Convicted murderer and former Toronto police officer, Richard Wills, killed his ex-girlfriend Lavinia (Linda) Mariani in February 2002, and was found guilty of first-degree murder in 2007. He had desperately tried to delay justice, and was even assessed by a psychiatrist in 2004 in the hope of being declared not criminally responsible because of a mental disorder.
Instead of answering his prayers, the mental health specialist determined that he was suffering from a narcissistic personality disorder and that he knew he was doing wrong when he killed his lover.
Lavinia had been found face-down in a garbage can hidden behind a basement wall in Will’s home in 2002, and he was the last person to have seen her alive. She had been bludgeoned and strangled to death.
It takes a very troubled man to attack and murder a former lover in an unprovoked fit of passion, and in the case of Richard Wills, his whole persona and character did not seem to have many redeeming qualities. Instead of presenting a contrite front, his behavior was always one of sarcasm, repulsive actions and of total disregard for the well-being of others and the legal system.
During his pre-trial and trial in Newmarket, Ontario, our killer cop kept grossing out courtroom observers. He frequently interrupted proceedings by passing gas and belching very loudly, and he once reached into his pants to pull out feces.
On his way to court, almost every day, he got into the habit of urinating in the police cruiser.
When he was particularly unruly, Judge Michelle Fuerst would confine him to what is known as “the rubber room,” a special area where he could see court proceedings on a small screen without disrupting them. During his trial, Wills repeatedly snarled at Fuerst and made sexist comments. He tried to humiliate one of his lawyers by using a racist expletive.
He fired five lawyers during his publicly funded case, which lasted for more than five years. He also threatened to punch out prosecutors Harold Dale and Jeff Pearson in court.
While incarcerated during his trial, Wills had a very difficult relationship with other detainees. Famous inmate and biker Frank Lenti allegedly heckled him constantly to impress other inmates. A former cop is never welcome in prison, but Wills’ repulsive behavior and the fact that he killed a woman made his detainee life even more miserable.
In fact, when Wills ended up at Kingston Penitentiary after having been found guilty, he managed to disgust the staff and the high-security inmates so much that he was transferred to another prison. Two sources said that whatever he did in his maximum-security cell block was disturbing enough to depress his cellmates Paul Bernardo and Colonel Williams.
Wills and Bernardo were neighbors in the same segregated row of the penitentiary. Russell Williams, a former colonel of CFB Trenton who was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years for two sex murders in 2010, was also in that section and felt it was too close for comfort.
According to Corrections Canada, Wills was transferred to a maximum-security facility in B.C. for a ‘’fresh start.’’ They probably celebrated when he left. Solitary confinement prisoners in Kingston were kept in 2.5 by 3 meters cells and could talk, but not see each other in adjoining cells, so his loud singing, ‘feces swinging’ habits and flatulence fetish must have made him highly unpopular.
Wills was found guilty but he testified that Mariani, 40, died in an accidental fall in his Richmond Hill home. According to him, he panicked and decided to put her in the wall to keep her close to his heart. After all, she was the love of his life.
When they met, they were both married. ”Our plans were that I would get my divorce done first and she would wait six months to a year, and then move out on her own, then into my home.”
After 6 years together, Wills decided to divorce his spouse, but when Mariani reneged on the deal to leave her husband, he smashed her head with a baseball bat and choked her with a rope.
Sgt. Craig Vaughan who had interviewed Wills when Mariani disappeared because he was the last person to have seen her alive on Feb. 15, 2002, had found ”his behavior was bizarre. She had only been missing 1 1/2 days, her car was still missing and there was nothing medically wrong with her. But he was crying uncontrollably,” Vaughan said, testifying at Wills’ first-degree murder trial.
”He took off his clothes so that I could check his person, to ensure there was nothing. He took off his shirt, pants, his shoes and started to take off his underwear. I told him to stop,” Vaughan recalled. ”He was trying to take charge of the investigation.”
He said ”help me, clear me and then I’ll help you in every way I can.”
Vaughan said Wills, who came to York police Richmond Hill station directly from his 14 Division shift, referred to the “brotherhood of police officers probably 30 times” during their chat.
Vaughan then quoted Wills as saying: ”Whatever you do for me, I’ll do for you 10-fold”
It was pretty obvious from the start that Wills thought that his status as a ”law enforcement officer” would dig him out of that hole and allow him to escape justice. “Wink Wink Nudge Nudge” But he had underestimated the honesty of his colleagues who did not let him off the hook.
Pleading not guilty because of an accidental fall would not do the trick, so he became more creative in his efforts to stop the wheels of justice in their tracks. He started by pointing the finger at Mariani’s husband: ”No. I don’t want to point any fingers, but why didn’t he (her husband) call,” Vaughan testified, quoting Wills.
His tactics led him nowhere so he proceeded to delay justice differently. Before his trial, Wills liquidated his assets and transferred most of his money to his wife and three children before applying for Legal Aid.
After representing himself during his preliminary hearing, a court ordered the province to allow for special funding so he could obtain legal representation.
According to a report by Ontario Ombudsman André Martin: he ended up with 13 lawyers, including seven who were publicly funded, two ”friends of the court” and one who worked pro bono. Three of his attorneys were paid for privately.
Mr. Martin referred to the case as “a perfect storm of mischief” and “misjudgment”.
Among a sea of allegations, the law society accused his attorney, Mr. Hamalengwa, to deliberately over billing the government by nearly $145,000 for his work on the case.
As if it was not crazy enough, Wills reached out to National Post reporter, Joseph Brean, through voice-mails asking him to visit him in prison.
Brean called Wills’ teenage daughter who was acting as a go-between (isn’t it lovely to involve one’s own daughter in this type of legal mess?) and made an appointment to visit him in jail.
Wills claimed his innocence and told Brean he felt his case was rushed through the system.
It was an offer any good reporter could not refuse. He had to at least listen to what Richard had to say. After all, this was a very high profile case and Wills had earned a bad reputation across Canada. Maybe his uncaring, self- centered demeanor was all a facade. His alibi did not seem to make any sense but a good reporter could sort this through by talking directly to the man.
Driving toward the provincial facility in Lindsay, Ont., Brean must have wondered why Wills had picked him, but he later found out that he had read about his work in Lawyer’s Weekly and was hoping that he would become his hero and expose the lawyers he had fired.
In his mind, he was a victim in need of a savior who could write about his predicament. The situation soon became highly ridiculous.
As soon as Wills showed up to talk to Brean in the visitation room, he asked him to read from a sheet of paper that said (and please don’t laugh):
WANTED: Person(s) possessing these qualities: 1. The allegiance of a mercenary (each new cause is the only cause until accomplished.)
- The dedication of a Jesuit priest (burned at the stake for their cause, true to the very end)
- The tenacity of a wolverine (once the fight is on, the fight ain’t over till it’s over)
- The elusive intelligence of a Pentium 12 computer (equipped with the wisdom of how to apply such a gift)
- The longevity of a Timex watch (takes a lickin’ and keeps on tickin’)
- The courage of Neil Armstrong (courage of one’s convictions)
- The ability to discern the differences between right and wrong, with the fortitude to tell the world. If so, please step up to the plate now in the interests of justice.
At the bottom of the page was the following addendum: ”Wannabees, falldowns, Judases, rats, weasels, etc., need not apply within, however these persons are of great demand within the York Regional Police Force and the Newmarket Crown Attorney’s office.”
It did not take long for Brean to back out of this uncomfortable interview where Wills could not give him a decent answer to any of his questions about the crime itself.
Wills talked about trust but was evasive on important questions; such as whether he knew anything about her death, or whether he knew what was in the plastic bin when he turned himself in, or why he turned himself in, or if the box had been in his house for the entire four months of her disappearance. (He implied that the box was NOT there when police searched his house on Feb. 17, 2002). He remained silent when asked about these important facts of the case.
It was reported that when the guards tried repeatedly to end the meeting, he yelled at them to leave them alone in a very crude way. He knew his rights and was exercising them.
He dropped hints about forensic evidence, but never provided any valid details. He said that when police found Ms. Mariani’s car, there were apparent blood and semen stains in it, and fingernail clippings, but did not provide any explanation. He also said there were lip marks on the car’s vanity mirror. ”Those lip marks are mine,” he said. This detail did not come up in court, and to this day, does not seem to have any probative value. Joseph Brean left to never return.
Richard Wills’ last bid to delay justice was denied by an Ontario Court of Appeal panel. His murder conviction was upheld in 2010.
In his decision to deny the appeal, Justice Michael Moldaver vindicated the trial judge, Justice Michelle Fuerst as well as Crown prosecutors, Harold Dale and Jeff Pearson, and the jury for their actions while condemning Wills for ”his strategy in delaying and obstructing the course of justice.”
”You viewed the court process with disdain and did everything to subvert it and make a mockery of the proceedings,” Moldaver said, speaking on behalf of his fellow judges on the panel, Janet Simmons and Paul Rouleau.
Wills ”baited the trial judge” throughout his 18-month trial in a bid to derail the proceedings.
”That verdict is entirely reasonable and supported by the evidence,” Moldaver said in dismissing the appeal. ”There has been no miscarriage of justice.”
”You took steps to mislead the police and tried to point the finger of blame at Linda Mariani’s (innocent husband Domenic).”
But Wills had showed up at his appeal, hoping to delay justice one more time. He had told his inmate hearing panel that he was too depressed to conduct his own appeal of his murder conviction.
Wills, 54, had no proof of his psychiatric condition and his adjournment bid was denied.
Moldaver called it “another futile attempt to delay the proceedings.”
”Thank God, it’s over,” wept Mariani’s mom, Anna Valeri, as soon as the judge declared her long ordeal finally over.
This hunk of burning love will be eligible for day parole on June 7, 2024, and for full parole on June 7, 2027.
UPDATE: Click here to read an article from thestar.com published on January 7, 2016, and titled ”Ontario settles suit with killer ex-cop Richard Wills over $1.3 million legal bill.”
NOTE: This is not an opinion piece. This blog is a compilation of numerous researches done online and excerpts from several articles published in newspapers. The author does not claim to have done the original research, to have conducted interviews or to be the original source of the information. The goal is to put together a good summary of the case and to do so, and because the facts of a case cannot be modified (and are basically the same in every article), it is essentially necessary to paraphrase the content of published information and to use public domain quotations from different articles covering different aspects of the case. No animals or reporters were harmed in the writing of this blog.
I do not cite sources as it would be an exercise in futility. (Google)