Murder or suicide: The investigation into the death of Wayne Millard

The Toronto Star had a great article yesterday on the disappearance and death of Laura Babcock, and how the police conducted or failed to conduct their initial investigations. The case was handled by 22 Division, which also looked into the sudden death of Wayne Millard, another investigation which, in my opinion, raises serious questions and which I wrote about in April. That death in November 2012 was originally deemed a suicide, but some of the new facts that have come to light make it hard to understand just how this could have happened and why Wayne Millard’s body was released for cremation so quickly. Let me elaborate:

  1. The Toronto Sun reported more than a year ago that Wayne Millard was shot in the eye. This is, to say the least, unusual. (And given that this info. was leaked to the Sun by a police officer, it would seem to indicate that someone in the force wasn’t happy with the initial investigation.)
  2. Wayne Millard is alleged to have been killed with a trafficked gun. This info. was originally reported by the Hamilton Spectator and then backed up further by a report in the Toronto Star. How on earth did the original investigators miss this?
  3. A source who was on the scene at the Millard family home the night police investigated the death, said that those present included Dellen Millard, his mother and Wayne’s ex-wife, Madeleine Burns, and Dellen Millard’s ex-fiancee, who cannot be named due to a publication ban. As far as I can tell, these are the only people police initially questioned about Wayne Millard’s death. They did not talk to anyone at the multi-million dollar business he had just launched nor do they appear to have spoken to others with whom Wayne Millard had regular, even daily, dealings.
  4. Mark Smich had been living in the basement of the Etobicoke house Wayne and Dellen shared before Wayne’s death. It’s not clear whether police were aware of this or talked to Smich.
  5. Wayne’s family members were not told the cause of his death. A cousin and his aunt were not even notified he had died.

As much as there are many unanswered questions about the investigation into Laura Babcock’s disappearance, there are also questions about the Wayne Millard death, which need to be answered as well.

Dellen Millard, who has been charged with his father’s death, is pleading not guilty and none of the charges against him have been proven in court.

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Will Christina Noudga — charged as an accessory in the Tim Bosma murder — get bail?

July 17 Update: Christina Noudga is still in custody at the Vanier Centre for Women in Milton. She will be tried separately from Dellen Millard and Mark Smich.


Christina Noudga was arrested and charged as an accessory after the fact for the murder of Tim Bosma on April 10th. Over the past week, a few people have asked me why — more than a month later — she hasn’t yet had a bail hearing.

The short answer is because, as of her last court appearance on May 5th, Noudga’s lawyer Paul Mergler hadn’t requested a bail hearing. That, of course leads to the next question, which is why? To which the short answer is because he doesn’t want to lose and needs time to prepare given that the crown has said that it will likely contest a bail application.

Accessory to murder is a serious charge carrying a maximum penalty of life imprisonment although a common sentence is in the five-year range. If Noudga, the girlfriend of Dellen Millard, were to be denied bail (as happened in this case), she could be stuck in jail until her trial (assuming she does not change her not guilty plea), which could be years away. Bail rulings are notoriously difficult to have overturned.

Based on the evidence against her, Noudga’s lawyer will decide whether to apply for bail. At her last court appearance he said he had just received “voluminous disclosure.” When she appears in court in Hamilton this Thursday via video, we might find out more about whether or not there’s going to be a bail application and when.

Noudga, a Toronto university student, turned 22 on April 26th.

Accused murderer Mark Smich lived at home of Wayne and Dellen Millard

Accused Murderer Mark Smich

Houseguest Mark Smich (above) and his host Dellen Millard are charged with the murders of Tim Bosma and Laura Babcock. Dellen Millard is also accused of murdering his father Wayne. They are pleading not guilty to all the charges. (Photo: Facebook)

Since I wrote my Grid article on the Toronto Police investigations into the murders of Wayne Millard and Laura Babcock, a number of facts have come to my attention.

Mark Smich and his girlfriend, whose name cannot be printed due to a publication ban, were living in the basement of Wayne MIllard’s Etobicoke home for several weeks (at least) before he was allegedly murdered. They were not in a separate apartment, but right in the same house.

In the past, Dellen had had other friends live in the basement, and although his father was not happy with this communal living situation, he never kicked anyone out. Instead, Wayne used tactics like not stocking the fridge in the hopes that this would make the basement a less attractive crash pad.

After Wayne MIllard was allegedly murdered, Dellen; his mother, Madeleine Burns; and his ex-fiancee were all present as police investigated the death that night. Smich was not there.

The Hamilton Spectator reported last month that Wayne was killed with a trafficked gun.

At the time of Wayne’s death in November 2012, basement resident Mark Smich had  two convictions from drug possession charges, two fail to comply convictions and one conviction for impaired driving. The previous month, he had been charged with mischief under $5,000 for spray-painting an Oakville overpass.

Smich and Dellen Millard are charged with the first degree murders of Tim Bosma and Laura Babcock. Millard is also charged with the first degree murder of his father Wayne. Both men are pleading not guilty to all the charges against them.

If you have more information, please contact me at ann.brocklehurst@gmail.com.

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Toronto police investigations into the deaths of Laura Babcock and Wayne MIllard

I have a new article in the Grid about the Toronto police investigations into the deaths of Laura Babcock and Wayne MIllard:

This past Thursday, there was a major breakthrough in the puzzling murder case of Tim Bosma, the Ancaster, Ont., man who put his Dodge Ram truck up for sale online last spring, went for a test drive with two prospective buyers, and never returned. The young father’s tragic death was one of the biggest stories of 2013, but for months there had been almost no news. The accused killers—Dellen Millard, the heir to an aviation company, and his friend Mark Smich—had both pleaded not guilty; the case was slowly winding its way through the courts.

 

Those who have been closely following the case weren’t expecting to hear much more until the trial begins in 2015. I had become increasingly pessimistic about whether two linked investigations by Toronto police involving Millard would ever yield results. So it was a huge surprise last Thursday when he was charged with two more first-degree murders: that of his father, Wayne, whose 2012 shooting death had been initially ruled a suicide; and that of Laura Babcock, a friend of Millard’s who went missing in 2012. (Smich is also facing a first-degree murder charge in the death of Babcock.)

Read the whole thing.

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Before Tim Bosma: The original investigations into Laura Babcock and Wayne Millard

Dellen Millard was accused of killing Tim Bosma in 2013. Then last week, he was charged in two more murders dating back to 2012—which raises the question: if Millard had been in custody sooner, would Bosma still be alive?

This past Thursday, there was a major breakthrough in the puzzling murder case of Tim Bosma, the Ancaster, Ont., man who put his Dodge Ram truck up for sale online last spring, went for a test drive with two prospective buyers, and never returned. The young father’s tragic death was one of the biggest stories of 2013, but for months there had been almost no news. The accused killers—Dellen Millard, the heir to an aviation company, and his friend Mark Smich—had both pleaded not guilty; the case was slowly winding its way through the courts.

Those who have been closely following the story weren’t expecting to hear much more until the trial begins in 2015. I had become increasingly pessimistic about whether two linked investigations by Toronto police involving Millard would ever yield results. So it was a huge surprise last Thursday when he was charged with two more first-degree murders: that of his father, Wayne, whose 2012 shooting death had been initially ruled a suicide; and that of Laura Babcock, a friend of Millard’s who went missing in 2012. (Smich is also facing a first-degree murder charge in the death of Babcock.)

While the Hamilton Police have been handling the investigation into Bosma’s death, Toronto Police Services has jurisdiction in Babcock’s and Wayne Millard’s alleged murders. Family and friends of Babcock have voiced concerns about how TPS dealt with her case. Journalists have also been critical. Even the typically cop-friendly Toronto Sun criticized homicide detective Mike Carbone for praising the Babcock investigators as “thorough” and “very diligent,” given the evidence of delays and confusion in the investigation.

Since last May, when I started covering the story of Dellen Millard, I have spoken extensively with friends and relations of his alleged victims and filed several access to information requests to better understand the process the police undertake when dealing with missing persons and suicides. My research raised serious questions about the investigations, whether basic protocols and procedures were followed, and, more significantly, whether Bosma’s death could have been prevented.

Laura Babcock, a 23-year-old recent graduate from the University of Toronto, disappeared in the summer of 2012. In the months before her death, her life started falling apart. Friends say she was struggling with mental illness, using recreational drugs, and moving from temporary home to the next. According to police, she had also begun advertising her services online as an escort. In late June, she met up with her ex-boyfriend Shawn Lerner, who loaned her his iPad so she could look for work, and he paid for her to stay at a west-end hotel. Then, in early July, she went silent. Lerner reported her missing to Toronto police on July 14; her parents followed up not long after.

Last December, I met up with Lerner at a north Toronto food court. He stressed to me that from the time he walked into the 32 Division police station near Yonge and Sheppard to report Babcock missing, no one seemed to care—allegations he’s made previously in the media. The officer on duty agreed to take the report, but Lerner says that he laughed at the suggestion that it might be possible to trace the iPad loaned to Babcock and accused Lerner of playing CSI. Then Lerner brought up the fact that Babcock had been using drugs. “As soon as they heard about the drugs, that’s when they just wrote her off,” he said.

Babcock’s cellphone bill shows that the last eight phone calls she made after she disappeared were to Dellen Millard. Babcock’s parents and Lerner have repeatedly stated that they gave the bill to police. They also followed up with Sgt. Stephen Woodhouse, the officer in charge of the investigation, but Lerner says the officer did not return his emails and that his voicemail was often full. (In a May 2013 National Post story, Woodhouse said that the original investigators were not aware of the relationship between Babcock and Millard, and that her phone records were not brought to their attention at the time.)

Dismayed by the lack of response, Lerner, who has acted as a kind of unofficial spokesman for the Babcock family, contacted Millard himself. Lerner still has the text messages he sent to the accused killer, who he knew casually through Babcock. In one text, Lerner wrote that he was not making accusations but trying to get information. Millard responded almost immediately to suggest a meeting.

When the two men met for coffee the next day, Lerner said that Millard initially denied having spoken with Babcock. But after Lerner produced the phone bill from his bag, Lerner said that Millard changed his story, saying Babcock had contacted him looking for drugs. Lerner says he passed this information on to Woodhouse.

By spring of 2013, the investigation into Babcock’s disappearance had pretty much stalled. Woodhouse had been transferred to another position. When asked about the case by theNational Post in May of that year, he said, “In a city of three million people, where do you start? We did the standard press release and put her picture out there…. We followed the leads that we had.”

In early June 2013, shortly after he was put in charge of the Babcock and Wayne Millard cases, homicide detective Mike Carbone spoke at a press conference. He made no mention of the major case management (MCM) system, which was implemented in Ontario in the late ’90s in response to the policing and communications failures revealed in the wake of the Paul Bernardo case. According to the TPS Policy and Procedure manual, the relevant pages of which were obtained through a freedom of information request, in any missing-persons case where foul play is suspected, the officer in charge must ensure that “a Major Case Manager is assigned to conduct the investigation in compliance with the Ontario Major Case Management Manual.” Police appeared to have not suspected foul play in the disappearance of Babcock, despite the fact she’d been missing for months, had left her passport with her parents, and had not made any financial transactions nor used her health card or phone since June 2012.

To the astonishment of reporters at the news conference, Carbone said that officers had only become aware of Babcock’s phone records in May 2013 as a result of the arrest of Millard for Bosma’s murder. Carbone later contradicted himself, saying that “at some point [during the investigation into Babcock’s disappearance] the officers from 22 Division would have conducted searches on her telephone and discovered those records.” When a reporter then asked if officers had ever spoken to Millard, Carbone replied: “I don’t believe the police interviewed Millard at the time.” I contacted Carbone a few weeks after the news conference and asked him to clarify this point, but he declined to comment due to the ongoing nature of the investigation.

babcock-bkgd-878x494

Laura Babcock’s phone bill showed her last eight phone calls before she disappeared were to Dellen Millard

On Nov. 29, 2012, 22 Division police in Etobicoke were alerted by a 911 call to investigate the shooting death of 71-year-old Wayne Millard at the home he shared with his son, Dellen. Just before he died, Wayne had completed the building of a new, multimillion-dollar Millardair operation at the airport in Waterloo, Ont. A pilot by training, he had inherited the family aviation business and planned on running the new venture, which he called Dellen’s project, with his only child.

Until last week, police had released scant information about his death. At the Babcock news conference in 2013, Carbone declined to answer questions about who had phoned 911 or found the body. He also refused to confirm newspaper reports that Wayne had been shot in the eye. He did, however, praise the police who looked into the death and classified it as a suicide for their “very thorough” work.

The Toronto Police Service protocols for investigations of suspected suicides emphasize “the need to remain vigilant for the possibility of foul play…[when] the only witness or person present at the time of death or finding of the body is an intimate partner past or present.”

Again, foul play does not appear to have suspected. Investigators never contacted executives at Millardair, according to Al Sharif, a consultant to the business. And the only relatives who appear to have spoken to police are Dellen and his mother. Wayne’s aunt, June Neill, wrote a comment on his online obituary that she had not been told about her nephew’s death or about the reception in his honour. (She died in February 2014.)

Complicating matters is the fact that the people Dellen did inform about Wayne’s death were told that he had died of an aneurysm. They only learned that it was a suspected suicide after the Bosma murder. I’ve spoken to more than a dozen people about Wayne, and not one has said they could imagine him killing himself.

The Babcock disappearance was not the first time Dellen Millard’s name had been brought to the attention of authorities. But since TPS has released only the barest details about their investigations into the deaths of Babcock and Wayne Millard, it’s not known whether they checked for and knew about Dellen’s previous contacts with police, or just didn’t see them as significant.

In 2009, a former tenant at Dellen’s west-end Toronto rental property —who was engaged in a dispute with him before the Landlord Tenant Board at the time—reported to police that she had found Millard and his friends tampering with the engine of her car the night before her hearing. A few years back, a neighbour of the Millards (who asked not to be identified) complained to police that Dellen and his buddies sped dangerously down the child-filled street. (Nothing came of these complaints.) According to a November 2013 article in theToronto Star, Millard had once been stopped by police and issued a contact card—the tattoo on his wrist that read “ambition” was recorded at the time, a detail that led police to him in the Bosma case.

This past September, on a fine Monday morning, police descended once again on Dellen Millard’s farm, near Cambridge, Ont., where Bosma’s remains had been found months earlier. This time, though, they were searching for evidence related to the disappearance of Babcock. There were Toronto homicide detectives, uniformed officers from the local Waterloo force, forensic technicians in lab coats, and an OPP HAZMAT team with oxygen tanks strapped to their backs and gas masks covering their faces. The road was lined with fire trucks, buses, and vans carrying television news crews.

Soon after this search, the OPP confirmed that  it was in charge of the three Millard-related investigations under the auspices of the major case management system. As part of their responsibilities, they also began dealing with the press. In November, lead Det. Insp. Dave Hillman spoke to me frankly and openly about how major case management works and why everything crime- and justice-related seems to drag on for so long. But he declined then to provide any new information about the state of the individual investigations, which continue to be run by the Toronto and Hamilton police.

When I visited Toronto police headquarters in February to pick up some documents, I dropped by the media office to try once again to find out if there was anything at all they could tell me about the initial handling of the Babcock and Wayne Millard investigations. Would it be possible, for example, to say whether detectives looking into Wayne’s death knew about Dellen allegedly messing with his tenant’s car? Or could police explain why Wayne’s body was released for cremation when the coroner’s office said in May that the investigation into his death was still open?

Spokesman Mark Pugash politely explained that it simply wasn’t possible to provide answers. If a review of a criminal investigation is ever deemed necessary, it doesn’t take place until the criminal investigation is settled. Disciplinary actions don’t run concurrently.

There is little doubt the developments of the past week will have an impact on this story. Now that Millard has been charged with the murders of his father and Babcock, both cases are back in the headlines. It will be difficult to ignore any irregularities in the investigations. Was standard protocol followed? If not, will anyone be held accountable? And what are the Toronto police doing to ensure oversights don’t occur? The families and friends of the victims, and all the people of Toronto, have a right to know.

Why accused murderer Dellen Millard reminds me of Leopold and Loeb

One of the reasons I first got interested in the Dellen Millard case was because it reminded me of Leopold and Loeb.

Screen shot 2014-01-16 at 2.30.55 PM

Well, today, many months later, I checked out the Leopold and Loeb Wikipedia page, and was shocked to see how many things the Dellen Milllard and Mark Smich case does indeed appear to have in common with that notorious 1924 Chicago murder, which was dubbed the crime of the century. Here’s a comparison:

  1. Leopold and Loeb were wealthy. So is Millard. Smich not so much.
  2. Leopold and Loeb wanted to commit the perfect crime. Motivation for the murder of Tim Bosma is still unexplained although there have been reports that it was a thrill kill.
  3. Leopold and Loeb bonded over their mutual interest in crime. Millard and Smich appear to have also shared a fascination with crime. Smich made violent videos and Millard bought concealment holsters on eBay.
  4. Leopold and Loeb began with petty theft and vandalism which escalated to more serious crimes including arson. Dellen Millard has no prior criminal record but is now being investigated for the death of his father and the disappearance of his friend, Laura Babcock. Mark Smich had a series of petty crime convictions.
  5. Leopold and Loeb  planned to kidnap and murder a young boy at random in order to commit the “perfect crime.” Police have said that there was no connection between Tim Bosma and his accused murderers.
  6. The incomprehensibility of the Leopold and Loeb case captured the public’s attention in the same manner as the murder of Tim Bosma, which was the country’s most searched for news story of 2013, according to Yahoo Canada.

Read more about Leopold and Loeb:

 

Brantford Airport Accident Witnessed by Dellen Millard: Ministry of Labour Report

Brantford Airport Distribution

Above you will find an almost complete version of the redacted report I received from the Ministry of Labour. The subject is a 2005 Millardair accident witnessed by Dellen Millard. A 75-year-old contract employee died after falling off a scaffolding-like structure while working on the plane with Millard and another contract employee.

The report was redacted to remove the name of all three men present, but the Ministry of Labour failed to black out Dellen Millard’s signature on a witness report. (I removed the relevant page.)

Police investigating the Tim Bosma murder were made aware of this incident after the family of the man who died contacted them.

I am still trying to track down the other contract worker who was present. An airport worker called to the scene of the accident doesn’t remember seeing anyone else there besides the injured worker and Millard, but admits his memory is foggy.

If you have any information about this incident, please contact me at ann.brocklehurst@gmail.com. I’m hoping that by posting the report — minus a few of the pages I received — it will help generate some leads.

Some thoughts on the Toronto Star’s jailhouse interview with Dellen Millard

My immediate reaction, as a reporter following this story,was that the quotes from Dellen Millard confirm much of what I know and believe about his character. There was some new and very revealing information in the interview. But my number two reaction was that the piece was terribly edited and could have been far stronger.

Dellen Millard Jailhouse Interview

The article should have clarified that Dellen Millard spoke without consulting his lawyer Deepak Paradkar. That’s a pretty dumb thing to do and shows that the accused murderer of Tim Bosma doesn’t listen to his handpicked and highly paid legal counsel, who said in an email to me that he had not approved any interviews. Deciding to ignore your lawyer and talk to the press is the action of someone who thinks he knows best and can’t be told what to do, even in an extremely serious situation.

This is very similar to Millard’s behaviour when he wrote to a jailhouse groupie last summer. At the time Jim Van Allen, former manager of the OPP’s Criminal Profile Unit, described the decision to write the letter as “impulsive and somewhat reckless.”

“This type of personality is a nightmare for a lawyer. You can’t control them,” he said. “They are individuals who often don’t consider the consequences of their actions.”

Both incidents raise the obvious question of just how far out of his way the accused murderer will go to challenge and flout authority of any kind.

I’m also surprised at the Star‘s description of Millard as doe-eyed, which is not just Fifty Shades of Grey-style prose, it’s also wrong.  While it’s true that Millard looks very different in person than he does in his best-known party-boy photos, he is not, by any stretch of even a chick-lit-fueled imagination, doe-eyed. It’s a particularly bizarre characterization given that it seems designed to evoke innocence and, as a result, sympathy.

As for the “I shop at Costco” and I’m reading On War by Carl von Clausewitz stuff, all that is highly calculated to portray a certain persona. Millard is a complete control freak about his image and anything to do with himself. For example, he called the web developer to personally select the colour of the single-page Millardair website, he chose and orchestrated every detail for his engagement photo shoot, and he personally hacked up, with a kitchen carving knife,  the jeans he wore to get the distressed look exactly right.

Given the terrible, ungrammatical prose in the strange obituary that Millard wrote for his father — who, among other things, didn’t read and write five languages, as his son maintained — it’s also striking to see the Star describe Dellen Millard as “articulate” and, all the more so given that nothing in quotation marks reflects that choice of adjective.

But since I wasn’t there, I’ll just let that one go and raise my eyebrows — for now.

Dellen Millard and ex-fiancée: engagement photos

In the spring  of 2011, Dellen Millard arranged for engagement photos to be taken of himself and his fiancee at the Millardair hangar at Pearson airport. The concept for the shoot, the props and the location were all Millard’s choosing. He even used a giant carving knife to hack up his jeans and get the “ripped look” just right. But by the time, Millard — now accused of the murder of Tim Bosma — went to pick up the photos a few weeks later, the wedding had been called off.

Dellen Millard and his fiancee were set up by their mothers. They lived together briefly in a house in Oakville in her name. She left the country in the summer of 2013.

The photos can be seen here.

You can read more about Dellen Millard, his broken engagement, and Christina Noudga, the woman who replaced his fiancee, in the book, Dark Ambition: The Shocking Crime of Dellen Millard and Mark Smich.

Dark Ambition is for sale online at McNally Robinson, Chapters/Indigo, Amazon.ca and Amazon.com. Or you can pick it up in your local indie bookstore, Chapters, Indigo, Coles — and at Costco.

Dellen Millard, Mark Smich go to court

Both Dellen Millard and Mark Smich are slated to show up in person at the Hamilton Court House Tuesday for a judicial pre-trial conference. This is a meeting of the Crown, the defence and the judge to map out the trial plan. It is not open to the public. More information can be found here.

I’m continuing to research various aspects of Dellen Millard’s background, trying to figure out how he occupied himself after leaving Toronto French School. Basically it seems he was an aspiring photographer with vague ambitions in the visual arts including film and video games. He appears not to ever have finished anything he started or to have achieved any real success. His old email address was dell_media@hotmail.com.

According to sources, Dellen Millard’s parents were concerned about his path in life for several years and tried to push, or perhaps steer, him into more steady work. Despite having never been particularly interested in the family business, Millard took on a much bigger role in it, including the new Waterloo project, in 2010 and 2011, when he became involved in a serious relationship and was briefly engaged.

If you have any information, please contact me at ann.brocklehurst@gmail.com. No piece of the puzzle is too small so please don’t be shy.
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I’m also working on another completely non-related story and a private investigation.