Col. Williams among Quinte’s quintet of accused multiple murderers

Among Quinte’s quintet of accused multiple murderers, Col. Russ Williams (above left) appears to be making a concerted effort to have his day in court first. Williams, the former Canadian military airbase commander accused of two murders, two sexual assaults and dozens of other crimes, waived his right to a preliminary hearing during a court appearance yesterday, clearing the way for the setting of a trial date.

The fact that Williams gave up his right to a preliminary hearing isn’t necessarily a concession of anything. A prelim is a court proceeding in which prosecutors lay out some of their evidence against an accused. A judge decides if there is some evidence on which a properly instructed jury could register a conviction. If the answer is yes, the accused is committed to stand trial. The threshold for commital is very low. The purpose of the hearing, really, is to give both sides a chance to test how some of the evidence plays out in court, including how some of the witnesses perform on the stand. It’s a bit of a dry run for a trial. The next step in a murder trial would typically be pre-trial motion hearings, court proceedings during which a defence lawyer might argue for the exclusion of some evidence, seek a change of venue or present other contentious issues to be dealt with before a trial can take place. Williams is due back in court October 7, but it’s not clear yet what will take place on that day. For now, he remains at Quinte Detention Centre, a small provincial holding facility just west of Kingston, Ontario, where he’s just one of five accused multiple killers.

The others are (second from left above) Dean Brown, who is accused of killing two people near Belleville in March. The victms Tracy Hannah, 46, and her daughter Whitney Hannah, 14, were shot to death. Brown’s preliminary hearing is scheduled for this fall.

To the right of Brown are Mohammah Shafia, 56, his wife Tooba Yahya Mohammad, 40, and their son Hamed, 19. The trio are charged with the murders of three Shafia sisters, Zainab, 19, Sahar, 17 and Geeti, 13, along with Rona Amir Mohammad, 50, who was Shafia’s first wife. The four females were found dead in a submerged car pulled out of a canal in Kingston in June last year. Pre-trial hearing motions in their case begin in October in Kingston and a trial is set for next spring. Their prelim wrapped up in February this year.

Jail sources tell me this quintet are among more than 15 accused killers now housed at Quinte who are blamed for more than 20 murders.

» Past coverage of the Williams case
» Past coverage of canal murder case

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