TORONTO — A man accused of killing a young woman who vanished more than five years ago told court on Tuesday that he believes she’s not dead.
Dellen Millard, who is representing himself, told the jury in his closing address that several witnesses have seen or heard from Laura Babcock after July 4, 2012.
“I don’t think you’ll come to that conclusion that Laura is dead. Then you have to get into how did she die? Where did she die? When did she die,” he said. ”These all have to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.”
The Crown alleges Millard and his co-accused, Mark Smich, killed Babcock on July 3 or 4, 2012 because she was the odd woman out in a love triangle with Millard and his girlfriend.
Both Millard, 32, of Toronto, and Smich, 30, of Oakville, Ont., have pleaded not guilty to the first-degree murder of Babcock, whose body has not been found.
Prosecutors believe the pair burned the 23-year-old woman’s remains in a large animal incinerator — named The Eliminator — that was later found on Millard’s farm near Waterloo, Ont.
Millard said he understands that members of the jury might not approve of the way he’s lived his life, or treated certain people, but he’s asking them to put all that aside.
He began his closing argument by waxing philosophic.
“I’d like to ask what is an unreasonable doubt? I put that question out there because that’s something that comes out in philosophy: Am I really here? Do I exist? Is this all a dream?” Millard said.
“Standing here in court, I can see the judge, I can see the jury, I can smell the air, touch the wood grain on the lectern. To me beyond reasonable doubt is to be absolutely convinced of something.”
He told the jury Babcock is not dead, pointing to one witness who testified he saw Babcock at a nut store in Toronto in October 2012.
He also pointed to Babcock’s best friend, Megan Orr, who told court she talked to Babcock on the phone on July 4. Phone records, however, showed Babcock’s last phone call was to voice mail at 7:03 p.m. the day before.
“Laura must have changed her phone, must have had another phone,” Millard said.
Millard also pointed to one of the Crown’s key pieces of evidence, several texts he exchanged with his girlfriend, Christina Noudga.
“First I’m going to hurt her,” Millard wrote her in a text message in mid-April 2012. “Then I’ll make her leave.”
Court has heard that Millard was sleeping with both Babcock and Noudga at the same time, leaving bad blood between the two women.
Millard told the jury on Tuesday that there was indeed animosity between the two women, but that he hasn’t slept with Babcock since a brief relationship in 2009.
He said he was sending those texts to Noudga at the height of the feud between her and Babcock.
“Is this text really the motive for murder? Or is this me telling an upset girlfriend what she needs to hear in the moment so she feels OK?” Millard said. “It’s not because I’m sinister and sadistic.”
Speaking about the incinerator, purchased with his company’s credit card, Millard said he enhanced it and made it mobile because it was, ultimately, for a commercial purpose.
“They’ll say the incinerator was all part of a nefarious plan to dispose of a human body,” Millard said. ”This machine didn’t have to go through the company if I had my own nefarious plot. The reason it went through the company is because it was for some commercial purpose.”
Millard also showed a photo that was taken with his phone on July 4, 2012 that shows his dog, Pedo, next to a large blue tarp that was wrapped up.
“The Crown wants you to believe that Laura Babcock’s body is in that tarp,” he said.
“The notion of this being a body, it’s speculative. It’s an assumption.”
Millard suggested Babcock had the means and wherewithal to disappear and didn’t want to go home.
“Laura did have mental health issues. She wasn’t getting any support for it, including from her family,” Millard said.
Babcock’s father, Clayton, shook his head and said “wow.”