Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

David Russell Williams: The Kinky Killer Colonel

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.

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