CFB Trenton shocked after base commander charged in deaths of two women

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BELLEVILLE, Ont. - Personnel at Canadian Forces Base Trenton are "shocked" after their "respected" base commander of Canadian Forces Base Trenton was charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of two eastern Ontario women and in the sexual assaults of two others.
Col. Russell Williams, 46, of Tweed, Ont., about 30 minutes north of Trenton, was arrested Sunday in Ottawa, police said at a news conference Monday.
He was charged with first-degree murder in the death of Jessica Lloyd, 27, of Belleville and Marie Comeau, a 38-year-old corporal with CFB Trenton's 437 squadron who lived in nearby Brighton.
"We're all shocked," said Lt. Annie Morin, a public affairs officer at CFB Trenton.
"The wing commander has been a man that's been respected and very much liked, so this news came as a very big shock for pretty much everybody on the base."
Maj. Gen. Yvan Blondin of 1 Canadian Air Division was to give a press conference at 8 Wing CFB Trenton at 5 p.m. Monday.
Williams walked confidently into the provincial courthouse in hand and leg shackles Monday afternoon, wearing a blue prison-issue jumpsuit and blue booties.
When asked, he said he understood the proceedings against him. He was remanded in custody and will appear by video on Feb. 18.
A handful of distraught-looking people were in the courtroom and as Williams got up to leave, one man uttered an obscenity.
A publication ban was ordered as is typical in bail hearings, and there is a publication ban on the names of the sex assault victims.
Lloyd's parents, Roxanne and Andy Lloyd offered their "heartfelt thanks" to police for their long hours spent trying to find their daughter, and asked for privacy during this difficult time.
"We would like to thank all of our family and friends and co-workers for their unwavering love and support over the past 11 days," the grieving parents said in a statement.
"Thanks to everyone who helped search for Jessica and to those who created and printed the banners, posters and flyers and to all family and friends who distributed them."
Williams was "brought to the attention of the police as the result of information gathered during a roadside canvas on Highway 37 on the night of Feb. 4," Det.-Insp. Chris Nicholas said at the news conference.
Lloyd's body was found Monday in Tweed and an autopsy to determine the cause of death was being scheduled at the coroner's office in Toronto.
Comeau was found dead in her home Nov. 25, 2009. The cause of death was not identified at the time.
She had been in the military for 12 years and had been at 437 squadron for six months before her murder.
Williams is also charged with forcible confinement, break and enter and sexual assault after two women were sexually assaulted during separate home invasions in the Tweed area in September of 2009.
The Department of National Defence issued a statement noting Williams is considered innocent until proven guilty, but that in light of the "seriousness of the charges" an interim Wing Commander for 8 Wing Trenton will soon be appointed.
A review will also be conducted by 1 Canadian Air Division in Winnipeg to determine the most appropriate action pending the outcome of his trial, said the statement from Chief of the Air Staff Lt.-Gen. Andre Deschamps.
"The Canadian Forces hold their members to a very high standard of conduct and performance, in Canada or abroad," Deschamps said.
"I confirm that the air force is fully supporting civilian authorities in the conduct of the current matter."
Deschamps extended his "deepest sympathies to the families of those affected by these tragic events."
Police spent Monday morning searching Williams' property.
Investigators said the only link to the two dead women they were prepared to identify was "geography."
They wouldn't say whether the victims knew the suspect, and Nicholas said the investigation isn't over.
"We are certainly tracking the movements of where this man has been over the past several years, and we're continuing on with our investigation," Nicholas said.
Lloyd was last heard from the night of Jan. 28 when she sent a text message to a friend.
She was reported missing the next day after she failed to show up for her job with the Tri-Board Student Transportation Services in neighbouring Napanee.
The reeve of the small eastern Ontario community of Tweed said townspeople are distraught following the discovery of Lloyd's body.
Jo-Anne Albert said residents had been following the case and had been praying the woman would be found alive.
"The community is devastated," Albert said in a telephone interview.
"Everyone has followed the news and hoped and prayed that this young lady would be found and brought home to her family. So it's definitely not the outcome that we wanted."
Albert and her staff can't believe it, she said. Tweed is a peaceful community and this is the first time something like this has happened there, she added.
Police had used ground and helicopter searches to look for Lloyd, and friends and acquaintances distributed flyers around the Belleville area and set up several Facebook groups to spread the word about her disappearance.
Williams was appointed as the base commander of CFB Trenton last July.
He enrolled in the Canadian Forces in 1987 after getting a degree in economics and political Science from the University of Toronto.
He got his wings in 1990 and spent two years teaching at the military's flight training school.
While posted to squadrons in Shearwater, N.S., and Ottawa he flew the CC144 Challenger.
He was promoted to lieutenant colonel in June 2004, and was commanding officer of 437 Squadron in Trenton for two years.
Between December 2005 and June 2006, he was the commanding officer for Camp Mirage, the secretive Canadian Forces forward logistics base that's not officially acknowledged by the government or military but has been widely reported to be near Dubai.
His Defence Department biography says he is married.

Organizations: Canadian Forces, Canadian Air, Department of National Defence Tri-Board Student Transportation Services University of Toronto

Geographic location: BELLEVILLE, Trenton, Ottawa Brighton Toronto Winnipeg Canada Napanee Eastern Ontario Shearwater Dubai

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