TORONTO – Two men planned for months to kill a young Toronto woman who disappeared five years ago and then tried to cover up their crime by burning the evidence, court heard Wednesday.
The prosecution in the first-degree murder trial of Dellen Millard and Mark Smich gave its closing argument by going over a “mountain” of circumstantial evidence in the presumed death of 23-year-old Laura Babcock. Both men have pleaded not guilty.
“Her last footprint was in their company. Think about the improbability of coincidence. It’s almost too many to count,” said Crown attorney Jill Cameron.
“That is no coincidence, that is murder.”
Millard and Smich killed Babcock at Millard’s home some time after 8 p.m. on July 3, 2012 — the pair stopped texting each other and everyone else for about four hours, Cameron said.
“It doesn’t matter how they killed her. We will never know. They killed her and then they tried to cover it up by burning her body and they sure seemed pleased about doing it,” Cameron said as Babcock’s mother wiped away tears.
“They took pictures and didn’t destroy them. They kept her possessions as if they were collecting trophies. Fortunately for us they didn’t do a very good job of covering up their crime.”
Cameron said Babcock’s footprint, both real and digital, vanished on July 4 when her phone went dark.
After the two killed Babcock, Millard wrapped her body in a tarp, dumped it in his father’s minivan and drove to his hangar for some work and then on to his farm to hide the body, Cameron said.
Millard sent Smich a text with a picture of a large, wrapped blue tarp next his dog, Pedo, on the afternoon of July 4.
“This was Laura’s body,” Cameron said.
The planning began in April 2012 when the feud between Millard’s girlfriend, Christina Noudga, and Babcock reached its zenith, she said. Court has heard the pair were fighting over Millard.
Millard and Smich spoke extensively by text about a homemade incinerator that they were never able to get working, she said.
After that failure, Millard ordered a commercial incinerator called The Eliminator and the two spoke about testing it with “bones.”
The machine arrived on July 5, but wasn’t operational until July 23 with both men working on it to get it installed on a trailer, she said.
The Crown pointed to the photo of a smiling Smich in front of The Eliminator taken with Millard’s phone that night, then the image of what two experts say are bones inside the machine.
“Given the mountain of evidence you have heard, those aren’t deer bones,” Cameron said.
“That is a picture of Laura Babcock after these two got through with her.”
Earlier, Smich’s lawyer told the jury his client had no motive to kill Babcock because he was never part of a love triangle the Crown has said was behind her death.
Thomas Dungey said there’s not one iota of evidence that his 30-year-old client killed Babcock.
“Mark Smich had no involvement with the disappearance of Laura Babcock,” Dungey said in his closing arguments. “There is no evidence to where she is or what happened to her.”
Dungey argued that Smich had no reason for what he’s accused of doing.
“Who’s involved in this love triangle? Allegedly Christina Noudga, Dellen Millard and Laura Babcock,” Dungey said. “Not Mark Smich. He’s not even part of the triangle, not part of the whole motive.”
Court has not heard evidence of any texts or communication between Smich and Babcock, Dungey said. And Smich didn’t buy the incinerator the Crown alleges the accused used, Millard did, he said.
Dungey focused on two pieces of evidence the Crown has used to highlight Smich’s connection to Babcock: her iPad was found in his possession and named “Mark’s iPad,” and a red bag with her name on it was found in Smich’s bedroom. Dungey said text messages in evidence show that Millard gave both items to Smich.
The Crown’s case is based on circumstantial evidence with no concrete proof about Babcock’s presumed death, Dungey argued.
“Is this a novel? Because it sure is fiction,” he said.
“It comes down to a rap, that’s all they got,” Dungey said, referring to a rap Smich gave in his garage after Babcock disappeared.
The jury has heard about Smich performing a rap in front of two teenage boys about killing a girl and burning her body. The witnesses told court Smich said after that the rap was, in fact, true.
Dungey said both witnesses were adolescents, admitted drug addicts and smoking marijuana at the time and because of all that, their memories are not reliable.
Millard, who represented himself, told the jury in his closing address Tuesday that several witnesses have seen or heard from Babcock after July 4, 2012.
The 32-year-old told the jury Babcock is not dead, noting to one witness testified he saw her at a nut store in Toronto in October 2012.
He also pointed to Babcock’s best friend, Megan Orr, who told court she talked to Babcock on the phone on July 4. Phone records, however, showed Babcock’s last phone call was to voice mail at 7:03 p.m. the day before.
“Laura must have changed her phone, must have had another phone,” Millard said.
The judge is to begin the charge to the jury on Thursday.