'A crackling noise': Accused killer Mark Smich's ex girlfriend saw animal incinerator in use
Crown alleges after Laura Babcock was killed, her body was burned in July 2012
The ex-girlfriend of accused killer Mark Smich told jury members at the Laura Babcock murder trial about a night when Smich and co-accused Dellen Millard told her they were testing out a towering animal incinerator.
Marlena Meneses, 23, described in Ontario Superior Court in Toronto a late-night trip to Millard's airport hanger in the Waterloo Region, where she saw the machine smoking and heard a "crackling noise."
After four weeks of testimony, Meneses is one of the Crown's final witnesses.
She was 18 and dating Smich in the summer of 2012 when Babcock, who had been romantically involved with Millard, vanished.
Millard, 32, of Toronto, and Smich, 30, of Oakville, Ont., have both pleaded not guilty to a charge of first-degree murder. Babcock's body has never been found. The Toronto woman's phone records and bank accounts haven't been touched since early July 2012.
Meneses, now an assistant retail manager, spent much of Friday morning in the witness box, giving insight on the dynamics between Millard and Smich.
"They were best friends, like brothers," she testified.
She met Smich at a Tim Hortons in Oakville, Ont., in May 2012. Almost immediately, they started living together — her stepfather, she explained, was too controlling — splitting their time between Smich's mother's house and Millard's bungalow in Etobicoke, Ont.
'His new toy'
It was Meneses's account of a large black piece of farm machinery, called The Eliminator, that dominated much of her testimony.
When she first saw the machine at Millard's airport hangar, she says the accused killer told her it was his new toy.
Meneses said she later asked Smich about it and he said it was for farm animals.
Previously, at the Laura Babcock murder trial:
- Day 1: 'Are you nervous?' Millard questions Babcock's father
Day 12: Jury sees animal incinerator Crown alleges was used to burn body
- 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
Read CBC News's full coverage as the trial continues.
"I thought it was weird because Dellen didn't have any farm animals," she told the court.
The night she saw the incinerator in use, the trio had picked up the machine from Millard's hangar, towing it to his farm property, which was also in the Waterloo Region.
"They told me to stay in the car and wear my earphones and wait there," she said, explaining Smich and Millard often gave her these sort of instructions.
"I didn't have a choice," she said.
After a while, she says Millard and Smich returned explaining they needed a power cord, so they drove back to Millard's airport hangar about 10 minutes away.
Now it was really late, she told the jury, she just wanted to go home. Smich threatened to take her back to her parents' place. Millard offered her some marijuana.
That's when she says she walked by the incinerator — now smoking and crackling.
She said she never looked inside.
"They said they were trying to test out the machine," she told the court.
While Meneses couldn't give the court an exact date when she first saw the incinerator, throughout the trial the Crown has attempted to build a timeline.
The Crown contends Babcock was killed on July 3rd or 4th, 2012.
Last week, court saw text messages 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.
'I want to talk about tools'
Earlier Friday, Millard, who is acting as his own lawyer, and Thomas Dungey, Smich's lawyer, tried to debunk testimony from a Toronto police detective, who is an expert in deciphering street slang.
Det. Gavin Jansz presented several messages to the jury Thursday, between Millard, Smich and a man so far only identified as "Isho."
On July 1, 2012, Millard wrote: "tell him i want to talk about tools."
Jansz explained to jury members "tools" refers to firearms.
On the same day, Isho wrote, ".32 but its a really nice nice compact piece im sure ud like it."
Janz said a ".32" refers to a 32-calibre firearm and a "really nice nice compact piece" is slang for a gun.
Both Millard and Dungey suggested slang can often have multiple interpretations.
The trial is not sitting Monday and will resume Tuesday at 9:45 a.m. ET.
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Read CBC News's previous coverage of the Babcock murder trial: