Accused killer asked girlfriend in letters to be ‘secret agent’: DiManno
On the last day of presenting its case at the trial into the murder of Laura Babcock, the Crown introduced letters written by Dellen Millard.
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“Destroy these letters.”
But she didn’t.
And mere days after police executed a search warrant at the Etobicoke home of Christina Noudga, retrieving 65 letters — from inside the night table drawer and on top of the bedroom desk — Dellen Millard was charged with murdering 23-year-old Laura Babcock.
Letters from Dellen. Part billet-doux and part instruction, the correspondence — specifically, seven of the missives — was filed in court on Thursday, the concluding act of the prosecution evidence against Millard and co-defendant Mark Smich. At precisely 12:57 p.m., Jill Cameron closed the Crown case.
“So far I’ve done what I can to separate you from this mess,” wrote Millard. “But it is a very real possibility that you will be called as a witness. Whatever you may believe, it needs to be put aside. This is what happened.
“The night Laura disappeared, I came over to your place early in the morning. I did not text or call, it was a surprise.”
Tapped on her window, he says, and took Noudga back to his Maple Gate Court residence.
“I told you Laura was over, doing coke with Mark in the basement. We went to say goodnight. You saw her alive, with Mark, and there was coke on the bar. (Maybe they were getting ready to leave, to go somewhere else, to get more.) You and I don’t like coke. We went back to my room. We vaporized. We f---ed. We took a bath. We slept a little.
“I drove you home, early in the morning. We did not go to see if they were still over. Later, when she was reported missing, you asked me if I knew anything. I told you that Mark had told me that she had OD’d. Probably from mixing her prescriptions with Mark’s coke.”
Smich, Millard continued, couldn’t report the death to police because he might be charged with trafficking “or worse.” And Millard said he agreed to “stay quiet” in exchange for Smich’s promise that he would cease selling cocaine.
In the past five weeks, the jury has seen hundreds of texts retrieved from Millard’s phone and computer, documenting the day-to-day melodramas swirling around all the principle players and their coterie of friends, acquaintances and hangers-on.
Babcock, who was last seen alive around Canada Day, 2012, had been leading a peripatetic existence, couch-surfing for months after leaving her parents’ house, sick to death of what she considered their unreasonable restrictions. She’d recently begun working for an escort agency. But for nearly a year previous to vanishing, Babcock had been struggling with undefined — or at least contradicting — mental illness diagnoses.
In the distant past, Millard and Babcock had briefly dated. In the recent past, they had purportedly “hooked up” again, though Millard was by then romantically involved with Noudga.
Provoked by a nasty email from Noudga, Babcock had boasted to the woman about continuing to have sex with Millard. It was this development, the prosecution maintains, which triggered murder — Millard allegedly determining he had to rid himself and Noudga of the thorn in their side.
Court has heard Babcock was killed on July 3-4, her body cremated in an animal carcass incinerator July 23. Her remains have never been found.
The search of Noudga’s house — so cluttered and messy it looks, in police photos, as if the place had been ransacked before the cops got there — was conducted April 10, 2014.
In his own written exposition of events, Millard tells Noudga that he supported Smich financially, “treated him like a brother . . . protected him.”
Adding, in the postscript: “Reread this a couple of times then DESTROY IT IMMEDIATELY.”
Millard, scion of a wealthy aviation industry family, is defending himself at trial. He has repeatedly portrayed himself as an unfaithful heel, untroubled by hostility between girlfriend past and girlfriend then-present. The clear implication is that there was no motive to murder Babcock. Further, later texts from Millard to other friends suggest he had cooled to Noudga anyway.
Though he certainly sounds full of ardour still when these letters were written.
“Hello my love. More than any thought I most want to express how much I feel in love with you. Before we met, I had had repeated and powerful negative experiences with romance . . . In an emotional, metaphorical sense, I was mangled and full of shrapnel. The flesh of my bleeding heart grew back. I have a fabulous ability to heal. But the shrapnel remained. I’ve resisted loving you, because I was scared of being injured again. I was scared, because I was still full of grenade shard. Despite my resistance, despite emotional shrapnel, I still fell in love with you. I’m a little ashamed to admit it. Loving you was scary. (But worth it!)”
Some of the more erotic passages — “sexual fantasies” as Cameron described them — were blacked out before the letters were formally entered as evidence.
The author asks Noudga for feedback and to suggest revisions.
“We’re dealing with a ‘lay charges first, investigate later’ police force. Only the craftiest of coyotes will be able to avoid charges like perjury.”
What’s starkly evident is that Millard was pulling Noudga into his web as an ally.
“You said you wanted to be a secret agent. Be mine? Life has a funny way of giving us exactly what we wish for. Here’s your chance to be a covert operative.
“Help could be testimony. Help could be other things . . . like secretly delivering a message . . . just staying quiet has been an immense help already.”
Noudga was not called as a witness by the Crown. It is unclear whether she will be summoned by the defence, or if any defence will be put forward at all. Neither Millard nor Smich are compelled to testify on their own behalf.
On the final day of the Crown’s case, following more than two hours of legal arguments, the jurors filed back into the courtroom, probably surprised to see Matthew Ward-Jackson back in the witness stand since he appeared to have finished testifying — cross included — on Wednesday.
The heavily tattooed Ward-Jackson — ink stretching across his scalp, neck and cheeks — had told court he sold a gun to Millard in early July, 2012, later pleading guilty to the transaction. His testimony here was confusing and conflicting, claiming first that Millard showed interest in a gun which had come into his, the witness’s, possession, but later stating he figured Millard would want a gun because he was a “manly man, interested in cars, girls, maybe firearms.”
Ward-Jackson insisted he had no memory of numerous calls and text exchanges with Millard about the weapon, including the text from July 1 in which he described the .32 calibre gun as “a really nice nice compact piece.”
In his encore appearance, Ward-Jackson — who also goes by the rapper name Ish — was asked only one question by Cameron.
“Yesterday you told this jury that prior to June 30, 2012, Mr. Millard had never shown any previous interest in acquiring a firearm from you. Prior to June 30, 2012, had Mr. Millard ever shown an interest in acquiring firearms from you?”
Ward-Jackson: “Yes, we’ve had previous discussions.”
And then he was gone.
Millard, writing to Nougda in October, 2013:
“So until I do hear from you, I am going to continue writing as if your response is a resounding Yes! That you will be my secret agent; effectively my saviour.”
On November 14, 2013:
“Destroy this letter — to protect me.”
But she didn’t.