TORONTO — Two men accused of killing a young Toronto woman and burning her body have been found guilty of first-degree murder.
Dellen Millard and Mark Smich had pleaded not guilty to the charges related to the death of 23-year-old Laura Babcock, whose body has not been found.
Babcock’s family and several jurors cried as the verdict was read out, amid quiet cheers from the courtroom.
The Crown alleges Babcock was killed in July 2012 because she had become the odd woman out in a love triangle with Millard and his girlfriend.
Prosecutors have said Millard and Smich planned the murder for months and covered up their crime by burning Babcock’s body in an animal incinerator that was later found on Millard’s farm.
Millard, 32, of Toronto, and Smich, 30, of Oakville, Ont., have said the Crown failed to prove that Babcock is dead.
The two men were convicted last year of killing Tim Bosma, a 32-year-old Ancaster, Ont., man who disappeared in May 2013 while trying to sell his pickup truck, and burning his body in Millard’s incinerator.
Babcock has not been heard from since July 2012. Earlier that year, she became involved in a feud with Millard’s girlfriend — Christina Noudga.
The animosity between the two women, who had been sleeping with Millard at the same time, hit its zenith in mid-April. That’s when Millard sent a text to Noudga that the Crown referred to time and again.
“First I’m going to hurt her. Then I’ll make her leave,” read his message. “I will remove her from our lives.”
Millard told court he didn’t care much about his girlfriend, or her feud with Babcock. He said he was sleeping with other women at the time, and his messages to Noudga were simply an attempt to placate a jealous girlfriend.
Court heard that Babcock’s life began to unravel in the months leading up to her disappearance. Her friends testified that she was using cocaine and struggled with her mental health, but was hopeful about a recent diagnosis of borderline personality disorder.
She fell out with her family and became transient, bouncing from place to place with her small dog, Lacey. She couldn’t find work and in June 2012 began working as an escort.
A former boyfriend, Shawn Lerner, told court he put her up in a west-end hotel in late June for two nights and lent her his iPad to help her search for apartments.
On June 30, Babcock and Millard exchanged text messages, according to cellphone data police found on Millard’s computers. Two days later, Millard purchased a 32-calibre gun from Matthew Ward-Jackson, who testified at trial.
Cellphone data shows that on July 3, the Babcock and Millard met near the Kipling subway station around 6:30 p.m. Both their cellphone then moved to Millard’s house, where Smich’s phone pinged off a nearby cell tower.
Babcock’s last outgoing call was made to voicemail at 7:03 p.m. that same day. Her phone, a BlackBerry, has not been found.
On July 4, Millard sent Smich a photograph of a large object wrapped in a blue tarp. The Crown said it was Babcock’s body.
The iPad she borrowed from Lerner was connected to Millard’s computer on July 4. Police later found the iPad and Babcock’s red bag at Smich’s house.
On July 5, the incinerator, which Millard referred to as the “BBQ,” arrived at his hangar at the Region of Waterloo International Airport.
Millard told people he was starting a mobile pet cremation business with his uncle, Robert Burns, who was a veterinarian. Burns testified that his nephew never asked him to launch such a business, and called the idea “absurd.”
On July 23 Millard wrote to Smich: “bbq has run its warm up, it’s ready for meat.”
Court saw photos of a smiling Smich in front of The Eliminator that night taken with Millard’s phone.
They also saw a photograph of objects inside the incinerator that two expert witnesses said were bones. However, due to the poor quality of the photo, they couldn’t say if they were human or animal bones.
In the early hours of July 24, a note was created on Smich’s iPad. It read:
“The bitch started off all skin and bone,
Now the bitch lay on some ash stone,
Last time I saw her was outside the home,
And if u go swimming u can find her phone”
Court also saw video of the rap by Smich, taken with Millard’s phone. Two witnesses said Smich performed the same song for them. Smich told them it wasn’t just a rap, but was, in fact, true.
Smich’s lawyer and Millard, who represented himself, said the Crown has not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Babcock is dead.