Accused killer's friend breaks down in witness box at Laura Babcock murder trial

A friend of accused killer Mark Smich broke down in tears in the witness box Thursday after the Crown played a video of Smich rapping about burning a body and getting rid of evidence.

Dellen Millard, Mark Smich are both charged with 1st-degree murder

Laura Babcock disappeared from Toronto in 2012. Dellen Millard and Mark Smich have been charged with killing her. (Facebook)

A friend of accused killer Mark Smich broke down in tears in the witness box Thursday after the Crown played a video of Smich rapping about burning a body and getting rid of evidence.

"It's just a lot to process," David Cronin, 22, told the jury at the Laura Babcock murder trial being held in Superior Court in Toronto. He paused for a few moments while testifying to gather his composure.

Babcock's mother Linda, sitting in the front row of the public gallery next to her husband, held a tissue to her eyes.

It's only Day 4 of the trial, but several witnesses have broken down while testifying, including the victim's former boyfriend.

Dellen Millard, 32, of Toronto, and Smich, 30, of Oakville, Ont., have both pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder.

Babcock was 23 when she disappeared from Toronto in 2012. The Crown alleges she died at the hands of Millard and Smich, who then burned her body in an animal incinerator.

'A lot to process'

Cronin testified he'd never seen the 30-second clip of Smich rapping, but the lyrics were the same ones he heard five years ago.

Cronin was just 14 at the time and still in high school. He said he was hanging out with Smich and several other friends in Smich's mother's garage in Oakville, Ont., in August 2012, when Smich made a chilling confession.

Cronin testified Smich said he "killed a girl, burned a body, and disposed of it in a lake.... After that he sang us a rap song about it."

The Crown read the lyrics during opening statements:

The bitch started off all skin and bone

now the bitch lay on ashy stone

last time I saw her's outside the home

and if you go swimming you can find her phone.

Cronin said he didn't believe it at the time, thinking Smich just wanted to be "the big cool guy."

It wasn't until he saw media reports that Babcock was missing, nearly a year later, that he told his high school vice-principal, who then called Toronto police so he could give  a statement.

Clayton Babcock, Laura's father, was in tears Monday as he told the courtroom about his daughter, an avid reader who was always the life of the party. (Pam Davies/CBC)

'Sordid past'

Smich's lawyer Thomas Dungey hammered away at Cronin during cross-examination for more than an hour, attempting to discredit his testimony, and questioning the witness's own "sordid past."

It was an almost identical line of questioning Dungey used yesterday, when another one of Smich's friends, Desi Liberatore, testified about the rap song and confession.

Dungey grilled Cronin about his drug use and checkered past. Cronin admitted to being a recovered heroin addict, but insisted he's worked hard to turn his life around.

Dellen Millard, left, and Mark Smich, right, are accused of first-degree murder in the death of Laura Babcock. (Facebook, Instagram)

Still Dungey questioned more than a dozen incidents Cronin was involved in as a youth, as well as getting kicked out of his parents' house.

Cronin said he studied pre-law and at one point considered becoming a police officer.

"I worked very hard to get my life together. Yes, I had problems when I was young. Yes, I was mischievous. I know you're trying to discredit my information. But I've worked very hard to get where I am today."

Babcock didn't cross U.S. border: Crown

The Crown also continued to build its case that Babcock didn't disappear on her own accord.

Michael Powell, a director with U.S. Border Control, testified briefly Thursday.

He said border officials were contacted by Toronto police during their investigation.

Powell confirmed the last time Babcock visited the U.S., and returned back to Canada, was in May 2011.

The testimony is similar to what court heard earlier this week from a TD Bank employee. The Crown submitted Babcock's bank statements as evidence, showing activity stopped after the date she's alleged to have been killed.

Millard, who is acting as his own lawyer, attempted to poke holes in the Crown's theory, asking the border expert to list the numerous illegal ways people can get into the U.S.

Powell said he couldn't answer the question for security reasons.

Dungey, Smich's lawyer, also pressed Powell about illegal crossings pointing out the U.S.-Canada border is the longest common border in the world and must be impossible to monitor 100 per cent of the time.

"No, there's technology. The entire northern border is patrolled with technology or personnel," Powell responded.

The trial continues Friday and is expected to last 10 weeks.

Read our blog coverage from the court below:

About the Author

Shannon Martin

Reporter, CBC Toronto

Shannon is an award-winning reporter with CBC Toronto. She was part of the core team that launched "No Fixed Address", a hugely popular series on millenials renting and buying in Toronto. In 2016, Shannon hosted a special live broadcast on-air and on Facebook simultaneously from Toronto Pride, which won top honours in the Digital category at the RTDNA awards. Contact Shannon: shannon.martin@cbc.ca or find her on Instagram at @ShannonMartinTV.

With files from CBC's Trevor Dunn