By Michele Mandel
Former friends and partners in crime, Dellen Millard and Mark Smich, have been found guilty in the murder of Laura Babcock — an aspiring actress missing for more than five years, her body never found.
Yes, justice has finally been served.
The jury returned the verdict after four-and-a-half days of deliberation.
Her parents, who have attended every day of the trial, embraced in relief — as days went by, observers were increasingly worried the jury was having trouble convicting Millard, 32, and Smich, 30, on a case based on circumstantial evidence.
But these are their second convictions for cold blooded murder – and crown attorney Jill Cameron is seeking consecutive life terms.
How relieved the jurors will be after learning what was kept from them: that Millard, an aviation heir, and his former best buddy, Smich, a drug dealer and aspiring rapper, are already serving life sentences for the senseless execution of Ancaster father Tim Bosma, murdered in May 2013 as he gave Millard and Smich a test drive of the truck he had listed for sale online.
They’re appealing those convictions.
Millard also faces trial next March for the first-degree murder of his father.
Traces of Bosma’s remains were found in Millard’s animal incinerator hidden on his farm. The Eliminator was purchased just before Babcock went missing and it was used, according to the Crown, to burn her body on July 23, 2012 — the same day Smich wrote his infamous rap lyrics about a “b…ch” who turned to “ashy stone.”
The jury never heard about the Bosma murder during the Babcock trial so as not to prejudice their opinion of Millard and Smich.
The judge asked Bosma’s family not to attend, fearing their presence could jeopardize the publication ban, but after the jury began deliberating his parents arrived to lend support to the Babcocks as they awaited the verdict.
Babcock was their first murder victim.
She was lured to Millard’s Etobicoke home on July 3, 2012, at a time when she was struggling with mental health issues, fighting with her parents and had nowhere to sleep. Millard wanted her dead because she was complicating his love life — still infatuated with him after a short romance, she’d told his current girlfriend, Christina Noudga, that they were still sleeping together.
Millard had assured the jealous Noudga in texts from April 2012 that “first I am going to hurt her. Then I’ll make her leave.” In another, he promised he would “remove her from our lives.”
And so he did.
In the spring of 2012, Millard and Smich exchanged a multitude of texts about obtaining an incinerator — first a homemade contraption that was a bust and then a commercial behemoth named The Eliminator from Georgia that set him back $15,000.
It wasn’t delivered until several days after Babcock was killed — in the meantime, her body was rolled in a blue plastic tarp stashed in Millard’s barn with a calendar entry on his iPhone to do a “smell check.”
Smich told him they’d need “bones” to test it; Millard announced on July 23, “ BBQ has run its warm up. It’s ready for meat.”
That day, Smich’s girlfriend Marlena Menenes testified she watched them try to hook up the incinerator at Millard’s farm but there was no electrical outlet. So they hauled The Eliminator to Millard’s nearby hangar at the Waterloo airport and plugged it in outside.
Then they actually photographed her bones burning inside and took an iPhone video of her ashes floating in the moonlight.
Babcock’s former boyfriend Shawn Lerner grew worried when she seemed to vanish — no one could reach her on the phone and she’d gone dark on social media — so he checked her phone bill and found that eight of her last calls had been to Millard.
He knew the “sketchy” rich boy as Babcock’s friend and had invited him to a birthday party he’d thrown her at Medieval Times the year before.
When Lerner reached out to Millard, he first avoided his texts and then agreed to meet in person to talk about it. In their brief conversation at a Mississauga coffee shop, Millard insisted he hadn’t seen Babcock, that she’d called looking for drugs and was mixed up with the wrong people.
Cellphone records told a different story: GPS signals showed the phones of both Millard and Babcock were together at Kipling station on the evening of July 3, 2012 and then at his Etobicoke home.
Millard told Lerner he should have “no reasonable expectation of finding her.”
He would know — he’d burned her body only days before.