Have you ever had a story linger on in the back of your mind? You just can’t let it go. You continue to flip the story around searching for different angles looking for the magician’s secret, the trick behind the trick. That’s how I felt after watching Dateline on NBC one night.
At first glance, it seemed like a simple crime, a sexual deviant whose thirst grew from stealing women’s under clothes, to taking virtues that were not offered, to the ultimate final stage of murder. The man behind the crimes was Russell Williams, who left police baffled for years until one night he left behind a clue, which lead to his arrest.
I don’t mean to make light of his crimes and disrespect his victims in any manner. Taking innocent lives is never easy to understand. But as a writer I try to wrap my mind around how a killer thinks because normally in a sane mind there are reasons. In some weird aspect, as a writer, I want to justify the murder’s intentions. Was the killer strung out on drugs, or did he have a broken heart, or was he down to his last dollar, or had he lost all his dignity and felt there were no other options, or had he been taught to kill by an abuser? Not to mention, the Seven Deadly Sins and how they can influence evil intentions. These are all motives that lead mankind to murder.
But our serial killer, ex Colonel David Russell Williams, was not affected by the 7 Deadly Sins; nor were there any drugs involved, and there was no down-on-his-luck sob story. He was normal guy by all appearances.
Well, normal on the outside. Williams passed as a gentleman and an officer. He was a pilot for the Canadian Forces with decorations. Williams was the base commander at the time of his arrest, and he had even sported a picture in his office showing he had flown the Queen of England.
Yet there was one tiny hint. Williams had one broken heart in his college years and he was a little obsessive compulsive. He loved to take pictures and keep things neat and tidy. But he was military, so his behavior wouldn’t have been too out of line for a soldier.
But that was it; that was his backstory–nothing out of the ordinary, and nothing that screamed he lead a double life and he was a killer.
I can get my mind around being a sexual deviant whose desires eventually lead to murder, but what I can’t get my mind around was his interview, when Williams admitted to his evening endeavors. That was the part that kept me awake at night looking for the trick behind the trick. He showed no remorse. Matter of fact, when he committed his most violent acts, he went back to work as if nothing had happened. He saluted soldiers, he proceeded over ceremonies, went out for drinks with his best buds (all of who would swear on their dying breath, that Williams was incapable of murder).
Williams never missed a beat of his normal life and yet in his interview as he told every gruesome detail his voice never shook or changed in timbre. There was no anger. It was all a matter of fact. His only concern was his wife and her being embarrassed while police searched his homes for evidence.
When Williams was asked why he did it and what made him choose his victims, he had no answer of substance. He thought for a brief moment and replied he barely knew the women and he decided to kill them so they could not identify him in a line-up. It was all that simple and factual in a tidy box.
During his interview of cold and measured answers you could gauge his emotions. He had none. Williams no more cared for his victims and their traumatized families left behind than a person would care or think about the grass blades they crush under their feet as they walked across a lawn.
Where does such evil come from?
As a writer, I couldn’t create such a crime. I would be asked to rewrite it. I would be told to create a motive; create a connection between the antagonist and his victims. Yet in real life there was none. Do you have a relationship with a blade of grass you’ve crushed? Do you even look back to see how many you’ve broken?
In the real world, evil goes beyond explaining and understanding. There are no reasons. It’s an evil that exists in plain sight, and yet you won’t know its true nature until it’s too late.
How do you define evil?
Have you ever witnessed pure evil?
What do you think of Williams’s case?