A deeply disturbing and emotional 1st week at the Laura Babcock murder trial
Crown argues a love triangle may have led to Babcock being killed and burned in an animal incinerator
Deeply disturbing, uncomfortable, and highly emotional — and that was just Week 1 of the Laura Babcock murder trial.
Crown Jill Cameron and her team have already called more than a dozen witnesses and at least a dozen more are expected as they attempt to craft an airtight case against co-accused Dellen Millard, 32, of Toronto, and his onetime best friend, Mark Smich, 30 of Oakville, Ont.
The Crown alleges cold-blooded murder that may have been motivated by a love triangle.
Babcock, described by friends and family as intelligent and fun-loving, was 23 when she disappeared in the summer of 2012.
The Crown alleges Millard and Smich killed Babcock in early July, and then burned her body in an animal incinerator.
Both men have pleaded not guilty in the jury trial, which is taking place in Ontario Superior Court in Toronto and is expected to last 10 weeks.
Millard has elected to act as his own lawyer — putting him face to face with every person who enters the witness box.
Cross-examination by the accused
Millard, who wears his hair collar length and parted down the middle, cross-examined the Crown's first witnesses, those who loved Babcock most, a boyfriend and her father.
"Are you nervous?" Millard asked Clayton Babcock, 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.
That first day of his daughter's murder trial also happened to be his 35th wedding anniversary with his wife, and Laura's mother, Linda.
Previously, at the Laura Babcock murder trial:
- Day 1: 'Are you nervous?' Millard questions Babcock's father
- Day 2: Millard questions Babcock's ex-boyfriend
- Day 3: Smich admitted to burning a body, friend tells trial
- Day 4: Smich's friend breaks down in witness box
- Day 5: Court hears of love triangle and 'catty' texting war
Read CBC News's full coverage as the trial continues.
Babcock, 60, remained composed as Millard asked if he ever abused or hit his daughter, or knew she worked as a prostitute.
The courtroom — which has remained full with standing room only — was uncomfortably silent as Millard asked Babcock whether he remembered the only other time the men had met.
Millard picked Babcock up for a date and stood in the family's living room
Babcock recalled, "You seemed decent, then."
'Do you find me sketchy?'
Millard's unsettling style of questioning continued as he faced Babcock's former boyfriend, and close friend, Shawn Lerner.
Millard had once been romantically involved with Babcock and the tension between the two men wasn't lost on anyone.
"Shawn, you don't like me very much, do you?" Millard asked as he approached the podium.
"No," Lerner responded.
"Do you find me sketchy?" Millard asked.
"Yes," Lerner replied.
At times, it was clear Millard is no lawyer. He was warned about "very repetitive" and at times inappropriate questioning by Justice Michael Code.
The rap and the confession
Co-accused Mark Smich, a would-be rapper, saw one of his homemade music videos played on a large screen several times for the jury during the trial.
The 30-second clip shows Smich wearing a white T-shirt and waving his hands as he rhymes:
The bitch started off all skin and bone
Now the bitch lay on ashy stone
Last time I saw her's outside the home
And if you go swimming you can find her phone.
Two of Smich's friends, who were in high school at the time, testified that Smich told them in the summer of 2012 while they were hanging out in his mother's garage that it was more than just a rap — it was real.
David Cronin, now 22, told jury members that Smich said he "killed a girl, burned a body, and disposed of it in a lake.… After that he sang us a rap song about it."
Cronin broke down in tears after the Crown played the rap video. He'd never seen it, but said they were the same lyrics he remembered from five years ago.
"It's just a lot to process," Cronin said as he wiped away tears with tissues.
Smich's lawyer Thomas Dungey attempted to discredit Cronin's testimony, as he did Smich's other friend Desi Liberatore, questioning their heavy drug use and memory.
Both men stood by what they said, adamant that Smich had confessed.
The possible motive
The Crown has been laying the groundwork for what could be a possible motive for Babcock's alleged murder: a complicated love triangle.
It centres on Millard, and his girlfriend at the time, Christina Noudga, and Babcock.
On Friday, a friend of both Babcock and Noudga, Karoline Shirinian, told the jury about a "catty" text feud between the two women.
It took place on Feb. 12, 2012 — Babcock's 23rd birthday. Shirinian said she'd been having drinks with Noudga.
"We thought it would be funny if we sent her a catty text message for her birthday," Shirinian, 25, said.
Noudga wrote: "Happy birthday. A year ago today was the first time I slept with Dellen."
Shirinian told the jury Babcock replied: "That's fine, I slept with him a couple of weeks ago."
Much of the Crown's case hinges on text messages.
During her opening statements, Cameron read a text about Babcock, written by Millard to Noudga.
It was in April, a few months before Babcock would vanish.
"First I am going to hurt her. Then I'll make her leave. I will remove her from our lives," he wrote.
None of Babcock's friends or family have heard from her since July 2012. No phone calls, no text messages, nothing.
During his testimony, Clayton Babcock said his daughter would be 28 now.
"I was looking at her picture the other day," he said, before excusing himself as he cried.
"I thought, 'She looks like me.'''
They shared a love of '70s rock, he said, and would watch reality shows together like Say Yes to the Dress.
But he, and several of Babcock's friends, testified she wasn't herself in those final months.
She talked openly about her struggle with depression and anxiety.
After she and her parents disagreed about house rules, Babcock moved around a lot, spending time between friends' places, and at one point, a hotel paid for by Lerner.
He testified that Babcock mentioned suicide once while they were dating, and she spent a night in hospital. He also "saw her with cuts," but did not know if they were self-inflicted or not.
Several witnesses also told the jury Babcock worked for a time as an escort.
Overwhelmingly, those who knew her best remembered Babcock as bright and loving. Almost everyone fondly recalled her fierce love for her little dog, a Maltese named Lacey.
They were inseparable.
The last time Babcock was home — June 30, 2012, which was also the last time Clayton and Linda Babcock spoke with their daughter — she left Lacey in her kennel.
The little white dog still lives at the family home in Etobicoke in Toronto's west end. Babcock said seeing his daughter's pet brings him some comfort.
"It probably helped me get through the years," said Babcock.
"I think about her and think of better times."
With files from Trevor Dunn