Camouflaged Killer: The Shocking Double Life of Colonel Russell Williams offers a thorough treatment of a disturbing story from both criminal psychology and criminal justice perspectives. Gibb does far more than offer a biography and overview of the facts, but also analyzes the key issues of the case and offers suggestions for how to deal with similar situations that may arise in the future. What makes Camouflaged Killer a remarkable work on Colonel Russell Williams is the author's stance that Williams is not "evil," but rather, "plainly, simply, and tragically human," (Introduction p. 1). William's behavior was part of an overarching pattern, which, if it were detected and dealt with sooner, might never have erupted into tragic assaults. Medication error and doctor complicity is a part of the Williams problem few have been courageous enough to address.
Gibb does not avoid the gruesome nature of the crimes William commits, and describes them in grim detail. The book does not progress in chronological order, which is refreshing because Gibb does not intend to offer a biography. Instead, Camouflaged Killer is about the increasing severity of crimes committed by a man who was paradoxically a seasoned servant of the state in his capacity as Canadian military commander. The book is largely about the psychology of the man and the sociological factors at play as well.
Russell Williams committed a number of crimes including breaking and entering, which was really the start of Williams' criminal behavior. Interestingly, Williams has no history of criminal behavior and started acting out at age 44. Williams started to stalk his victims, break into and enter their homes, and steal their lingerie. For example, in 2007, Williams broke into the home of a neighbor he knew well in his hometown of Tweed, entered their daughter's bedroom, and stole six pairs of underwear. He broke into dozens -- nearly 50 -- other homes in the area without ever getting caught. At this time, Williams was only breaking and entering and committing robbery. He would steal undergarments, sex toys, and take pictures of himself wearing the garments. The crimes could have been classified as felonies, but regardless of their disturbing nature, no actual violence had yet to take place.
The next phase of Williams's criminal descent was to abduct and forcibly confine his victims, physically and sexually assault them, and then murder them. In terms of the California Penal Code, categories including robbery, kidnapping, holding hostages, attempts to kill, assault with attempt, rape, and abduction. For instance, he entered the home of a new resident of Tweed and assaulted her, and then repeated this crime again and again on different victims over the course of several years. He always photographed, videotaped, and otherwise documented his crimes -- which although not a crime in itself, does offer special insight into Williams's psyche. Binding, hitting with blunt objects like flashlights, strangulating and suffocating his victims to death did later become part of Williams's violent repertoire that correspond with some of the most severe crimes in the penal code of any state: rape and sexual assault; and murder.
Williams's crimes grew increasingly severe within a short period of time. By 2009, Williams had become murderous. The only question was the degree of premeditation. Clearly, a pattern of behavior had been established by the time Williams brutally assaulted and raped fellow officer Marie-France Comeau and then murdered her. Williams had become so severely psychologically detached from his own actions that he was actually able to show up for meetings immediately after the murder, and then write an official military letter of condolence to the victim's father. Williams committed a similarly brutal rape and murder of Jessica Lloyd in January of 2010. Part of his routing was retraining the women, assaulting tem, and photographing everything as a fetish. Therefore, it can easily be said that premeditation was involved and that the Canadian courts indeed made the right decision.
However, Williams was starting to get sloppy and leave behind evidence. He left a footprint in Comeau's blood, and also left behind tire tracks at Lloyd's house. The police roadblock detained Williams when his tires matched those at Lloyd's house. Evidence against Williams was indisputable, and ultimately the former Colonel offered a confession. He pleaded guilty to over eighty counts of break and enter/robbery, numerous sexual assaults, and the two murders. Successive life terms in prison ensure that Williams will never be released, and there is nothing at all to disagree within terms of the charges and the sentencing. There is no controversy at all in this case, except that which is related to how Williams's problem might have been nipped in the bud. Taking drugs like Prednisone could have caused Williams to act out. The degree to which Williams's wife is also complicit has been called into questions, too, because many believe that she suspected something was wrong and did nothing. Complicity and fear of speaking out are core themes in Camouflaged Killer.
A cross-cultural analysis of the Canadian criminal justice system and the American one reveals core similarities and few important differences. One of the key points to remember is that Williams was a decorated military officer, which might have impacted the course of his arrest and trial in either nation. In Canada, the National Investigation Service (NIS) briefly got involved at the beginning of Williams's arrest but his arraignment and trial proceeded entirely in the civilian sector. Methods of interrogation in Ottawa did not differ from those we use in the United States. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms corresponds largely to the Constitutional foundations of habeas corpus and other aspects of criminal law that are rooted in constitutional law. What makes the interrogation of Williams is the deftness of the interviewer. The interviewer used tactics that can and should be taught in any criminal justice academy, because through these techniques, a confession that is admissible in court can be acquired. Williams was willing to offer his own DNA evidence, and was apparently in denial about the situation.
The outcomes of this case would have been the same in the United States as it was in Canada, so long as the officers and especially the interrogation officer remained intelligent in their approach. For one, it was critical to establish the road block and nail Williams by observing the tire tracks. Had this not been done, Williams would likely have struck again. Second, the Canadian authorities handled this high profile case with aplomb. The difference in the United States, the media might have interfered in a more severe and serious way and could have interfered with the proceedings of the case. In Canada, the media handled the case better. This allowed law enforcement to proceed with minimal interruption, and also to shield the suspect from the elements that might have made him more reluctant to confess.
Camouflaged Killer is a book that is more valuable for use in criminal psychology than it is for criminal justice, because the story is less about procedures than it is about deviant behavior, sociology, and psychology. Having said that, the story of Colonel Williams is important for inclusion in a criminal justice course for several reasons. First, the story is related directly to criminal justice. With a few ancillary sources, Camouflaged Killer does help students of criminal justice understand the potential difficulties with arresting and prosecuting a military officer. The story of Colonel Williams also reveals a lot about judicious interrogation techniques, which in this case led to the successful prosecution of Williams. Williams confessed willingly, though, and students need to read about cases in which extracting confessions is more daunting and challenging. Similarly, in this case, hard evidence was easy to come by. Students will not learn much about forensics.