- Associated Press - Monday, October 18, 2010

BELLEVILLE, Ontario (AP) — A Canadian military commander who flew Queen Elizabeth II pleaded guilty Monday to the murders of two women, the sexual assaults of two others and dozens of breaking-and-entering charges.

Col. Russell Williams was the commander of Canada’s largest air base until he was charged earlier this year.

He pleaded guilty Monday to two first-degree murder charges, two sexual assaults and 82 breaking-and-entering charges in a Belleville court. He faces an automatic sentence of life in prison with no possibility for parole for at least 25 years.

The case shocked the country, hurt soldiers’ morale and prompted fears that the commander of Canada’s most high-profile military base and the man who once flew the country’s prime ministers could have been a serial killer.

Williams, who was born in England and raised in Canada, was pictured with the queen and her husband, Prince Philip, on the front page of the newspaper of Canadian Forces Base Trenton while he served as their pilot during a 2005 visit.

Williams was considered a rising star in the military. He was photographed in January with Defense Minister Peter MacKay and Canada’s top general during an inspection of a Canadian aircraft on its way to support relief efforts in Haiti. The second victim was killed just over a week later

Williams waived his right to a preliminary hearing in August and was ordered to stand trial and return to court. The 47-year-old Williams was charged with the first-degree murder of Jessica Lloyd, 27, whose body was found in February, and Marie Comeau, a 38-year-old corporal under his command, who was found dead in her home last November. Both women were asphyxiated.

Williams was charged with forcible confinement, breaking and entering, and sexual assault after two other women were attacked during separate home invasions in the Tweed, Ontario, area in September 2009.

Williams, a 23-year military veteran, has never been in combat but has been stationed across Canada and internationally, including a stint in 2006 as the commanding officer for Camp Mirage, the secretive Canadian Forces base widely reported to be near Dubai. Investigators looked into other areas where he has been posted.

Williams’ wife, Mary-Elizabeth Harriman, works as the associate executive director at the Heart and Stroke Foundation in Ottawa.

 

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