'Are you nervous?' Dellen Millard questions Laura Babcock's father at murder trial

The Laura Babcock murder trial began Monday, with the Crown alleging the two accused killed the Toronto woman and burned her body in a commercial incinerator.

Millard representing himself at his 1st-degree murder trial, while co-accused Mark Smich has lawyer

Laura Babcock disappeared from Toronto in 2012. Dellen Millard and Mark Smich have been charged with her murder. (Facebook)

The Laura Babcock murder trial began Monday, with the Crown alleging the two accused killed the Toronto woman and burned her body in a commercial incinerator.

Babcock was 23 when she disappeared from Toronto in 2012. Her body has never been found.

Dellen Millard, 32, of Toronto, and Mark Smich, 30, of Oakville, Ont., are both charged with first-degree murder.

Millard is representing himself in Superior Court, a rare move for a first-degree murder trial and one that allowed him to cross-examine the father of the woman he's accused of murdering.

"Are you nervous?" Millard asked Clayton Babcock, the Crown's first witness, as he began his questioning.

"This can't be easy for you, being questioned by me, considering I'm the accused. Does this make it extra difficult?"

"No," Babcock responded.

Dellen Millard, left, and Mark Smich, right, are accused of first-degree murder in the death of Babcock. (Facebook, Instagram)

The jury includes seven men and seven women, two of whom are alternates. Justice Michael Code is the trial judge.

Smich is being represented by lawyer Thomas Dungey.

'First I'm going to hurt her'

In her opening statements, Crown prosecutor Jill Cameron summarized the evidence she intends to call.

Among Cameron's first words to the jury were text messages she read. They were sent by Millard, Cameron said, to his girlfriend at the time, Christine Noudga, two months before the alleged murder of Babcock.

"First I'm going to hurt her, then I'll make her leave. I will remove her from our lives," Cameron quoted to the jury.

Cameron said that Millard and Babcock were "romantically involved" before he started dating Noudga. She told the jury they will hear that Noudga learned Millard and Babcock's relationship continued and that she was "very upset about this."

Cameron told the jury Millard first intended to have his mechanic build a homemade incinerator to use to burn Babcock's body and that his best friend at the time, Smich, was helping with the plan.

But when it became clear it wouldn't work, Cameron told the jury, Millard set out to buy a commercial-grade animal incinerator known as "The Eliminator."

It cost $15,000, Cameron said.

'BBQ is ready for meat'

The Crown will present cellphone records that indicate the phones of Millard, Smich and Babcock were all at or near Millard's Etobicoke home on July 3, 2012.

Cameron told the jury Babcock's phone was used for the last time at 7:03 p.m. that day.

She said that other electronic records the Crown plans to introduce will show that on July 4  the iPad Babcock was given by a former boyfriend was connected to Millard's computer and renamed "Mark's iPad."

The next day, Cameron said, Millard received the incinerator. And on July 23, Cameron said, Millard, "upon learning the incinerator was operational," sent Smich a text message that read: "the BBQ is ready for meat."

From left to right: Dellen Millard, Mark Smich, Justice Michael Code, Clayton Babcock and Crown lawyer Jill Cameron in court on Monday. (Pam Davies/CBC)

Cameron told the jury she plans to introduce as evidence several photos taken from Millard's cellphone that same day, including a screengrab of an internet search for "what temperature is cremation done at?"

That same night, Cameron told the jury, lyrics to a rap song were written on the iPad Babcock had been given. The lyrics are:

"The bitch started off all skin and bone, now the bitch lay on some ashy stone, last time I saw her's outside the home and if you go swimming you can find her phone."

Cameron then played a video she said was recorded in Millard's basement that showed Mark Smich performing the song.

Father testifies

As the Crown's first witness, Clayton Babcock painted a picture of his daughter as a "happy" and "bubbly" woman who was a "hard worker" and could be "the life of the party."

Babcock fought back tears at times as he recounted fond memories of Christmas gifts from his daughter and the times they spent listening to music and watching TV together.

But he admitted that before she disappeared there were signs of trouble, around the time Babcock was finishing university and after she graduated.

"Laura didn't like rules," Babcock said.

He said his daughter was in and out of the house in the months leading up to her disappearance in the summer of 2012. The family had disagreements about her staying out late and hanging around with new friends..

At one point the family changed the locks on their Etobicoke home (although Laura knew where a key was stored and could still access the house).

Asked about Laura's mental health, her father told the court he suspected she may have been having problems, but "we couldn't quite figure it out."

Cross-examined by Millard

In a scenario rarely seen in court, Babcock then spent the next hour answering questions from one of the men accused of killing his daughter.

Millard, representing himself, pointed his questions toward Laura Babcock's personal life and the relationship she had with her family, attempting to call into question her mental health and stability.

"Did she ever tell you that she worked as a prostitute?" Millard asked.

"No," he responded.

Babcock, 60, was composed and matter-of-fact while answering questions, looking directly at Millard, who stood at a podium in the centre of the courtroom. Millard has shoulder-length hair, wore dark-rimmed glasses, a button-down shirt and jeans.

"Did you ever hit her or abuse her in any way?" Babcock was asked by Millard.

"No I didn't," he replied.

Millard also asked Babcock about the first and only time they met.

It was brief and at Babcock's home, but he couldn't quite remember when.

"You seemed decent," he said to Millard.

Smich's lawyer, Thomas Dungey, cross-examined Babcock with a line of questioning similar to Millard's, attempting to cast some doubt on what is known about Laura Babcock leading up to her disappearance.

Dungey asked Babcock if he had an "honest relationship" with his daughter. He said he did.

Dungey asked if she ever talked to him about drugs, where her money was coming from or if she ever revealed to him that she once worked for an escort service.

"No," Babcock responded. "I presume if you're trying to keep a normal father-daughter relationship, it's not the first thing you blurt out."

For more details on what happened in court, see our live blog:


Trevor Dunn is an award-winning journalist with CBC Toronto. Since 2008 he's covered a variety of topics, ranging from local and national politics to technology on the South American countryside. Trevor is interested in uncovering news: real estate, crime, corruption, art, sports. Reach out to him. Se habla español.