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What the jury didn't hear at the Laura Babcock murder trial

As the jury at the Laura Babcock murder trial deliberates behind closed doors, CBC News can now reveal some of the things jurors didn't hear during the weeks-long trial in Toronto.

Babcock's accused killers were convicted last year of shooting Tim Bosma and burning his body

Jury deliberations are now underway at the Laura Babcock murder trial in Toronto. (Toronto Police Service/Canadian Press)

Jurors at the Laura Babcock murder trial have spent the past seven weeks in a Toronto courtroom hearing from 40 witnesses and viewing more than 80 pieces of evidence.

Now they are sequestered behind closed doors as they deliberate the fates of the two men accused of killing Babcock in July 2012, then burning her body in an animal incinerator

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

Because the jury is sequestered, CBC News can now reveal some of the things jurors didn't hear during the trial.

Millard and Smich killed Tim Bosma

The murder of Tim Bosma, 32, in early May 2013 was never mentioned in front of the jury — not once. The married father of one from Ancaster, Ont., was never seen again after taking two men on a test drive of a Dodge truck he had posted for sale on Kijiji. The two men his wife Sharlene saw him leave with the night of May 6, 2013, were Millard and Smich.

Tim Bosma and his wife Sharlene were parents to a baby girl when he was murdered by Dellen Millard and Mark Smich in May 2013. (Facebook )

Bosma's senseless killing and the sinister disposal of his body in an animal incinerator made nationwide news. So did the five-month trial into his murder, which ended with the jury finding Millard and Smich guilty of first-degree murder.

Jurors at the Laura Babcock murder trial are now sequestered behind closed doors as they deliberate the fates of the two men accused of killing Babcock. 5:10

A ban on all things Bosma

The Crown's battle to enter evidence related to Tim Bosma's killing was denied in a 16-page pretrial motion by Justice Michael Code of the Ontario Superior Court.

He said the Bosma and Babcock cases were too different: Bosma had never laid eyes on his killers until they showed up at his house to test drive the truck. Babcock, on the other hand, had briefly dated Millard and continued to have sex with him after they were no longer a couple. She seemed to harbour a lingering crush on him before she vanished.

But Code pointed out one glaring similarity between the two cases — the animal incinerator called The Eliminator.

The Crown at the Laura Babcock murder trial fought to include evidence that Tim Bosma's body was burned inside this animal incinerator, but there was a ban on all things Bosma related. (Court exhibit)

Hours before resting their case, prosecutors made a last-ditch effort, pleading to show the jury Millard and Smich had used the machine previously to burn a body.

Crown attorney Jill Cameron argued Millard used Code's ruling as a shield, repeatedly telling the court The Eliminator was perfectly innocent: bought to burn garbage, dispose of problem deer on his farm, and start a mobile pet cremation business.

"The innocent use is a lie and the jury must know," said Cameron, while the jury sat in another room, on Nov. 23.

"There is not a shred of evidence that's what it's for. It's to burn humans."

Code, unswayed, stood by his earlier decision to ban all things Bosma.

That also included a confession.

Before his arrest for Bosma's murder, Smich told his girlfriend at the time, Marlena Meneses, that "it wasn't the only body they burned."

Marlena Meneses told the court she and Smich worked for Millard, but weren't officially on the payroll. He gave them money for fast food, booze, and other things. (Court exhibit)

Convicted killers restrained in court

Extreme measures were taken, including physically altering parts of the courtroom decor, to make sure Millard and Smich received a fair trial in the Babcock case.

The two men, who both received prison sentences that will keep them behind bars with no chance of parole for 25 years, were escorted by guards inside the downtown Toronto courtroom every day before the jury arrived — their hands cuffed and ankles shackled.

Ankle restraints were worn by both accused but were hidden from jurors to avoid them knowing Millard and Smich are already convicted killers. (Pam Davies/CBC)

While the cuffs were unlocked and kept out of sight, the ankle restraints were more problematic.

Heavy black curtains were specially crafted around the tables where Millard and Smich sat in order to hide those restraints — think seatbelts, steel shackles would be too noisy and draw too much attention.

Millard as he cross-examines Smich's former girlfriend, Marlena Meneses, from a tall wooden podium, something only he used to block his ankle restraints from the jury. (Pam Davies/CBC)

And for Millard, who acted as his own lawyer at the Babcock trial, there was another special accommodation.

He needed a place to stand to address the jury and question witnesses. A tall wooden podium was brought into the centre of the courtroom, something only he used.

The jury's view of the courtroom, including Millard's podium and the dark curtains draped around his desk. The extra measures were put in place to make sure Millard and Smich got a fair trial. (Pam Davies/ CBC)

Millard got special prison privileges

Just days into the trial, Millard levelled one of many, many complaints to Justice Michael Code about his life in prison and the impact it was having on his ability to act as his own lawyer.

One of the problems, he claimed, was having to choose between a shower and shave — or preparing for his case.

He threatened a sort of personal hygiene strike.

"I'm not sure how long it takes you to shower and shave, but it takes me about five minutes," Code said dryly before looking into the matter.

Millard ended up with special transportation privileges, making sure he was promptly picked up after court every day, so he could get back to the Toronto East Detention Centre in Scarborough — giving him enough time to both work on his defence and grooming.

Dellen Millard complained often to the judge, without the jury in the room, about how life in prison, lockdowns, stabbings, and even transportation, was getting in the way of his time to prepare for court proceedings. (Court exhibits/Facebook)

Bosma's parents asked to stay away

Tim Bosma's parents, Hank and Mary, were asked in early November to stay away from the Toronto courtroom where the Babcock trial was going on. They had reached out to the Crown hoping to sit in the courtroom for a day as a show of support for Babcock's parents, who attended the trial every day.

Code was concerned a visit had the potential to turn the trial into a media circus.

Sharlene Bosma, and her in-laws, Mary and Hank Bosma, in front of the John Sopinka Courthouse in Hamilton, after Dellen Millard and Mark Smich were found guilty of killing Tim Bosma, on Friday, June 17, 2016. (Peter Power/Canadian Press)

"The greatest kind of support they can give the Babcock family is to make sure we get through this trial," Code said. "I strongly suspect the Babcock family feels the same way."

He feared even the presence of Bosma's family could upset the publication ban and trigger a mistrial.

Some jurors had heard of Bosma case

During jury selection, about 200 men and women were asked if they'd ever heard Millard and Smich mentioned in previous media reports, and if so, had they formed an opinion of guilt or innocence? Again, Bosma's name was not mentioned.

About half of the jurors admitted they knew about the co-accused, but said what they knew wouldn't sway their decision in the Babcock case.

Even Paul Bernardo got a fair trial, and look what was known about him beforehand.- Media lawyer Peter Jacobsen

"In the olden days of a few years ago, juries were told not to watch the news, listen to the radio, or read the newspaper," said Jeffrey Dvorkin, the director of the journalism program at the University of Toronto. 

"I'm not sure it's possible to ask that of a jury during a digital age. And if you can, how is it enforced?"

While the system may seem dated, veteran media lawyer Peter Jacobsen, said it still works. It is a juror's sworn duty to make their decision based only on what they hear in the courtroom.

"The proof of the pudding is in the eating. We haven't had any serious allegations of unfair trials due to jurors knowing more than they should know," said Jacobsen.

"Even Paul Bernardo got a fair trial, and look what was known about him beforehand."

A police surveillance photo of Mark Smich, left, days before his arrest in the murder of Tim Bosma, on May 22, 2013. On the right is Millard's mug shot, taken after he was arrested at gunpoint on May 11, 2013. The two men were charged with Babcock's murder in April 2014. (Court exhibit)

Millard accused of killing father

Millard will face another murder trial next year. He has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of his father, Wayne Millard. Originally, the death was ruled a suicide.

It was late November 2012, some four months after Babcock disappeared, when the older Millard was found dead in his bed, at the Etobicoke, Ont., home he shared with his son.

Wayne Millard, who was in his early 70s, suffered a gunshot wound to the eye. His body was cremated.

Millard's Etobicoke, Ont., home where Babcock's last cellphone call was traced July 3, 2012. (Court exhibit)

With his father's passing came a big pay day: Dellen Millard inherited 50 per cent of the family's once successful aviation company, MillardAir and Millard Properties Ltd.

At the time of his arrest in May 2013, the then-27-year-old owned two properties worth more than $1 million as well as a 45-hectare farm in the Region of Waterloo, Ont., and had just closed on a condo in Toronto's Distillery District.

Even so, he recently applied for legal aid to help pay for his defence at his father's murder trial, set for March 2018, complaining he couldn't access his substantial assets because they have been frozen.

Dellen Millard was born into a wealthy Ontario aviation family. In 1999, at age 14, he made local headlines the day before he qualified as both a fixed-wing and helicopter pilot. (Toronto Star)

Smich, guns, and missions

At the Bosma trial, Smich turned on his one-time best friend, testifying that Millard shot the Ancaster man.

This time around Smich stayed silent, saying not one word in front of the Babcock jury.

One of the only things they learned about him was he fancied himself a rapper.

A verse from one of his songs — about burning a girl on ashy stone — was played over and over again in the courtroom. That almost didn't happen, as his lawyers argued to keep it out of the trial.

Before Mark Smich was arrested for Tim Bosma's murder, he told his then girlfriend Marlena Meneses it wasn't the first time they had burned a body, something the jury at the Laura Babcock murder trial never heard. (Court Exhibit)
 

The jury didn't hear that Smich was planning to get his own handgun and bullets.

In April, a few months before Babcock vanished, Millard travelled to the United States to find Smich the perfect piece.

In a text, Smich wrote, "A lot of shit is happening soon, we gotta organize our time."

Millard responded, "I'll have you busier than you've ever been in life, you'll see, we're gonna build something you're proud of."

Photos and video taken from an iPad, found at Smich's home in Oakville, Ont., by police, were entered as evidence at both the Bosma and Babcock trials. (Court exhibit)

There was evidence of 16 prior "missions" carried out by the two men and their motley crew of hangers-on.

From May 2010 to January 2013, there was a spree of theft, mischief, arson, drug trafficking, robbery, among others — and the Crown wanted it all before the jury.

Proof, the prosecution argued, of a steady escalation of criminal activity and Millard's personality as a ringleader and thrill seeker.

But ultimately the so-called missions were not talked about in the courtroom. The judge ruled they didn't count because none of them resulted in criminal charges or convictions.

Where is Christina Noudga?

A ticket from Poland, where she now lives, was booked and Christina Noudga was ready to testify as a Crown witness at the Babcock trial but at the last minute, the prosecution chose not to call her as a witness.

Millard was also free to call his former girlfriend to the witness box, but opted not to.

The court had booked a flight from Europe to Toronto for Christina Noudga on Nov. 26, so she could appear as a witness at the Laura Babcock murder trial. But the Crown and defence chose not to call her. (Court exhibit)

And while she seemed to play a starring role in the Crown's case at the Babcock trial — at the centre of all those nasty texts, the love triangle, and the recipient of 65 handwritten letters from Millard — she avoided public scrutiny this time.

Last November, she struck a deal for her role in the Bosma case, pleading guilty to a reduced charge for covering up evidence. 

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.