‘I Noticed You’re Shaking’: Trial Starts with Dellen Millard Questioning Father of Woman He is Accused of Killing
TORONTO — There was an uncomfortable quiet in a packed Toronto courtroom as an unusual spectacle unfolded with the first witness on the opening day of a sensational murder trial: Dellen Millard, the accused killer of a young woman, stood at a podium and started to question the victim’s father.
Millard, 31, and Mark Smich, 29, are charged with first-degree murder in the death of Laura Babcock, a 23-year-old Toronto woman. Because Millard is representing himself at trial, he is the one to question witnesses rather than a lawyer.
Clayton Babcock, 60, and marking his 35th wedding anniversary by being called to testify at the trial for his daughter’s murder, was the Crown’s first witness.
He told the jury about his happy and fun-loving daughter who didn’t like to follow rules, who seemed to be suffering some mental health issue that made her restless and sometimes agitated.
“She looks like me,” he said when asked by Crown prosecutor Jill Cameron about their relationship. He then corrected himself. “Looked like me,” he said, becoming emotional.
It was when it was the defence turn to question him that courtroom spectators leaned in.
“I noticed you’re shaking a bit,” Millard said to Clayton Babcock. “This is not an easy thing to go through, is it?”
“That’s rhetorical?” said the father.
“This can’t be easy for you, being questioned by me, considering I’m the accused. Does this make it extra difficult for you?” Millard continued.
“No,” said the father.
Millard then asked a series of questions that went by with little overt tension until Millard repeated the father’s description of Babcock as a happy person.
“Are you saying she wasn’t?” the father retorted.
The judge, Michael Code, cautioned him to just answer the question. Millard asked him if he was purposely trying to present a rosy picture of Babcock’s home life, and if he had ever hit or abused his daughter. He said no. The father also spoke of meeting Millard once when he came to pick up his daughter to go out.
Before Clayton Babcock testified, Cameron, who leads the prosecution team, laid out an overview of the prosecution’s case.
She said she plans to show text messages Millard sent to his girlfriend at the time, Christina Noudga, about Babcock, who a witness said he had also dated. Cameron said she expects the jury will hear that Babcock had told Noudga she was still having sex with Millard, news that wasn’t received well.
“First I am going to hurt her. Then I’ll make her leave,” Millard said in one text to Noudga in April 2012, the Crown alleged. “I will remove her from our lives”
Millard then texted his mechanic, saying, “Soon I’m gonna want you to put together a home-made incinerator.”
Cameron told the jury Millard and Smich were best friends at the time and the two texted about the incinerator. In what might be a reference to a test of the burning power, Smich texted, “We gotta bring something with bones in it.”
The Crown alleges Babcock disappeared on July 4, 2012. Her body has never been found.
On that day, Millard’s iPhone took a photo of a long, thin object wrapped in a blue tarp at his farm, west of Hamilton, Ont. It looks like it could be a human body. He then took delivery of a large incinerator, made for burning animal carcasses.
On July 7, Millard had a reminder in his iPhone: “Barn smell check,” Cameron said.
I noticed you're shaking a bit. This is not an easy thing to go through, is it?
On July 23, when Millard had the incinerator operational, he texted Smich: “the BBQ is ready for meat.” Also on Millard’s phone, Cameron said, was a screen capture of an internet answer to the question: “What temperature is cremation done at?”
Other photos were also shown, all allegedly found on Millard’s phone. Two were of Smich at Millard’s airplane hangar, another of Smich in front of the incinerator, called The Eliminator. And one that appears to be the inside of the incinerator, blazing.
And later that night, using Babcock’s iPad, Smich composed a rap lyric, Cameron said. She read the composition to the jury.
“The bitch started off all skin and bone, now the bitch lay on some ashy stone, last time I saw her’s outside the home and if you go swimming you can find her phone.”
Smich later recorded a video of himself performing the rap.
This, too, was shown to the jury.
The trial continues Tuesday. Jurors were previously told the trial should end by Dec. 22.