US & Canada

Dellen Millard: Fun-loving heir whose killings stunned Canada

From left to right, Mark Smich, Justice Michael Code, Dr. Robert Burns and Dellen Millard are shown in an artist's sketch at the Laura Babcock murder trial on 16 November 2017 Image copyright The Canadian Press
Image caption From left to right, Mark Smich, Justice Michael Code, Dr. Robert Burns and Dellen Millard are shown in an artist's sketch at the Laura Babcock murder trial on 16 November 2017

He is one of Canada's most notorious killers. But during his most recent first-degree murder trial, Dellen Millard appeared in court as his own lawyer.

Standing at a podium in front of the witness box, Millard took a breath.

"Are you nervous?" he asked witness Clayton Babcock, the father of Laura Babcock, who disappeared in 2012.

Wearing a smart blazer, eyeglasses and a small braid of hair behind his right ear, the 32-year-old looked more like a VP in a tech company than a criminal lawyer.

Yet here he was, acting as defence attorney on the first day of one of the most shocking murder trials of 2017 - his own.

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

"No," Mr Babcock replied, determined to get through the exchange.

Image copyright Toronto Police
Image caption Laura Babcock's body was never found

Over the next seven weeks, the jury would watch as Millard interrogated his 23-year-old ex-girlfriend's closest friends and family.

But what they would not see is that behind the podium, Millard's legs were in shackles.

In 2016, Millard and his co-accused in Babcock's murder, Mark Smich, were convicted of first-degree murder for the death of Tim Bosma.

Now serving life sentences for their part in that crime, the duo headed back to court this autumn to answer for university graduate Babcock's death.

Like Bosma, prosecutors believed the duo had plotted her murder, shot her in July 2012 and disposed of her body in an industrial incinerator purchased just for the occasion.

Her body was never found.

On Saturday, Smich and Millard were convicted, for a second time, of first-degree murder.

The many faces of Dellen Millard

Image copyright Court Exhibit
Image caption Dellen Millard (right) with a friend

Born into a wealthy family, Millard grew up in Toronto and worked alongside his father at Millardair, an aviation company in southern Ontario founded by his grandfather in the 1960s.

On the surface, he appeared to be a fun-loving party guy who sometimes sported a hot-pink Mohawk and had a tattoo of the word "ambition" on his wrist.

He hosted many pool parties at his luxurious McMansion in suburban Etobicoke, and let friends play video games and drive his collection of luxury cars, former friends told the CBC.

But beneath the playboy persona was a man sinking into the criminal underworld. Despite his wealth, Millard began to dabble in petty theft.

Courts heard testimony of Millard's penchant for dealing drugs and stealing cars, with Smich frequently acting as his partner in crime.

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When his father Wayne Millard appeared to commit suicide in November 2012, Millard inherited the multi-million dollar business and its properties, according to records uncovered by the Toronto Star.

"He was frugal with himself and generous to others. The only people he feared were racists," he wrote in his father's obituary in the Star two weeks after his death.

"He was patient and stubborn. He admired Christ, Gandhi and Lindbergh.

"He believed animal welfare was a humanitarian effort. He was a good man in a careless world. He was my father."

But employees at MillardAir said there had been tensions between Millard and his father, according to a CBC investigation.

There was even talk the heir was going to be cut off because of his extravagant spending.

Six months later, Millard would find himself accused of murdering not only his own father, but Babcock and Bosma, too.

Image copyright Court exhibit
Image caption Dellen Millard at Millardair

'It was just a truck'

If it was not for his truck, Tim Bosma may still have been alive today. The 32-year-old family man was trying to sell his diesel vehicle, and his wife Sharlene Bosma had posted an ad online.

Millard had been on the lookout for a more fuel-efficient means to tow a Jeep he was using to pursue his hobby, off-road racing.

Prosecutors say he saw the ad for Bosma's 2007 Dodge 3500, and decided it would be ideal.

The Bosmas had a two-year-old daughter and wanted to grow the family. Money was tight, and getting rid of the truck would ease their burdens.

On 6 May 2013, Millard and Smich arrived at the Bosma family home outside of Hamilton, Ontario, to take the truck for a test drive.

"When they come, should I go with them?" Bosma had asked his wife.

"Yes you should, because we want the truck to come back," she replied.

She never saw him again.

Image copyright Facebook
Image caption The entire community joined the search for Tim Bosma

After he did not respond to her many texts and voicemails, Mrs Bosma reported her husband missing.

A social media campaign was launched, and soon the entire community was out looking for him.

On 8 May, Mrs Bosma gave a heart-wrenching press conference where she pleaded for her husband's safe return.

"It was just a truck, a stupid truck," she said. "You do not need him but I do. Our daughter needs her daddy."

Four days later, police found Bosma's truck in a trailer on the property of Millard's mother.

The truck had been stripped, but gunshot residue and traces of his blood were found inside.

Human remains were later found in an incinerator on Millard's farm.

Image copyright The Canadian Press
Image caption Clayton Babcock (right) stands next to his wife Linda after learning that Dellen Millard and Mark Smich have been convicted of murdering their daughter

'I will remove her from our lives'

Bosma's murder shook the community of Hamilton to its core. Local media covered every day of the trial, and authorities were so worried about the safety of Millard in Hamilton-Wentworth Detention Centre that he was held in solitary confinement for the 1,100-plus days of the trial.

But while Bosma's murder was the first trial that Millard and Smich would face, it would not be the last. Shortly after their arrest, police would also charge them with murdering Babcock, who had been missing since 4 July 2012.

Smich and Millard retained separate legal counsel for Bosma's trial, and both were convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole for 25 years in June 2016.

By October, the former rich kid was arguing in court he could not afford his legal fees.

Since being charged with his father's murder, Millard has been shut out of his inheritance, and Bosma's family is suing both him and Smich for C$14m ($11m, £8m) in civil court.

Although he had owned millions of dollars of property, he had transferred most of this portfolio to his mother after his arrest.

Denied legal aid by the judge, Millard took the unusual step of representing himself.

That is how, on the first day of the trial, Millard found himself standing across from Babcock's father, asking him whether he ever hit his daughter, whether he knew his daughter had worked as an escort, about her mental health issues.

"I was really happy with our family," Mr Babcock said, denying he had ever hit his daughter. "It was a good family. I was blessed for 53 years. And then this happened. So, I'm not as happy now."

In the months leading up to her death Babcock had led a troubled life. Described by family and friends as typically "bubbly" and "outgoing", she had also dealt with anxiety and depression for much of her life.

Image copyright Court exhibit
Image caption Dellen Millard (left) with ex-girlfriend Christina Noudga, who pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in connection to the murder of Tim Bosma

That summer, she was fighting with her parents over house rules, and she was couch-surfing with friends and escort clients, her friends told the court.

She and Millard had dated briefly in 2008-09, and may have continued their sexual relationship even while Millard was dating Christina Noudga, who pleaded guilty in 2016 to obstructing justice and helping Millard destroy evidence on Bosma's murder.

Noudga and Babcock quarrelled, with Babcock sending taunting texts to Noudga to claim she was still sleeping with Millard.

The prosecution says Millard killed Babcock to get out of the love triangle.

Months before Babcock went missing, Millard texted Noudga to say this: "First I am going to hurt her.

"Then I'll make her leave. I will remove her from our lives."

Millard and Smich will be sentenced for her murder on her birthday, 12 February 2018.

Timeline

  • 2008 or 2009: Laura Babcock meets Dellen Millard, they date briefly
  • 3-4 July 2012: Babcock killed
  • 5 July 2012: Millard receives a commercial incinerator called The Eliminator
  • November 2012: Wayne Millard, Millard's father, dies. His death is ruled a suicide
  • 6 May 2013: Millard and Mark Smich kill Tim Bosma
  • 14 May 2013: Millard charged with first-degree murder
  • 21 May 2013: Mark Smich charged with first degree murder for Bosma's death
  • April 2014: Millard and Smich charged with first-degree murder for Babcock's death
  • April 2014: Millard charged with first-degree murder for his father's death
  • 17 June 2016: Smich and Millard convicted of first-degree murder for Bosma's death
  • 16 December 2017: Smich and Millard convicted of first-degree murder for Babcock's death
  • Spring 2018: Millard will stand trial for first-degree murder of his father

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