WARNING: This story might be disturbing for some readers.
For eastern Ontario and Canada’s military institution, the crimes of former CFB Trenton commander Russell Williams mark a painful chapter in history for so many.
But in the 10 years since Williams was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder, two separate sexual assaults and 82 fetish break-and-enters, many continue to reflect and remember the legacy of his victims.
“Every year, obviously, we have birthdays and the anniversary of her death that comes up. Thanksgiving was just a couple of weeks ago. You know, it was just me and my mom. Unfortunately, that’s the way it has been and that’s the way it will be,” Andy Lloyd, Jessica Lloyd’s brother, told Global News on Wednesday.
“Every year seems to get a little bit easier, I guess, every year it seems to be… maybe it’s not easier, maybe it’s just more routine. Maybe we’re getting used to it.”
Jessica, a Belleville resident, was 27 when she was killed by Williams. He broke into Jessica’s home, raped, and kidnapped her. Williams took Jessica to his Tweed, Ont., cottage and killed her. He also was convicted of murdering 37-year-old Brighton resident Cpl. Marie-France Comeau.
Williams methodically chronicled and catalogued his crimes, shooting videos and still photos of himself in the act and amassing a huge collection of undergarments stolen from women and girls. Dozens of gruesome photos were shown during his trial.
On Oct. 21, days after pleading guilty to the charges, Williams was sentenced in a Belleville court to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years. The day after the sentence was read out, the Canadian Armed Forces stripped Williams of his rank and took the extraordinary move of burning his uniform.
After Jessica went missing, Andy along with family and friends put up posters in an effort to find her. He said the family received sighting reports from people in New York state, Pennsylvania and Vancouver within two days. Andy recalled how the community stepped up to help with the search.
“It’s a great place to live, a lot of nice people, and you could really tell how it affected the whole community just by the way they rallied. I mean when we had the first day of searches, there were cars as far as you can see on both sides of the highway. It was crazy. It was like a concert or a sporting event there was many cars, and I thought, ‘Holy,'” he said.
“Like, just the amount of people that I saw, people I hadn’t seen in 10 years that I used to work with as a teenager. Friends of my family, friends that came in from Ottawa. Looking back on it, at the time you don’t realize because it’s you’re kind of in a mode. You don’t realize just how big everything really is turning out to be.”
Long-time friend Lisa Ray described Jessica as the kind of friend everyone should strive to be.
“She was constantly always putting others before herself. She was well-liked even with the way the community came together. She had such a wide friend base everyone just loved her. You couldn’t help but love her,” she told Global News.
“I’ve never met anyone like her and I feel blessed to have had her in my life.”
Ray said she named her six-month-old daughter after Jessica (Charlotte Jessica Ray).
“As far as justice, even if (Williams) were to die tomorrow, it’s still not justice to me.”
“I do feel like she’s an angel because she saved a lot of other women out there because I know if he was not caught he wouldn’t have gone on to more women.”
After it was announced Williams was charged in connection with Jessica’s death, Andy said he was particular struck by Williams’ position as commander of Canada’s largest air force base.
“Just being an ex-military family really put a different spin on it,” he said while recalling how his father served in the Navy.
“Nobody had any idea how deep it was going to go, right, and how much stuff and how many people and how many families and how big of an area were affected by his actions.”
During Williams’ trial, Andy served as the family’s spokesperson in addressing dozens of reporters who were assigned to cover the proceedings.
“I’m pretty sure every day I kind of had to stop at the door and do a bit of a reality check and an emotion check before I went out and addressed the country, right, and that’s essentially what I was doing,” he said, adding his often thought of his father who died when he was 15 in thinking about how he would respond.
“It was very hard. It was very hard being professional. It was very hard saying the right thing.”
While by his mother’s side, they attended court on a regular basis and were set to expect the worst.
“We had already seen everything. We would already been briefed on it. And yeah, a lot of it was pretty disgusting. I mean, that’s something that nobody wants to see once, let alone twice,” Andy said.
“At the same time when you were sitting in the front row, whenever something pretty bad would come across the screen, I could feel about a hundred eyes turning towards me and it was very intimidating to say the least.
“I was uncomfortable. I didn’t want to be that close to him … He never really looked at us. He never he just kind of stared at his feet and stared at the TV screen the whole time.”
After Williams was sentenced, Andy said it took him a few months to be able to return to work and it ultimately took a few years to get more toward a sense of day-to-day normalcy.
“I remember that feeling 10 years ago about walking out of that court and knowing that I don’t have to go back again. It was a good feeling it was all over,” he said.
“At the time, I didn’t think it was closure, but now I think it was a little bit.”
Meanwhile, back in Belleville, the reminders of Jessica are ever-present for Andy. As Global News caught up with him, he was out washing her restored Grand Prix — one he said he still drives on a regular basis.
Andy said their shared love of the Toronto Maple Leafs and her devotion to the Tragically Hip help keep her memory alive.
“I think about her when I’m watching Leafs games. I still have a few things of hers, Maple Leaf memorabilia, which is kind of neat,” he said.
“(She was) very funny, very outgoing, very social.”
— With files from The Canadian Press