News / Canada

Babcock trial video shows incinerator dubbed The Eliminator burning: DiManno

At the first-degree murder trial of Dellen Millard and Mark Smich, the jury hears a technical crime unit specialist give a narrative, stitched together from messages on phones and a laptop.

An incinerator is seen at the Millard Air hanger in Waterloo, Ont. in this undated handout photo found during forensic analysis of computers seized from Dellen Millard's home.

Ontario courts

An incinerator is seen at the Millard Air hanger in Waterloo, Ont. in this undated handout photo found during forensic analysis of computers seized from Dellen Millard's home.

It’s the dead of night.

The dead. Of night.

Inky black, but for red-hot wisps of embers, sparking and drifting. Something burning.

We see the scene first, illuminated by light cast from a lamp post in the near distance, framed in an open doorway.

Something . . . burning.

Allegedly, the remains of Laura Babcock. Being consumed in “The Eliminator.”

Hell, it must be, for her parents, sitting in the front row of the courtroom. But they scarcely flinch. They are stoic. Though Clayton Babcock brought his hand to his mouth, as if stifling a silent gasp as the glowing wisps wafted.

It has been five and a half years since they lost her.

Whatever was left of the vivacious 23-year-old was never found.

The Eliminator is an oblong incinerator, in shape resembling an ossuary, what would normally be used to dispose of animal carcasses, connected to a generator and propane tank, fitted with piping.

A commercial model, replacement for the handyman version that had been assembled by a mechanic friend, but found unfit for the purported task upon testing.

At the first-degree murder trial of Dellen Millard and Mark Smich — both have pleaded not guilty — the prosecution did not come out on Thursday and bluntly state what it alleges is occurring in this video footage: that a human being, apparently dead for some three weeks at that point, is being consigned to flames, inside a hangar owned by Millard, in a do-it-yourself cremation.

Upon its delivery, Millard struggled to make the apparatus operational, fretting over the amount of propane required for a “2-hour burn.”

Online, Millard had searched for the answer to a question: What temperature is cremation done at?

In a calendar event reminder to himself, he’d noted: “Barn smell check.”

Smell of burning remains? Smell of a decaying corpse? The prosecution can only speculate and the jurors must connect the dots.

But the inferences are all there to be drawn and have been since the Crown’s opening address last month. It doesn’t need bludgeoning for the jury to grasp, although the narrative yesterday, in what amounted to an exposition delivered by a specialist with the OPP technical crime unit, via hundreds of texts and messages, buffeted with still photographs and video, was often disjointed, a challenge to follow in its specifics, the torrent of information spewed out on phones and retrieved from a laptop computer seized by police at Millard’s farm near Kitchener.

This is what Millard, according to recovered phone texts, had written to Smich several hours earlier before the alleged burning, on July 23, 2012: “Bbq has run its warm up, it’s ready for meat.”

A few hours later, an image showed a dog sitting beside an object wrapped in a long blue tarp. GPS coordinates indicated that photo was taken at Millard’s farm.

At 7.30 p.m., July 23, Millard texted Smich: “I’m on a mission, back in 1 hr.”

The aforementioned mechanic had messaged Millard on the same day: “Eliminator is eliminating. Then you have the generator for the BBQ?”

Earlier, upon Millard’s purchase of the $15,000 incinerator, Smich had joked: “Dells animal cooker and chicken wings!”

Now, here is Smich posing in front of The Eliminator, holding a long pole, looking like a safari hunter standing proudly with his trophy prey.

And here is Smich again, rapping a song the prosecution says was written on that same laptop, which had been in Babcock’s possession in the days before she vanished just after Canada Day, henceforth dubbed “Mark’s iPad,” within an hour of the posing photographs being taken.

The lyrics: 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.

Babcock’s phone, on which the last eight texts ever sent from the device, were to Millard.

The rap video, which has been seen by the jury in snippets, was formally filed as evidence, finally, at its complete length yesterday by Crown Attorney Ken Lockhart. The “performance” was recorded in September, nearly two months later.

Smich flattening and flexing his fingers in rap style, has all the gestures down pat, except he still looks and sounds like a silly white guy mimicking.

In the wee hours of July 24, after Babcock had allegedly been torched — the prosecution believes she’d been murdered on July 3-4 — Millard and Smich were messaging each other. Millard says, “goodnight bro.” Smich: “Run wars still?” Whatever that means. Millard responds: “Nah, sleep for me.”

More than 2,000 files — files within files, most deleted but recovered by the specialist, recently retired OPP detective-sergeant Jim Falconer — comprise a bulk of the incriminating evidence against the two defendants, with Millard, once upon a time a filthy rich heir to an aviation fortune, representing himself. Jauntily playing at Perry Mason, or CSI, such as when, in cross-examination yesterday, he brought the jury’s attention to the close-up of an image — it appeared to be him — caught in the reflection of a woman’s sunglasses, although to what purpose was unclear. Except that Millard presented it as an AHA! moment, a teensy detail that he’d winnowed out from the mounds of evidence just entered by Lockhart. (Over two days, Lockhart had shown jurors a broad cross-section of images and texts, methodically picking and choosing from a vast cast of characters and conversations.)

The prosecution alleges that Babcock was killed by Millard, with Smich serving as his accomplice-wingman, because she was the odd woman out in a three-way romantic entanglement, the ex-girlfriend whose boasts of continuing sex with Millard had so aggravated his current girlfriend, Christina Noudga.

Yet, on June 9, when Babcock was still very much alive, if emotionally hanging by a thread, Millard sounded very much like a man trying to put a whole lot of gone between himself and Nougda.

“Look, I’m not calling you my gf anymore so find the right person(s) to make you feel wanted. I’ll do the same.”

More on Metronews.ca