Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

David Russell Williams: The Kinky Killer Colonel

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

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.

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