Accused killer Dellen Millard asked friend to keep tabs on Laura Babcock, jury hears

One of Dellen Millard's former friends testifies in court that he was asked to keep tabs on Laura Babcock in the months before she vanished in the summer of 2012.

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

Andrew Michalski, left, testified Tuesday at the Laura Babcock murder trial, where his former best friend, Dellen Millard, right, and another man are being prosecuted on first-degree murder charges. (Court exhibit)

One of Dellen Millard's former friends testifies in court that he was asked to keep tabs on Laura Babcock in the months before she vanished in the summer of 2012.

Andrew Michalski, 27, a Toronto-area plumber, was part of Millard's inner circle, a group that partied hard and often at the accused killer's home in Etobicoke, Ont.

The jury was shown text messages Tuesday that Millard sent Michalski on May 4, 2012. One of them read, "if you could keep me updated on where Laura goes to thatd be of use to me."

  • Read CBC News's full coverage of the Laura Babcock murder trial

When asked by Crown prosecutor Ken Lockhart what Millard meant, Michalski responded that he never asked.

Millard, 32, of Toronto, and another former close friend, Mark Smich, 30, of Oakville, Ont., are both being tried on first-degree murder in Ontario Superior Court in Toronto. Both men have pleaded not guilty.

The Crown contends that Babcock, who lived in Toronto, was killed in July 2012, and her body burned inside an animal incinerator called The Eliminator, purchased by Millard for just over $15,000.

University of Toronto graduate Laura Babcock was 23 when she vanished. The Toronto woman's phone records and bank accounts haven't been touched since early July 2012. (Facebook)

'Dell's not a fan of me'

Other text messages shown to the jury today revealed what Michalski described as "bad blood" between Babcock, Millard, and a woman he was dating, Christina Noudga, of Toronto. Babcock and Millard had previously dated.

The Crown's theory is that Babcock was murdered, with the motivation being a love triangle.

On April 16, 2012, Babcock sent Michalski a message that she had received from Millard. It read: "Of course i don't know your disorder. its yours and you dont know anyone else's. it's unfortunate you got dealt a bad hand. i don't blame you for your disorder but it is up to you to manage it. this your life Laura."

The message went on to read, "You are harmful to me. please don't try to contact me until you've made some huge leaps of self discovery. as i said before, good luck with life."

Babcock then asked Michalski, "Am I that bad of a person?"

He responded that she needed to watch what she said.

Babcock then wrote, "ya dells def not a fan of me. He told me he told xtina when he slept with me before. Erg these ppl cause [so] much unwanted drama for me. and bring me into it."

Michalski, who told the jury he tried several times to sleep with Babcock unsuccessfully, said he only learned of her disappearance after seeing a news article posted on Facebook.

Andrew Michalski sent co-accused Dellen Millard this screen capture on July 17, 2012. Millard responded saying he hadn't seen her. (Court exhibit)

Lies to police

Earlier Tuesday, Millard grilled Smich's ex-girlfriend about testimony she gave about a night she saw the two friends "testing out" an animal incinerator and got her to admit she'd lied to police on several occasions.

Marlena Meneses, 23, told the court Friday Millard and Smich ordered her to stay in the car, leave them alone, and listen to music while they "tested" the machine — instructions they often gave her.Millard, who is acting as his own lawyer, brought up several conflicting statements Meneses gave to police. In one of them, she told officers she knew nothing about the incinerator.

"You have lied to police in the past, been dishonest with police in the past and you've lied under oath?" Millard asked Meneses.

"Yes but I've corrected myself after," she replied.

Meneses told jury members Friday that she disliked Millard because of lewd comments he often made about her appearance.

On Tuesday, he said to Meneses, "I smacked your butt once?"

Marlena Meneses as she was cross-examined by Dellen Millard, acting as his own lawyer. Co-accused Mark Smich, centre, barely exchanged eye contact with Meneses, his ex-girlfriend. (Sketch by Pam Davies/ CBC Toronto)

Meneses corrected him, pointing out it was more than once. Millard maintained he remembered just the one time, "You gave me a dirty look, so I knew you didn't like it. It was unwanted contact... Sorry, Marlena."

Millard also admitted to teasing Meneses, who at the time was an 18-year-old high school dropout, asking her trivia questions he knew would make her "feel dumb." Shortly after, Millard asked the witness to spell, "hangar."

Crown attorney Jill Cameron quickly stood and Justice Michael Code bristled, suggesting Millard move on.

"Despite the teasing, you learned a lot from me?" Millard continued.

Meneses responded flatly, "Oh I learned a lot from all of this."

Meneses told the court she dated Smich from May 2012 to May 2013. (Court exhibit)

The bad boyfriend

Millard also spent time picking apart Meneses and Smich's relationship, suggesting Smich was controlling, abusive, and frequently referred to Meneses as his bitch.

Smich's lawyer, Thomas Dungey, told the court his client and girlfriend were always together, which often led to bickering. Dungey also confirmed with Menenes that Smich's life goal was to become a rap artist.

"Mark was always talking in a rap manner, playing a part," Dungey said to Meneses. "He lived it night and day?" She agreed.

Both Millard and Smich seemed to fixate on an iPad that the jury has heard an abundance of testimony about. It belonged to Babcock, a gift from her former boyfriend Shawn Lerner, but shortly after she disappeared, it was renamed 'Mark's iPad.' Meneses testified she saw the two deleting files from the tablet.

A police photograph of the iPad seized from Smich's home. Court heard the device once belonged to Laura Babcock. (Court exhibit)

Dungey asked Meneses if the iPad was eventually given to her, by both the co-accused, and she agreed.

"You came to court, you came to tell the truth. You've admitted at times you did lie, right? But you're telling the truth today?" Meneses again agreed.

During re-examination, Cameron told the court Meneses gave a total of eight police statements, and testified over three days at another proceeding. The two lies Meneses admitted to, including never seeing the incinerator in use, were given during her first full statement to police.

"It was all fresh, I wasn't sure, I was scared. I was young," she explained.

"Since that time, have you lied to police?" Cameron asked.

"No" she answered.

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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: or find her on Instagram at @ShannonMartinTV.