Canadian military official charged with murder

TORONTO – The commander of Canada’s largest Air Force base, who once flew dignitaries around the country, has been charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of two women.

Ontario Provincial Police Det. Insp. Chris Nicholas said Monday that Col. Russell Williams, 46, was arrested Sunday in Ottawa. He was also charged in the sexual assaults of two other women.

Williams, a 23-year military veteran, was appointed as the base commander of Canadian Forces Base Trenton in Trenton, Ontario last July. Trenton is Canada’s busiest Air Force base and is providing logistical support for Canada’s missions in Haiti and Afghanistan.

Williams is charged with the first-degree murder of Jessica Lloyd, 27, a Belleville, Ontario resident whose body was found early Monday, and Marie Comeau, a 38-year-old corporal found dead in her Brighton, Ontario, home in November.

Authorities said Williams came to the attention of police during a roadside canvas on Feb. 4, six days after Lloyd was deemed missing.

Williams, 46, is also charged with forcible confinement, breaking and entering and sexual assault after two women were sexually assaulted during two separate home invasions in the Tweed, Ontario area in September 2009.

“We’re shocked by the connection that has been made with a leader in our Air Force,” said Maj. Gen. Yvan Blondin, the direct commander of Williams. “It obviously is no longer possible for the commander to remain in his position.”

Police descended on Williams’ Ottawa home on Sunday and police cars remained there Monday evening. Williams’ Defense Department biography said he is married.

Williams once served as a Challenger aircraft pilot who transported VIPs. The Air Force declined to say who he flew but the Challenger regularly flies cabinet ministers and the governor general, Canada’s ceremonial head of state.

Between December 2005 and June 2006, Williams was the commanding officer for Camp Mirage, the secretive Canadian Forces logistics base that is not officially acknowledged by the government or military but has been widely reported to be near Dubai.

He was held in custody and will appear in court via video on Feb. 18.