Accused killer Dellen Millard says his "open relationship" with then-girlfriend Christina Noudga contradicts a Crown theory that he killed Toronto woman Laura Babcock to get out of a love triangle.
Millard began his closing address at the Babcock murder trial in Ontario Superior Court in Toronto today, by telling the jury that the Crown's case is like a "convincing dream."
Millard, 32, of Toronto, and Mark Smich, 30, of Oakville, Ont., are on trial accused of first-degree murder. Both have pleaded not guilty.
Crown prosecutors believe Babcock, a 23-year-old university graduate who once worked at a toy store, was killed in early July 2012 and her body was later burned in an animal incinerator.
Smich, who is being represented by a lawyer, chose not to present any evidence or call any witnesses in his defence.
Over the last six weeks, Millard, who is acting as his own lawyer, has stood countless times at a tall wooden podium in the centre of the courtroom and cross-examined as many as 40 Crown witnesses.
Today, he got his final chance to plead his case to the jury in a packed courtroom.
"It's my position that the Crown's case is something like a convincing dream … some parts of it add up, some things make sense. But some things do not make sense," he said. "I'm not talking little details … some of the major details do not add up."
The jury listened to Millard for hours, as he zeroed in on specific points of evidence presented at trial over the last several weeks. Some jury members watched him intently, while taking notes. Others refused to meet his gaze, and stared straight ahead.
Babcock's parents and former boyfriend Shawn Lerner watched from the public gallery.
Previously, at the Laura Babcock murder trial:
- Day 19: Jury sees photo of handgun purchased by Millard
- Day 20: 'We need to get our stories straight,' Millard wrote girlfriend
- Day 21: Millard skips opening statement, reads text messages
- Day 22: Animal bone expert struggles during testimony
- Day 23: Millard, Smich won't testify at Babcock trial
Read CBC News's full coverage as the trial continues.
The alleged motive
The theory the Crown has put to the jury since the trial began on Oct. 23 is Babcock was killed because Millard wanted to undo a love triangle.
Court has heard Millard and Babcock dated briefly, but were still sleeping together in the months before she disappeared.
Among the hundreds, if not thousands of text messages presented in court, the jury saw several Millard sent to his girlfriend at the time, Christina Noudga, promising he would remove Babcock from their lives. In one text message exchange, Millard and Noudga compared Babcock to herpes.
Millard told the jury Tuesday that he certainly wasn't "speaking kindly about Laura" when he talked about her in that way.
"But Christina was upset, and I'm asking you to draw the inference that I was telling her what she wanted to hear to not be upset anymore," he said.
"There's no doubt, I think, that Laura was annoying Christina. So what? It's not Christina, being accused of murder. It's me. The question you have to ask yourself is what was my relationship with Laura."
Throughout the trial, Millard has made it clear he was involved with a number of women at the same time.
He told the jury Tuesday that he and Noudga were in an open relationship, and dated other people. In one text message Millard showed in court, he pointed out that he "offered" Noudga up to his friend Andrew Michalski to have sex with. He also said that he did not buy her gifts, as he did past lovers.
"How much does Christina mean to me? Is she somebody that I would kill for?" Millard asked. "Or is she somebody I would offer to my friends? Is she somebody I didn't buy any gifts for? I wouldn't even give her monogamy and exclusivity.
"In the context of understanding all these relationships, there's no motive."
Millard said all this without the jury having ever heard from Noudga as a witness — though she could have been called, he said.
"She's available as a witness. Could have been called. But we haven't heard from her," he said. "She didn't come here to explain this testimony to us."
In his closing address, Millard questioned whether Babcock is even dead. No body has ever been recovered.
He pointed to the testimony of Gabe Austerweil, who testified that he saw Babcock in a nut store in Toronto in October 2012 — though he couldn't be sure.
"Is Laura deceased, or is Laura alive? I anticipate this is a question you will have to struggle with," he said.
In court's afternoon session, Millard said that things weren't "quite right at home" for Babcock, pointing to her work as an escort, and evidence of drug problems.
"Laura did have mental health issues. She wasn't getting any support for it, including from her family," Millard said.
At that, her father emphatically shook his head and mouthed "wow," in the courtroom.
'Is this all a dream?'
Millard also opined in a philosophical way about the nature of existence, in an effort to illustrate reasonable doubt for the jury.
"Do I even exist, is this all a dream?" he asked. "I can see the judge … I can smell the air, I can touch the wood grain of this lectern.
"That would be an unreasonable doubt, to ask if I'm actually even here."
Millard made a point to stress the presumption of innocence in a criminal case.
"Our society is based on the presumption of innocence. We're only two steps away from a police state, 1984, and 'Big Brother is watching,'" Millard said. "On the other hand, we're only two steps away from anarchy."
The jury also heard from Millard about an iPad that has come up several times in evidence. It was seized from Smich's mother's home, and had the device name "Mark's iPad." Court has heard that it once belonged to Babcock.
Millard showed the jury some text messages, in which he talked about serial numbers. The fact that he knew a serial number on an Apple device couldn't be changed, he said, demonstrated what he called a "consciousness of innocence."
"If this was Laura's iPad and she was murdered, you think I would keep it around?" Millard asked.
"Is the iPad proof of guilt, or is it proof of innocence?"
Smich's lawyer, Thomas Dungey, will give his closing arguments to the jury tomorrow starting at 10 a.m. The Crown will also present closing arguments this week, ahead of Justice Michael Code's charge to the jury. Deliberations are expected to begin early next week.
For more in-depth coverage, follow a recap of our live blog from inside the courtroom here. On mobile? View it here.