The Laura Babcock murder trial is entering its fifth week of testimony and jurors in a Toronto courtroom will hear from only a handful more witnesses as the Crown is expected to wrap up its case against co-accused Dellen Millard and Mark Smich.
Crown Jill Cameron and her team have already called more than two dozen witnesses in an attempt to craft an airtight case and build a timeline of what happened to Babcock when she vanished in July 2012.
Millard, 32, of Toronto and his one-time best friend Smich, 30, of Oakville, Ont., have both pleaded not guilty to a charge of first-degree murder in Babcock's death. The 23-year-old Toronto woman, who kept in constant communication with family and friends, hasn't been heard from since that summer. Her phone records and bank accounts also haven't been touched since earlier that month. Her body has never been found.
The prosecution in the ongoing Ontario Superior Court trial has followed Babcock's path — where she was and who she was spending time with — up until her alleged disappearance on the evening of July 3.
Smich's ex-girlfriend saw incinerator in use
The latest revelations came from the ex-girlfriend of co-accused killer Smich on Friday.
Marlena Meneses, 23, provided insight on the dynamics between Millard and Smich, and claims she saw a towering animal incinerator smoking and heard a "crackling noise" when she made a late-night trip to Millard's airport hanger in the Waterloo Region.
The Crown alleges an animal incinerator, dubbed The Eliminator by its manufacturer, was used to burn Babcock's body after she was killed.
Meneses was 18 years old and dating Smich in the summer of 2012 when Babcock, who had been romantically involved with Millard, vanished.
Her account of a large black piece of farm machinery, The Eliminator, dominated much of her testimony last week. She said she never looked inside, but explained Millard and Smich told her "they were trying to test out the machine."
While Meneses couldn't give the court an exact date when she first saw the animal incinerator, the Crown contends Babcock was killed on the evening of July 3, 2012, or the morning of July 4, 2012.
Jurors will hear more evidence from Meneses when the trial resumes Tuesday morning.
'BBQ mission' and cellphone records
An abundance of evidence about two incinerators — The Eliminator purchased for $15,424 by mechanic Shane Schlatman on behalf of Millard, and "the BBQ," a homemade one — has been presented in court.
Both were found by police on Millard's rural farm property.
The Eliminator arrived from its manufacturer in Manitoba on July 5, 2012 — days after the Crown alleges Babcock was killed.
A mountain of cellphone records have been presented in court. The last outgoing phone call from Babcock's phone came on July 3, 2012, at 7:13 p.m. ET. Testimony from an intelligence analyst with Toronto Police Service, Nicole Rebelo, revealed that both Babcock and Millard's phones hit the same cell site near Millard's home in Etobicoke.
The Crown alleges sometime after 7 p.m. that night Millard and Smich killed Babcock.
Prosecutors used a flurry of texts between Schlatman and Millard, from around this time, the latter repeatedly asking for updates, writing "the BBQ was top priority."
Previously, at the Laura Babcock murder trial:
- Day 13: Expert says photo appears to show human bones burning
- Day 14: Photo of burning bones challenged by defence
- Day 15: Millard's mechanic testifies about incinerators
- Day 16: No plan to start cremation business, Millard's uncle tells trial
- Day 17: Smich's ex-girlfriend saw incinerator in use
Read CBC News's full coverage as the trial continues.
Jurors have also previously seen messages exchanged between Millard and Smich from July 21, 2012.
Millard wrote: "Tomorrow after dark, BBQ mission, (I won't want Marlena there … think on it)"
"I don't think taking marlena will be a problem. She can wait in the front while we r out back talkin to that girl… if u kno what I mean," Smich responded.
Then at 9:34 a.m. on July 23, Schlatman sent a celebratory text, "Eliminator is eliminating," he wrote Millard.
That afternoon, Millard wrote Smich: "Bbq has run its warm up, it's ready for meat."
The jury also saw a photo of objects engulfed in flames from inside the Eliminator, which was taken on July 23, at 11:20 p.m.
Rap video and the confession
Smich, a would-be rapper, saw one of his homemade music videos played on a large screen several times for the jury during the trial.
The 30-second clip pulled from devices found at Millard's Etobicoke, Ont., bungalow shows Smich wearing a white T-shirt and waving his hands as he rhymes:
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.
The video was allegedly recorded in Millard's basement, according to the Crown.
Possible motive: a love triangle
Prosecutors have also laid the groundwork throughout the trial for what could be a possible motive for Babcock's alleged murder: a complicated love triangle.
It centres on Millard and his girlfriend at the time, Christina Noudga, and Babcock.
Court has heard from several witnesses that Millard was also involved on and off again with Babcock.
Earlier in the trial, a friend of both Babcock and Noudga, Karoline Shirinian, told the jury about a "catty" text feud between the two women.
It took place on Feb. 12, 2012 — Babcock's 23rd birthday. Shirinian said she'd been having drinks with Noudga.
"We thought it would be funny if we sent her a catty text message for her birthday," Shirinian, 25, said.
Noudga wrote: "Happy birthday. A year ago today was the first time I slept with Dellen."
Shirinian told the jury Babcock replied: "That's fine, I slept with him a couple of weeks ago."
Much of the Crown's case hinges on text messages.
During her opening statements, the Crown read a text about Babcock, written by Millard to Noudga.
It was in April, a few months before Babcock would vanish.
"First I am going to hurt her. Then I'll make her leave. I will remove her from our lives," he wrote.
The trial is not sitting Monday and will resume Tuesday at 9:45 a.m. ET.