The fore stock of the 12-gauge shotgun slid forward, the barrel having been sawed off. Ammunition was meticulously loaded into the tubular magazine before it was placed in the trunk, nestled beside a fully loaded 9-millimetre semi-automatic rifle amongst rounds of strewn ammunition.
The preparation on this day mirrored steps taken by a hunter about to step into the bounds of the wilderness, seeking to target unsuspecting prey. This was to be Eric Harris’s last day of life in this small community in Jefferson County, in the state of Colorado. It was the morning of Tuesday April 20, 1999. Quaint serenity would surrender to a sudden burst of violence, culminating in a lingering stigma, anonymity forfeited. The name of this small American town firmly ensconced in the annals of history, synonymous with images of violence. This is Columbine, Colorado.
The second vehicle was loaded with a cache of weapons and explosives. Dylan Klebold equipped himself with a sawed-off shotgun and a 9-millimetre semi-automatic handgun. The wheels of this treacherous plan had been firmly set in motion as the two were set to meet at Columbine high school. It was 11:10am. Two desks sat empty this day, as the subtle eeriness of their absenteeism about to unfold. The smell of cafeteria food began to permeate down the hallway as students shuffled to class amidst the familiar sound of muffled chatter and lockers clanging shut. Unbeknownst to the staff and students, Klebold and Harris lay waiting in their vehicles outside the school.
Two propane bombs had been covertly placed inside the cafeteria by the disgruntled teens. Reminiscent of a hunter stalking game, the killers planned to ambush students scurrying from the school after the bombs exploded. They were infatuated with and wanted to emulate Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, an American responsible for bombing a federal building in 1995 that killed 168 people.
The two students had been bullied and subjected to verbal barrages from other teens, thus alienating them from their peers. Resentment translated into a simmering rage. Incessantly playing violent video games represented an outlet to vent this pent-up anger. The graphic games entailed the utilization of weaponry to methodically rehearse killing fictional characters in a simulated fantasy world. Fantasy and reality became a blurred distinction on April 20th, 1999. This was not a rehearsal. After bombs failed to explode the two killers stealthily approached their school, entered and began shooting at students in a barrage of rapid gunfire, the violent blasts reverberating down the corridors. As students scurried for cover the killers unleashed a reign of terror, as ammunition ejected from the ports of their weapons. Spent shell casings were strewn throughout the bloodied hallways of Columbine high school, the smell of gunpowder lingering in the air.
Twelve students and one teacher were killed during the murderous rampage. The school shooters administered their own justice with one swift pull of the trigger, forever engraining Columbine with the violent carnage that unraveled that fateful day.
Written by: Stephen G. Metelsky (Pseudonym: Stephen G. Boyle)
Henry Lee Lucas was one of the most prolific serial killers in the annals of criminal history.
Dubbed the ‘one eyed drifter’ and ‘confession’ killer, Lucas was indicted for 246 homicides and confessed to some 600 murders, some involving later recanted versions. Interestingly enough, Lucas had divulged sparse details about various slayings that only the killer would have been privy to. His murderous rampage spanned from 1960 to 1983. Lucas was the definitive example of being a product of his environment. His dysfunctional family was comprised of a drug addicted prostitute mother who routinely exposed her son to a world of crime and deviance. His father was a heavy drinker who later succumbed to his alcohol-inducted lifestyle. The early and later life for Lucas was void of any form of parental and social nurturing. His exposure to routine beatings and a sexually deviant lifestyle would be internalized as normal behaviour.
In 1960, then 24-year old Lucas became embroiled in a verbal argument with his mother. The domestic dispute escalated as Lucas unleashed years of pent up rage, leaving her dead in a pool of her own blood. He was convicted in Michigan for second degree murder and jailed for 10 years before being released in 1970 due to prison overcrowding. In 1976 Lucas was in the state of Florida when he met Otis Toole, an equally demented and deranged sociopath. Together, they embarked on a cross-country murder spree, claiming many innocent lives along the way. Lucas would later claim that the pair committed an exorbitant number of homicides, divulging that Toole was directly involved in approximately 108 homicides.
In 1983, Lucas was arrested for illegal possession of a firearm. Unbeknownst to authorities, Lucas was about to unleash a startling confession. In the state of Texas a ‘Lucas Task Force’ was established enabling investigators to debrief Lucas in an effort to solve various homicide cases and locate victims. Lucas would later attempt to recant some of these confessions.
In 1998 an imprisoned Lucas had his death sentence commuted to life in prison by then Governor George W. Bush, after it had been recommended by the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles. Lucas died in prison in 2001 at the age of 64. His murderous accomplice, Otis Toole, had died back in 1996 while serving six life sentences in Florida state prison.
Story by: Stephen G. Metelsky (Pseudonym: Stephen G. Boyle)
On Sept. 30, 2011, one of Canada’s most notorious and despicable serial killers finally succumbed behind the walls of a prison hospital, amidst a collective sigh of relief amongst Canadians, particularly those directly victimized in the early 1980’s.
He was the beast of British Columbia, Clifford Olson. To fathom the crimes committed by Olson is unimaginable yet firmly etched in the memories of Canadians. Between 1980 and 1981 Olson’s treacherous criminal modus operandi had evolved into a reign of terror and murder as fear and hysteria spread throughout the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley region in British Columbia when an unknown serial killer was on the loose. During this span, Olson was responsible for the homicides of eleven youths within the province of British Columbia.
Olson was arrested in 1981 amidst controversy that sent shock waves through the country and beyond to reverberate to present time. Olson entered into a controversial deal with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police that enabled him to receive $10,000 for each body he would assist police to locate after he confessed to eleven different homicides. The wife of the notorious killer was the alleged benefactor of the $100,000 along with his son. Although difficult to comprehend, a person with a psychopathic predisposition can effectively separate the distinct modes of their personality, akin to a Jekyll and Hyde personality. Olson was able to create the perception and aura of a family man while simultaneously catapulting his criminal repertoire to include murder.
This was not Olson’s only controversial stint while he was an imprisoned convict for almost 30 years. In 1996, under a Canadian law referred to as the ‘faint hope clause’ which allows an inmate serving a life term to seek a parole hearing after serving 15 years behind bars, Olson applied for and was subsequently denied parole. Olson was also denied parole when he applied in 2006 and 2010. In December 2011, the faint hope clause was rescinded and no longer available to inmates serving life terms.
Olson had made a number of outrageous and unfounded claims behind prison walls in a feeble attempt to rekindle some significance in his own demented mind as he became a thorn in the side of Canadians with incessant letters to law makers and politicians. It caused some Canadians to reminisce about the death penalty and when it was applicable in Canada, before it was abolished in 1976, a mere five years before Olson’s murderous rampage came to an end.
In 2010, information surfaced that Olson had been receiving two separate federal government benefit cheques each month, the sum exceeding one thousand dollars. The Government of Canada terminated the serial killer’s ability to receive these monetary benefits shortly before cancer finally terminated Olson’s life permanently.
Story by: Stephen G. Metelsky (Pseudonym: Stephen G. Boyle)
Real estate developer Peter Demeter arrived at his Mississauga home on July 18, 1973, to find his wife of six years, Christine Ferrari, sprawled facedown on the garage floor in a pool of blood. Severe trauma to the head from a blunt object, likely a hammer or tire iron, had caused her death. But this was no accident. Claiming his innocence, Demeter was convicted of hiring an unidentified killer to carry out the murder of his wife and sentenced to life in prison. Even though police had initially named Imre Olejnyik as a person of interest in the homicide, he was never charged and tried for the heinous crime. The petty criminal died in 1975, taking any secrets he may have harboured to his grave.
The criminal trial of Peter Demeter was one of the longest in Canadian history. The millionaire hiring a hitman to murder his Austrian-born wife, a beautiful model who had allegedly grown tired of the marriage as well, garnered extensive media coverage worldwide. Rumors abounded that each spouse had supposedly been planning the other’s demise, insurance money being the motivating force. The trial delved into the Hungarian Canadian underworld, even though no one has ever been formally charged with the vicious homicide from upscale Mississauga. Even after the murder of his wife, Demeter unsuccessfully tried to collect the $1-million insurance policy.
In 1983 Demeter was paroled. His newfound freedom would be short-lived. Within two years Demeter was the mastermind behind a plot to have his own nephew murdered. Demeter was convicted of two counts of counselling to commit murder, thus receiving two life sentences that would effectively keep him behind bars indefinitely. However, the penal system would not deter Demeter’s homicidal tendencies. In 1988 Demeter’s lawyer, Toby Belman, had some of the convicted felon’s stocks frozen when the prisoner neglected to pay his legal bills. As Demeter’s rage spiralled incessantly out of control, a premeditated plot to kidnap and murder the daughter of his attorney was meticulously being planned by the imprisoned felon. The plot never came to fruition but two additional life sentences for conspiracy to kidnap and murder eventually did. Demeter later attempted to have the son of his cousin murdered – another sinister plot devised behind bars, prompting an eventual clinical diagnosis that labeled Demeter a psychopath and an indefinite risk to the public if he were ever to be released.
Since 1999, Demeter has waived his bi-annual parole hearings conceding that he will remain in prison until he dies. During this last parole hearing Demeter was deemed to be so dangerous he was denied an opportunity to leave the prison walls for four hours, even though he would have been shackled and guarded by two escorts. Hampered with various health issues, the 79-year-old Demeter is spending the remainder of his life at Bath Institution, a medium-security facility for disabled convicts just outside of Kingston.
Despite his age, Demeter still poses a significant risk to the public if ever released.
Written by: Stephen Metelsky (Pseudonym: Stephen G. Boyle)
CRIME FLASHBACK Column – Niagara This Week, 2012
The sociopath has no regard for the adverse consequences of their own behaviour. The narcissistic sociopath has a unique ability to blend in seamlessly amongst their family, friends and co-workers. They can assimilate themselves in different types of social settings, typically without raising any suspicions about their true inner identity.
The sociopath has an innate ability to separate their secret criminal tendencies from the normative images they project during the course of their public social lives, truly reminiscent of the ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ persona. This was excruciatingly evident with Colonel Russell Williams, the commander of CFB Trenton, Canada’s largest air force base. During the day, Williams projected the aura of legitimacy as the high ranking commander in charge of 3,000 people. In 2005 Williams even piloted a plane that carried Queen Elizabeth II. However, when Williams was not commanding the base, he was prowling by night, searching for his next potential victim.
Williams did not become a killer overnight. His progression to killing entailed a methodical escalation initially involving various acts of voyeurism. Once these acts became mundane, William’s deviant behaviour escalated to the point where he was breaking into the homes of women he had been covertly stalking. Most of these break-ins occurred overnight, sometimes with the victims inside their homes. Initially, William’s intent was to break in to steal women’s clothing and take photographs in order to satisfy a twisted and escalating sexual obsession. This obsession spiraled out of control as William’s began committing riskier crimes to curtail his insatiable and demented obsession.
The deviant escalation of a predator’s method of operation, is quite common amongst serial offenders. Serial predators initially commit petty crimes that are minor in nature, such as mischief or voyeurism. The tedium of committing particular offences eventually involves an escalation to riskier more violent crimes. The boredom propels the offender
to take more risks as their levels of deviance and confidence thrive. Another commonality amongst these serial predators is the acquisition of a trophy. A trophy represents a tangible item the predator takes from a particular victim so they can relive the crime incessantly until the urge to strike again surfaces. The serial predator will photograph or videotape their crimes. This profile fit the modus operandi of Colonel Williams. It is almost a carbon copy of what transpired with killer Paul Bernardo. Ironically, Williams and Bernardo have been linked to the University of Toronto where both had studied economics during the mid-1980’s at the Scarborough campus. However, there is no evidence to suggest a criminal linkage between them.
After breaking into the homes of various women and assaulting them, William’s violent behaviour escalated to murder. He committed the most heinous act on two separate occasions. One of the victims was a corporal from the CFB Trenton air force base where Williams reigned supreme. The split diabolic persona of Williams enabled a segue from his midnight murderous ways to his daytime responsibilities as a husband and commander without raising suspicion. However, his secretive world was to become unraveled through forensic evidence collected at one of the murder scenes.
In February 2010, police began an intense investigation after the murder of Jessica Lloyd. Early on during the investigation police located and retrieved a valuable piece of forensic evidence from the murder scene. A distinct set of tire tread marks was detected by crime scene investigators. The tread marks were measured, photographed and catalogued as evidence. On February 4, 2010 police had set up a proactive roadside checkpoint, patiently and methodically checking vehicles as they strolled down the snow covered roads. Williams came to a complete stop in his SUV, unfazed this would represent the catalyst to his unraveling murderous double life. Police were immediately intrigued by the tread patterns on the tires of Williams’ SUV, again a very distinct set of treads that left an even more distinct impression on the surface it traveled on.
The tread pattern appeared to be very similar to the pattern located at the scene of the Lloyd homicide. The roadside query led to the identity of Williams. The Ontario Provincial Police arranged for Williams to be interviewed a few days later.
Most predators eventually slip up and leave valuable forensic evidence behind at a particular crime scene. When Williams showed up for his interview with the Ontario Provincial Police on Feb. 7, 2010 he brazenly wore the same rugged pair of boots that had left distinct footwear impressions at the Lloyd homicide scene. The footwear impressions were detected entering and leaving the crime scene ending where the distinct tire tread impressions began. Williams appeared confident as he vehemently and casually denied any association to the two homicide victims. During the interview he even consented to a comparison of his boots with the footwear impressions located at the Lloyd crime scene. They were an exact match. When Williams was confronted with
the damning forensic evidence his legitimate world imploded as the dark secrets of his double life spilled outward. Williams requested a map to pinpoint where he had concealed one of his victims, initializing a startling confession.
Williams was charged with two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of sexual assault and forcible confinement and 82 break-ins. In October of 2010 Williams pled guilty to all charges. His punishment: an automatic life sentence in prison with no possibility of parole for at least 25 years.
UPDATE: The “Killer Colonel” was initially imprisoned in Kingston, Ontario. Williams has been transferred and is now incarcerated in a maximum security prison in Quebec, Canada.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Stephen G. Metelsky, M.A. is a freelance crime writer/journalist, criminologist, organized crime expert (CBC, Hamilton Spectator, Niagara Falls Review, St. Catharines Standard, Global News, AM 680, 980 News, 900 CHML, Newstalk 1010 & Blue Line magazine) & college professor, with over 20 years as a police (ret.) sergeant.
Stephen is a contributing columnist with Blue Line magazine and has covered true crime stories for various newspapers affiliated with Metroland Media Group & Postmedia Network Inc.