- Associated Press - Thursday, October 21, 2010

BELLEVILLE, Ontario (AP) — The former commander of Canada’s largest air base said Thursday he deeply regretted his “despicable crimes,” moments before he was sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole for 25 years for murdering two women.

Col. Russell Williams pleaded guilty Monday to two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of sexual assault and 82 counts of breaking and entering, during which he took hundreds of undergarments from women and young girls.

Ontario Superior Court Judge Robert F. Scott sentenced Williams after the disgraced former elite pilot tearfully addressed the court, lamenting his crimes and the pain he has caused the victims and their family and friends.

“I stand before you indescribably ashamed,” Williams said, his voice cracking. “I know that the crimes I have committed have damaged many people.”

Williams said he betrayed his family, friends and colleagues.

Judge Scott said he believed Williams is sincere in his regrets but nonetheless declared him a “sick and dangerous” man.

“Russell Williams will forever be remembered as a sadosexual serial killer,” Judge Scott told the court. “The depths of the depravity shown by Russell Williams have no equal.”

Williams pleaded guilty to murdering Jessica Lloyd, 27, whose body was found in February, and Marie Comeau, a 37-year-old corporal under his command, who was found dead in her home in November. Both women were asphyxiated.

Prosecutors spent much of the week revealing graphic evidence of Williams’ secret life at a sentencing hearing that often reduced the victims’ family members to tears.

Williams took pictures of himself in the women’s bedrooms, posing in their underwear, and he meticulously catalogued the photos on a hard drive and stored the undergarments in his home. Some of the victims were as young as 11.

Prosecutor David Thompson detailed in court how Williams raped, photographed, videotaped and killed Comeau, who pleaded with Williams to “have a heart” and spare her life. During most of the proceedings, Williams sat looking downward.

Williams was a rising star in the military before he was charged earlier this year. The charges have shocked Canadians and shaken the military to its core. The 47-year-old once flew prime ministers and served as a pilot for Queen Elizabeth II during a 2005 visit.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper called it a “horrific series of events” and said his thoughts are with the victims and their families as well as the Canadian military.

“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,” Mr. Harper said.

Lt.-Gen. Andre Deschamps, chief of air staff for the Canadian military, said the military has been “deeply shaken” by Williams. Gen. Deschamps said they now can fire Williams and remove his medals.

“We don’t understand why,” Gen. Deschamps said. “This individual was a man of tremendous capacities. He was professional. I still can’t reconcile the two people we’ve seen.”

Associated Press writer Rob Gillies contributed to this story from Regina, Saskatchewan.

 

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