A former Toronto police officer was found guilty today of first-degree murder in the February 2002 death of Linda Mariani, his mistress.
Ontario Superior Court Judge Michelle Fuerst said Wills is facing a life sentence with no chance of parole for at least 25 years.
Wills was accused of hitting Mariani in the head with a baseball bat and strangling her with a skipping rope, then stuffing her body in a garbage bin and hiding it behind a wall in the basement of his home in Richmond Hill. A bat and skipping rope – the latter wrapped three times around Mariani's neck – were found with the body when Wills led police to it four months after she vanished.
The defence maintained Mariani, 40, died after falling down stairs at Wills' home, while the Crown alleged he killed her because she wouldn't leave her husband. Wills, 50, said he hid
Mariani's body because he wanted to bury her later near his family cottage in Wasaga Beach, as they had agreed in a secret lovers' pact.
It was revealed this week that taxpayers were on the hook for an estimated $1.3 million in defence costs. Wills applied for legal aid after handing over his estate to his family, but refused to agree to terms of repayment offered. After unsuccessfully seeking that the attorney general either pay his legal bill or have the charge stayed, Wills took over his own defence. His outrageous behaviour at the 2004 preliminary hearing forced Justice Bryan Shaughnessy's hand in granting the order for legal aid.
Wills hired and fired about 7 lawyers during this period.
This had to have been one of Ontario's most bizarre trials. The accused challenged the justice system with threats to prosecutors, verbal abuse of court officials, meandering monologues and behaviour so bizarre that he was exiled to the 'rubber room' for three months. Richard Wills admitted to stuffing the body of his lover in a trash bin, but swore he didn't kill her The judges responded by taking every step to ensure a fair trial. In doing so, they tolerated extremes of behaviour and assented to orders that led to defence lawyers being paid at least $800,000 of public money to defend him. It was, in a strange way, a triumph of the system because his antics did not succeed in letting him walk away from justice.