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Evidence exposes scope of Williams's depravity

This image of women's underwear, carefully arranged, was submitted as evidence in court on Oct. 18, 2010, in the trial of Colonel Russell Williams.

In an eight-hour public shaming that officially shattered the elaborate lie that was Colonel Russell Williams's life and career, Crown prosecutors exposed the former air force commander Monday as a murderer, rapist and conniving predator who targeted girls as young as 12 years old.

The 47-year-old, who until nine months ago was running Canada's busiest air force base, pleaded guilty to more than 80 sex crimes, including two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of sexual assault and dozens upon dozens of thefts of lingerie and women's clothing.

But his guilty pleas - which were so extensive it took a court clerk 34 minutes to read his crimes into the record - were a sideshow to an almost theatrical exposé of his sexual depravity. In his address to Mr. Justice Robert Scott, assistant Crown attorney Robert Morrison underscored how more than a dozen of his victims were under the age of 18, girls young enough to have dolls placed on their beds, or Tweety bird emblazoned on their underwear.

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In the end, the colonel's steadfast routine of photographing and documenting every last step of his lingerie thefts was his undoing; the prosecution displayed photo after photo on two flat-screen televisions of the colonel sprawled out on numerous beds adorned with flowery duvets and wearing all manner of women's and girl's clothing: bras, slips, thongs and negligees. In most of the photos he is fondling himself, and in all of the photos he is wearing the same focused and determined look on his face. His method of breaking into homes varied from slipping through an open window, to picking locks, to cutting open screens.

The photos of his missions were painstakingly hidden in a complex filing system on his home computer so "his wife would never discover the evidence of his crimes," Crown attorney Lee Burgess told the court.

But the colonel's efforts to disguise his perversity went much deeper than hiding photos. After stealing 168 articles of clothing from one young woman in June, 2009, he drafted a letter for her in which he pretended to be a teenaged boy. "Your place was kind of like the motherlode ... I started this with a chick down the road from you ... if you decide to call the cops, tell them I'm sorry for the trouble," he wrote. He proceeded to list all of his previous break-ins in an effort to push investigators in the direction of a high school boy who didn't exist.

The Ottawa police pursuit of whoever it was that was raiding suburban east-end Ottawa of underwear was equally fascinating for him. He stored numerous news clippings and police alerts about the thefts in his digital archive. When Ontario Provincial Police forensic examiners pored over his computer, they found a 148-page monthly crime report published by the force that mentioned some of the thefts. Prosecutors did not say how he obtained the document.

Prosecutors also detailed how a teenaged girl from the small town of Tweed, Ont., where Col. Williams used to keep a cottage, narrowly escaped what likely would have turned into a face-to-face confrontation with the colonel in her bedroom in the middle of the night.

When police examined his computer, they found a note explaining how he had lurked outside the home of girl whose bedroom he had been staking out for months. With her in the house by herself on Sept. 1, 2009, he was ready to make his move "but her father came home," he wrote.

The Canadian Forces reacted to the evidence by issuing a statement, explaining that his guilty pleas will allow the forces to formally remove him of his rank. He will retain his pension.

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By the time court ended for the day, prosecutors had gotten to only one of his most serious crimes, his first sexual assault of a young mother who lived not far from his Eastern Ontario cottage. He punched the woman while she slept, and then forced her to pose naked for him while he photographed her. The facts surrounding the murders of Jessica Lloyd and Corporal Marie-France Comeau, one of his subordinates, have not yet been addressed.

Whatever comes out of the coming days, the family members of his victims are not hopeful that any of it will help them make sense of it all.

Andy Lloyd, the brother of Ms. Lloyd, who was only 27 when she was killed, told a throng of reporters: "I might get an explanation, but I'll never understand."

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