Col. Russell Williams: Killer in command?
Col. Russell Williams (CBC)
Produced by Joshua Yager and Susan Mallie
[This story originally aired on April 9, 2011. It was updated on June 12, 2012]
ONTARIO, CANADA - On Feb. 7, 2010, at 3 p.m., Canadian Air Force Colonel Russell Williams has agreed to come in for a chat with police after being stopped at a roadblock.
Talking with the cops may turn out to be the most fateful decision of the respected colonel's entire life, but you'd never know it.
Cop: Do you have your own lawyer?
Colonel: A realty lawyer but no, I don't have a lawyer! (laughs)
The police aren't interested in real estate. They're focused on an ongoing crime spree near the sleepy little town of Tweed, Ontario, several hours from Toronto.
Cop: We're looking at first-degree murder, kidnapping, sexual assault, forcible confinement.
Colonel: Uh huh...
It began in 2007, with break-ins where the main thing stolen was women's lingerie. Few people reported the thefts, and by 2009, local police had more pressing concerns - two women had been sexually assaulted. Speaking for the first time on television, one of them, Laurie Massicotte, says she was fast asleep when the intruder struck.
"He just said, 'Trust me, you don't want to see me,'" Massicotte tells "48 Hours."
The intruder blindfolded Massicotte and beat her. Her ordeal went on for three-and-a-half hours.
"I could hear him. And he - he's putting the blinds down," she continues. "And I kept thinking, 'before he leaves here, this guy is going to kill me.'"
Two months later, 38-year-old Corporal Marie-France Comeau was killed in the nearby town of Brighton. Two months after that, another local woman, 27-year-old Jessica Lloyd, went missing.
Crime reporter Tim Appleby has spent a year chasing down leads to write a book about the crimes thought to be the work of an unknown sexual predator, nicknamed the "Tweed Creeper."
"There was really fear," Appleby explains. "There was different schools of thought as to whether it was a local matter or - somebody who'd come into Tweed from the outside. But really, nobody knew, and that really put Tweed on edge."
Until Jessica Lloyd went missing, there were no solid suspects. Certainly not Col. Williams - a prominent military man and a rising star in the air force.
"He could handle a lot of pressure, a very busy calendar...a lot of different conflicting priorities," says Ret. Gen. Angus Watt. "He was quite an impressive guy."
General Watt says Williams was the obvious choice to head the command at Trenton, Canada's largest air base. Troops headed for Afghanistan leave from here and the fallen return here for a hero's welcome.
The colonel was far more than a figurehead. A crack pilot, he regularly ferried dignitaries around the world, including Queen Elizabeth II in 2005. He even helped plan security for the 2010 economic summit President Barack Obama attended.
"He was the wing commander. He was in charge," says Appleby.
While police searched for the "Tweed Creeper," Col. Williams was carrying on his normal, high flying life. Hours before the first sexual assault, he joined in a fun filled air force publicity stunt. Days later, he met with Canada's defense minister. And the day after the Comeau murder, he stopped by a charity event on the base.
Any link between the colonel and the crimes seemed unthinkable... until now.
Cop: Essentially, there's a connection between you and, uh, and all four of those cases, would you agree? Geographically?
Colonel: I drive past, uh, yes... I would say there's, uh, a connection, yes.
Detective Sgt. Jim Smyth, of the Ontario Provincial Police, believes there's much more connection than geography. As improbable as it seems, he thinks Col. Williams may be a killer.
They will talk for nine hours. "48 Hours" edited and visually enhanced the videotaped session - a rare inside look at perhaps one of the most skillful police interrogations ever: a face-off between the colonel and the cop:
Det. Sgt. Smyth begins almost gently, never addressing Williams by his title.
Veteran investigator and "48 Hours" consultant Paul Ciolino says there's a reason for that. Ciolino explains that everything Smyth will say is carefully planned. "He's letting him know psychologically, 'We're equals in here.'"
Cop: An investigation like this, I mean I'm sure you can appreciate it's been big news...
Cop: And that's why we're here on a Sunday afternoon, so again, I appreciate it...
Pleasantries out of the way, Det. Sgt. Smyth focuses on the most urgent case: the missing Jessica Lloyd.
Cop: Did you know Jessica Lloyd even in passing? For any reason?
Colonel: (Shakes head no)
Jessica was last heard from when she texted a friend at 10:30 p.m., on Jan 28, 2010 - 10 days earlier. Her older brother, Andy, got a panicked call from their mother the next morning.
"So immediately I run right over and... it was weird," he explains. "Her car was there, her BlackBerry was there. Her purse was there. You know things that young, adult women don't leave home without!"
He says Jess was outgoing and popular - not the sort to just up and disappear.
"Very down to earth. Very funny...very witty, very social...could talk to anybody," Andy tells Spencer. "You know, young life... just got a career, just bought her first house...just bought a new car - like she had so much, everything was just like that, and then..."
As police scoured the area, the distraught Lloyds mobilized their own small army of friends. "We had her picture all over the Internet," Andy explains.
The only real clues were in Jessica's own backyard: a boot print in the frozen ground and tire tracks in a nearby field.
Cop: Do you get much chance to, uh, to watch television shows, "CSI," things like that?
Police at the roadblock grew suspicious of the colonel when they realized his tires seemed to match those tracks. Now, almost casually, Smyth makes a critical request.
Cop: What would you be willing to give me today to help me, uh, move past you in this investigation?
Colonel: What, uh, what do you need?
Colonel Williams readily agrees to supply DNA, fingerprints, blood samples and even lets them examine his boots. What he may not know is that a team is waiting outside that room to rush the samples for testing.
When Det. Sgt. Smyth returns, the colonel shows the first trace of concern - but only for his reputation.
Colonel: Can I assume you're going to be discreet?
Cop: As possible, yeah.
Colonel: ...'cause, uh, you know, this would have a very significant impact on the base if they thought you thought I did this.
Ciolino says the colonel's body language during the interrogation - arms crossed against his chest, rocking forward in his chair - shows he's worried about a lot more than that.
"...all these nonverbal clues are just fallin' off of him," Ciolino points out as he and Spencer watch the taped interview. "Now, remember, this is a colonel in the air force. He don't sit like this. I mean, that's like a 7-year-old sitting there, almost, you know? He's crossin' his legs [like] he's gotta go to the bathroom."
Cop: What kind of tires do you have on your Pathfinder? ...Would it surprise you to know that, uh, when the CSI officers were looking around her property that they identified a set of tire tracks?
"And, [Williams is] looking at the ground, and he folds up his body, and when you're foldin' up your body, you're concealing, you're hiding. And so, Smyth knows this," Ciolino continues.
Cop: They identified those tires as the same tires on your Pathfinder...
Cop: Yeah. Do you have any recollection at all of being off that road?
Colonel: No I was not off the road, no.
But the tires match and the tests on the colonel's boots are about to come in.
Cop: I'm just going to step out and see how things are going, OK?
Cop: I mean, it is a Sunday, but there's probably 60 or 70 people working on this file so there's a lot of things happening.
"He's never been under pressure like this," Ciolino says. "Let me compare this to he's got the prime minister in his plane and the whole cabinet and it looks like this thing is gonna crash into the side of a mountain in about 10 seconds!"
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