A 1999 file photo of Dr. Elliott Leyton, a professor emeritus at Memorial University and author of the book Hunting Humans at his home in Paradise Falls.
"The killers who are on the loose for long periods of time, even months, are typically the last person you'd suspect," says criminologist and sociologist Jack Levin, an expert on the psychology behind multiple murderers.
"They look more innocent than an innocent man," Levin says. "And that's part of the secret of their success of getting away with murder.
"They just don't look like the monsters that they are."
CFB Trenton Wing Commander Col. Russell Williams — a man described as quiet, and even awkward at times, a man the top commander of Air Force operations across the country said seemed like "just a shining bright star" based on his file — stands charged with two counts of first-degree murder and the forcible confinement and sexual assault of two others in cases where women were bound naked to chairs and photographed by their attacker.
Williams has not been found guilty of anything, but if police and a Crown prosecutor can prove the allegations then he would seem to fall into the category of a serial killer and rapist. But does he fit this profile?
It is a question that police agencies across Canada are dealing with as they revisit cold cases and calling Ontario investigators probing the multiple murders and sexual assaults. Who are these people what criteria do they have to meet?
The FBI defines serial killings as three or more victims killed one at a time, over a period of months, years or even decades, says Levin, author of the book, Serial Killers and Sadistic Murderers: Up Close and Personal.
"But when you find two, you almost always find three."
Canadian anthropologist Elliott Leyton says serial killers tend to be of what psychologists call a "sociopathic character." They have no comprehension of remorse, he says, "no feeling of empathy for anyone else. People are just things that they can use for their own enjoyment and titillation," says Leyton, and if they are sexual sadists as well, "then we've got a real problem with someone who can do what he wants, whenever he wants, and lie about it easily."
The author of Hunting Humans: The Rise of the Multiple Modern Murderer, one of the most renowned books on serial killings, Leyton says one of the most disturbing things he has seen in life is a collection at the FBI academy in Quantico, Va., of serial killer fantasies — detailed writings and notebooks in which the killers "first begin to work out what they're going to do," and photographs taken by serial killers of their killings.
"It's not like, as people often say, 'Oh, he just cracked,' or something," says Leyton, a professor emeritus at Memorial University. "This is a very thought out, conscious, first-degree murder kind of extravagance."
Serial killers are meticulous planners, Levin says, and like the baseball player who hits a home run and wants to keep the ball, they seek "trophies" of their accomplishments. Black and purple bras, thong underwear with a poodle, white shoes, zip ties and pornographic photos and videos were among the items listed in a search warrant police previously executed on another man suspected last year in the sexual attacks Williams is accused of.
"To a normal person, these are hideous crimes, but to the rapist-slash-killer, these are his greatest accomplishments, and he wants to reminisce about them when he's not actually attacking women," says Levin, Brudnick Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Anthropology at Northeastern University in Boston, who spent 25 years investigating and interviewing serial killers, including Canada's most notorious multiple murderer, Clifford Olson. Levin interviewed Olson while he was serving time in Kingston Penitentiary in Ontario.
"These guys will collect photographs, body parts, underwear, jewellery — anything they can use later on to remind them of their cherished moments causing their victims to suffer," he says.
The sexual assaults and killings Williams is accused of occurred over a span of five months: In September, two women were bound and sexually assaulted in homes within walking distance from his cottage in Tweed, Ont. In November, the body of Marie France Comeau, 37, a corporal from the base that Williams commanded, was found dead in her home in nearby Brighton, Ont. Monday, police discovered the body of Jessica Lloyd, 27, who had been missing for 11 days.
Levin said most serial killers don't "graduate" from rape or sexual assault. "The last thing a prolific killer would do is to leave the victim alive so that she can serve as an eye witness or testify against him."
But there have been exceptions: Schoolgirl killer Paul Bernardo would later confess to being the "Scarborough rapist." He was convicted of 11 sexual assaults as his dangerous offender hearing in 1995. He has since admitted to several more.
"What happens in those cases, the killer gets bored," Levin says. "He wants to up the ante, have a little more fun at the expense of his victims. Rather than just torture them, he then takes their lives. That's typically the way these killers will graduate from rape to murder, or from sexual assault to murder."
They also have a comfort zone, preferring to kill close to home. They know the neighbourhood, Levin says. "They know escape routes, they may be familiar with the victims, having stalked them before attacking."
It's possible there are more victims who have been sexually assaulted by the same person, Levin says, but who don't want to come forward.
Leyton, said he didn't want to comment on the case specifically, but in general, the overwhelming majority of sexual assaults and serial murders are committed by people who are "burning with rage" over some real, or imagined trauma in their lives. "As they develop and grow they begin to blame their trauma, their failure in life, whatever they are upset about, on a particular group." Sometimes that group is a race, sometimes it's a religion, and sometimes it's a gender. "They begin to foment first the rage, and then the idea of vengeance against selected members of this group," Leyton says.****
In most cases serial killers are working class, or lower middle class at their highest, he says. "They feel that they've been cheated out of their just desserts in life, and they're raging."
In that sense, Williams does not appear to fit the pattern.
But power, and the need for it, also plays a role in the psychology of criminal minds.
"Most men who are in the military and become officers are there for the right reasons," Levin said. "They want to help their country, they want to prevent conflict, they want to fight wars. But a few of them are there for the power and the control and the dominance."
"I've seen this before. There are a few bad cops who also joined up for the wrong reason. They like the uniform — maybe the military uniform in this case — and the merit badges and the position of honour and masculine authority," he said.
"There are many guys who have grown up powerless, and then they compensate in a socially acceptable way. They may hire and fire, wheel and deal . . . but for some reason serial killers can't satisfy their need for power in a socially acceptable way."
Instead, he says, they compensate "by making their victims suffer.
"The more their victim begs for mercy, the better they feel about themselves. It makes them feel superior to their victims. It makes them feel important. And that's why they do it."
But what distresses Leyton is the tendency for the media to glamorize violent acts. Serial killer movies such as the Silence of the Lamb, "they're still pumping them out," he says. "They treat them as intelligent and dashing and people of great power, when in fact, they're nothing of the kind.
"They're pathetic, defective people who have drawn the wool over people's eyes about how limited and pathetic they are, and whose only idea of a human relationship is to capture and obliterate the person."
Professor Leyton should take a run down to 161 Elgin Street Ottawa, and watch the dishonourable underbelly of the family court judiciary at work.
"pathetic defective people who have drawn the wool over people's eyes" is a very good description for the "worst of the worst" of the Ontario Superior Court Judiciary. Power, Sheffield, DeSousa, Jennifer McKinnon, and that's a summary of the worst of the worst of humanity that can be found in Ottawa Family Court where father's have no legal rights.