Co-accused Dellen Millard skips opening statement, presents texts as evidence at Laura Babcock murder trial

Dellen Millard skips presenting his opening statement and instead begins his defence at the Laura Babcock murder trial by reading pages and pages of text messages — including some he wrote to co-accused Mark Smich — that focused on his problems sleeping.

Millard, acting as his own lawyer, begins reading evidence to jurors in Toronto before court ends early

Dellen Millard, who is acting as his own lawyer at the Laura Babcock murder trial, began his defence Monday. (Pam Davies/ CBC )

Dellen Millard skipped presenting his opening statement on Monday and instead began his defence at the Laura Babcock murder trial by reading pages and pages of text messages — including some he wrote to co-accused Mark Smich — that focused on his problems sleeping.

Legal discussions held behind closed doors pushed the start of proceedings until midday. When the hearing began in Ontario Superior Court, Millard, who's acting as his own lawyer, presented some of his evidence for the first time.

The 32-year-old began with text messages between himself and Babcock in late 2011, about a year before she disappeared; short and friendly texts mainly about her Maltese dog, named Lacey.

Millard — a self-described pilot, chef, and makeup artist — and his onetime best friend Smich, a 30-year-old high school dropout who's also from the Toronto area, have both pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder. 

Babcock was 23 when she vanished. The court has heard from several witnesses that she was sleeping with Millard in the months before her death in early July 2012.

The overwhelming majority of Millard's text evidence centred on his sleep. In May 2012 he wrote Smich: "I've been up every night. I really need some sleep."

He made similar complaints to others. 

"Last night I woke up every 15 minutes," he wrote to his mother,  adding he'd seen a doctor about it.

The Toronto court has heard virtually nothing previously about Millard's sleeping troubles, and without an opening statement, the jury was given little context as to what it may have to do with his defence.

Babcock, a University of Toronto graduate, was couch surfing the summer she disappeared. She had been travelling with a number of suitcases and her little dog as she moved from place to place. (Toronto Police Service/Canadian Press)

A date with Babcock?

In addition to the texts, Millard also read two brief statements of fact into the court, agreed upon by the prosecution and Smich's lawyer Thomas Dungey. One of them focused on a possible sighting of Babcock, a week after her alleged murder.

Millard read part of a transcript of a police interview, from May 2013, with Babcock's former boyfriend and close friend, Shawn Lerner.

Court has heard Lerner went through Babcock's phone records and reached out to people she had last communicated with. Among them was a man named Bradley Dean, who claimed to have gone on a date with Babcock on July 10, 2012.

During his earlier testimony, Dean told the court he had confused the dates — something also he later told police. The jury has also heard Babcock's phone, bank and social media accounts haven't been touched since July 2012.

Millard only spoke for about an hour before court adjourned early for the day.

The judge explained to the jury there were more legal matters to sort through with the defence. Court is set to resume at 10 a.m. on Tuesday.

Referring to Tuesday's session, Code also said, "We'll hear perhaps some more evidence, depending on how I rule."

Babcock's red Roots duffel bag was seized by police from Smich's home in 2013. (Court Exhibit)

The rap and the red bag

It remains unclear at this point whether Smich's legal team will call a defence. Smich, compared to Millard, has kept a relatively low profile during the trial. He often spends his days in court, typing on a computer, making little eye contact with anyone.

His lawyer, Dungey, questioned only a few select Crown witnesses.

Two of Smich's friends testified about a rap he performed for them in August 2012 — it was art imitating life, they told the jury. 

They said Smich then told them he "killed a girl, burned a body, and disposed of it in a lake."

Dungey questioned the credibility of Smich's friends, hammering away at their drug use and checkered pasts.

But perhaps harder to defend were two of Babcock's possessions, found by police at Smich's home: a black iPad, given to Babcock by a former boyfriend; and a bright red duffel bag bearing Babcock's handwritten name and address.

Dungey suggested it could be impossible to track who was using that iPad. He also pointed out while Babcock's bag was in Smich's home, it was being used to store cans of spray paint.

The trial started Oct. 23 and is expected to run about ten weeks.

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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: or find her on Instagram at @ShannonMartinTV.