’ guilty plea and sentencing hearing in the first-degree murders of Jessica Elizabeth Lloyd, 27, and Marie-France Comeau, 38, as well as sex assaults and a string of fetish break, enter and thefts.
Williams, said Burgess, “then directed Det.-Sgt. Smyth to get a map so that he could show him where Jessica Lloyd’s body was located.”
Smyth was also curious. He asked Williams what triggered his criminal behaviour, at the age of 44. Williams, now 47, said he didn’t know, but his interest in women’s underwear started in his 20s and 30s, although he said he didn’t act on them until later.
In a day filled with horrific details, court also heard how, in a later conversation with a military chaplain, Williams worried about his pension being cut off and said he did not wish his father to travel from North Carolina to visit him.
A search of his home in Ottawa and cottage in Tweed, Ont., turned up videotapes of his crimes — right where he said they would be. There were boxes, duffel bags and plastic bags full of items he stole from the homes of his break and enter victims.
Williams feared police were on his trail. In one box were stored all of his trophies from his sex assault and murder victims. It was labelled by Williams to have been discarded Feb, 7, the day of his arrest — and three days after he was stopped in a roadside check across from Lloyd’s house.
The day in court was a chilling anatomy of two murders. Graphic photos and videotapes of the crimes were described, but not shown.
The Comeau murder
LCD screens in the court were filled with a smiling portrait of Cpl. Marie-France Comeau. She is in uniform — green camouflage fatigues — with a Canadian flag draped to her right.
As commander of Canadian Forces Base Trenton and Comeau’s superior, Williams had access to her home address. He also knew she was out of town on Nov. 16, when he first broke into her Brighton, Ont., home.
Comeau lived alone with two cats. Williams parked his Nissan Pathfinder near a wooded area that led to her neighbourhood and entered through a basement window. As usual, Williams took photos of himself dressed in underwear.
A week later, he returned with a kit, Crown attorney David Thompson told court. He entered at night through the same window. There, he hid behind a furnace, waiting for Comeau to fall asleep.
After 30 minutes or so, Comeau, dressed solely in a shawl, went down to the unfinished basement to search of one of her cats. It was sitting near the furnace, staring at Williams.
“When she saw him, she did not know who he was,” said Thompson. “Bastard,” she yelled at him. Williams struck her multiple times on the head with a red flashlight he’d brought, opening up her scalp and leaving a trail of blood.
Williams tied Comeau, who served as an air force flight attendant and once flew with him, to a steel jack support pole, using two garments and rope he had brought. He used duct tape to cover her mouth. The rope bit into her arms, causing ligature wounds on her wrists and forearms. A metal pin on the post dug into her back.
Williams tried dragging her up the stairs. She resisted. Her bleeding head left a deep stain on a landing, and a dent in the drywall. She lost consciousness. Williams took photos. He put more duct tape on her face, said the Crown — “she had been aggressive” and Williams feared she would scream. She regained consciousness.
Williams repeatedly raped Comeau, making a video recording and taking pictures, right up to the moment she died.
“Ms. Comeau can be heard moaning and saying, ‘No,’ ” said Thompson.
Williams wrapped her head in fabric and tape. She struggled to breathe and speak. The colonel can be heard on the video breathing heavily. “Get out, get out. I want you to leave,” she said at one point. Williams did not.
Comeau was whimpering and gasping, breathing hysterically, court was told. The rape continued. “No, no, please,” she pleaded. “I don’t want to die.” He was busy smothering her and told her to shut up. “You’re going to kill me, aren’t you?”
She fought him some more and begged for a chance to live. She told him she’d been good all her life, and didn’t deserve to die. “Have a heart, please.” Williams put more duct tape over face, covering her nostrils.
Her head turns slightly in the video, and she appears to have suffocated. Williams went about cleaning the crime scene and headed straight to Ottawa for a meeting that morning.
He stole lingerie and saved the movie he made. He also tracked police reports and saved a screen grab of a Facebook memorial group. One more memento: he kept a copy of the letter of condolence he sent to Comeau’s family.
The first picture of Jessica Elizabeth Lloyd produced as evidence showed a young woman smiling brightly. The last showed her body in a fetal position on the snow in a wooded area, a blanket wrapped tightly around her with electrical tape.
In between was the harrowing description of a life brutally extinguished by Williams — a recital of facts so disturbing it reduced many in the courtroom to tears.
Lloyd didn’t know Williams, who said he first spotted her Jan. 27, 2010, while she worked out on a treadmill in her home. The court heard that Lloyd, 27, was getting fit for a vacation to Cuba.
“She was a hardworking and reliable employee,” Crown attorney Lee Burgess said of Lloyd, who worked at a local transport company. “She was very popular.”
Lloyd returned home from visiting a friend at 10:36 p.m. on Jan. 28. She texted him to say that she had safely arrived. Parked a little distance behind her home, Williams was watching her from inside his SUV. When she shut the lights, he broke in through the patio door.
He was about to strike the sleeping Lloyd when she awoke. He tied her with a rope and put duct tape over her eyes. He began taking photos, and he turned on a video camera.
The video shows Lloyd “is obviously doing everything in her power to cooperate and not upset her attacker,” Burgess says.
She did everything Williams demanded as he sexually assaulted her, all the while continuing to film and snap pictures. “You want to survive this, don’t you?” Williams says to her. Jessica says yes. “OK, good, you are doing good,” Williams replies.
Williams repeatedly rapes her. He tied black plastic zip ties around her neck and threatened to strangle her.
Burgess said the tape shows Lloyd trembling with fear. Williams spent three hours in Lloyd’s home, abusing her in ways that made Burgess’ voice crack with emotion as he read out the facts in court.
Blindfolded and bound, Williams then took her to his SUV, assuring her he would eventually let her go if she followed orders. He drove her to his cottage in Tweed, about a half-hour drive north of Lloyd’s home.
Williams told police he let Lloyd sleep for a few hours. Once awake, Lloyd appears to suffer a seizure. The video camera is rolling. She tells Williams her convulsion is due to stress and she begs him to take her to a hospital. She cries and says, “We have to go. I don’t want to die.” She apologizes to Williams for not telling him earlier about her condition. Williams tries to calm her. “Hang in there, baby, hang in there,” he whispers.
Lloyd then says: “If I die, will you make sure my mom knows that I love her.”
(Lloyd’s mother and brother left the courtroom during the morning break and did not return, avoiding hearing the graphic details of Jessica’s murder.)
Williams gave Lloyd some fruit and led her to believe he would free her. There are photos of Lloyd sitting on the bed, dressed in blue jeans and a hoodie. The duct tape is still over her eyes. On her lap is a plate of food.
Sometime after 8 p.m., as a blindfolded Lloyd began walking, Williams struck her on the head with a flashlight. “He then strangled her with some rope,” said Burgess, “and did so until her body stopped moving.”
Williams placed her body in the garage and drove to his base, CFB Trenton, between 9 and 10 p.m. He stayed at the base the night of Jan. 29.
The next morning he flew troops to California and returned at Trenton at 6:30 p.m. He then drove to his home in Ottawa, where he stayed until Feb. 2. That night he returned to Tweed and dumped Lloyd’s body in a secluded wooded area a short drive from his home.
Then he returned to his Tweed cottage to vacuum his house, wipe his floors and clean his truck.