'A crackling noise': Accused killer Mark Smich's ex girlfriend saw animal incinerator in use

The ex-girlfriend of accused killer Mark Smich told jury members at the Laura Babcock murder trial about a night when Smich and friend Dellen Millard told her they were testing out a towering animal incinerator.

Crown alleges after Laura Babcock was killed, her body was burned in July 2012

Marlena Meneses, who dated Mark Smich the summer Laura Babcock disappeared, testified Friday at a Toronto murder trial. (Court exhibit)

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

'Like brothers'

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.​

Meneses testified Friday she never met Laura Babcock, and had never heard of her until charges were laid against her ex. (Toronto Police Service)

'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.

"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.

Meneses said one of the jobs she did for Millard was cleaning the washrooms at his airport hangar. In this photo she poses near the animal incinerator, called The Eliminator. (Court exhibit)

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.

BBQ mission

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.

Two incinerators, including this one, were found on Millard's property during a police search. (Court exhibit)

'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.

Court has heard co-accused Mark Smich was a wannabe rapper. (Court exhibit)

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:


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.