“My Sweet Serial Killer,” wrote Dellen Millard’s girlfriend

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The terms of Christina Noudga’s bail were relaxed so that by 2015 she was back to partying hard. Remorse is not a concept she understands.

My sweet serial killer.

Those were the words Christina Noudga wrote in the jottings police seized from her bedroom on the day she was arrested in April 2014. Her notes, or whatever they were, were taken along with the letters Millard wrote to her from jail.

Police were gobsmacked. They couldn’t believe what they had found.

“Everything happens for a reason,” said one officer who worked on the case. It took a year to arrest her, he explained, but what a trove of evidence Noudga stashed over that period.

Millard’s letters and Noudga’s notes first came to light at Noudga’s bail hearing in the summer of 2014, after she had spent just over three months in jail charged as an accessory after the fact in the murder of Tim Bosma. Parts of what she wrote were revealed at the Bosma murder trial, but other parts have remained under wraps due to standard publication bans that prevent the early release of evidence discussed at bail hearings, pre-trial motions, and, in the case of jury trials, sessions where the jury is not in the room.

It was not clear whether Noudga’s musings were rough drafts of letters to Millard or actual letters that he had returned to her or simply notes she wrote for herself.

Her lawyer at the time, Paul Mergler, told the court that “Sweet Serial Killer” was a line from a Lana Del Rey song, which it is indeed.

In her notes, Noudga also made a list of what she believed to be the potentially damning evidence against her boyfriend. One of the more gruesome and still inexplicable things she wrote was “limbs cut off without hesitation.”

When that ugly phrase was read out in court at the bail hearing, a pregnant friend of the Bosmas fled the room in tears.

Yet despite this and other evidence that suggested Noudga knew she was helping Millard get away with murder, the judge at her bail hearing appeared quite sympathetic to her. He opined on how she was a smart young woman who could get back to her studies if released. While the terms of her original bail were strict, they were gradually relaxed. By the time she testified at the Bosma trial, she no longer had to wear her ankle monitor.

Many questions have been raised about why Noudga was never called to testify at the Babcock trial. Online rumours abound that she had cut some kind of secret deal.

Nothing could be further from the truth, which was that no one wanted to put her in the witness box. The Crown felt able to make its case without her and who knows what she would have said if called to testify.

Millard wanted the opportunity to cross examine his former lover, but he wasn’t prepared to call her as a witness himself, which would have left him having to play by the strict rules of direct examination while the Crown got to do an aggressive cross

The deal Noudga made just over a year ago to plead guilty to obstruction of justice is not well understood. Her original lawyer was smart to arrange a judge-alone trial. Middle-aged male judges often go soft on pretty young women. A reporter friend of mine calls this well documented phenomenon “the chick discount.” The more vulgar lawyer term is a “pussy pass.”

At Noudga’s conviction and sentencing, I was taken aback when the judge (not the same one from the bail hearing) announced there wouldn’t have been enough evidence to convict her. Assistant Crown Attorney Craig Fraser had just finished saying it was a strong circumstantial case, the judge had not heard the evidence, and, yet, there, he was comfortably asserting it wouldn’t have been enough to convict and telling Noudga to make nicer friends.

It made the Crown look very smart for making the deal it did. After all who would want to go through weeks of what Fraser called “soul destroying” evidence and testimony for the same result? The Bosma family didn’t.

While Noudga likes to use social media to show herself having a great time, the truth is a little more complex. She cares enough to monitor what people are saying and mock it on her Instagram. There is no indication she feels an ounce of remorse.

She aspires to be a doctor and was admitted to a Polish medical school. At some point, she will probably get married and jump at the chance to change her unusual and distinctive name. Google will not make the connection. She will likely disappear.

Dark Ambition tells story of Tim Bosma murder investigation, trial

The book, Dark Ambition: The Shocking Crime of Dellen Millard and Mark Smich, tells the story of the Tim Bosma murder investigation and trial. It also provides the most complete picture available of the upcoming Laura Babcock and Wayne Millard murder trials

You can buy it 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.screen-shot-2016-09-16-at-2-37-55-pm

Here are some FAQs:

Aren’t there still two murder trials to come? How come you wrote the book now?

Yes, Millard and Smich are still awaiting trial for the murder of Laura Babcock. And Millard has also been charged with the death of his father. Dark Ambition has all the information currently available about both those cases, but it focuses mainly on the terrible and tragic Tim Bosma murder case. Think of it as a story within a story.

This was such a terrible crime, do I really want to read about it in detail?

Obviously, there is no getting away from the evilness of the murder at the centre of this book, but there are also uplifting elements in seeing how hard so many people worked in the search for justice for Tim Bosma. The police investigation involved hundreds of officers and multiple sources. There is everything from CSI-style forensics work to old fashioned eye witnesses, who noticed things that were out of the ordinary. For example, there’s the Toronto man who spotted the Ambition tattoo that would lead to Millard’s identification, the dog-walking neighbour who saw strange vehicle activity near the Bosma home on the night of Tim’s abduction, and the dirt biker who came across a mysterious machine on Millard’s farm.

Is this a courtroom drama too?

There are many trial scenes including fascinating cross examinations carried out by both the prosecution and defence lawyers. It was high drama when Mark Smich’s lawyer Thomas Dungey cross examined Millard’s friend and mechanic, Shane Schlatman. And Crown attorney Craig Fraser’s cross examination of Smich was riveting to watch and devastating to the witness.

Can I read an excerpt of Dark Ambition?

Yes the National Post published a short section about Christina Noudga. And the Toronto Star featured the section about the man who went on an earlier test drive with Millard and Smich and noticed Millard’s tattoo.

You may also be interested to watch the fifth estate documentary, The Murder of Tim Bosma : The Devil Had a Name

Farewell Christina Noudga, who’s taken a plea deal, will work for human rights

christina-noudga-and-dellen-millard

Dellen Millard with his ex-girlfriend Christina Noudga.”I deserve you and you deserve me,” he wrote to her in a letter from jail.

Goodbye and good riddance to Christina Noudga.

When Dellen Millard’s unpopular ex-girlfriend left a Hamilton courtroom Tuesday, after accepting a plea deal and pleading guilty to obstruction of justice, there was, more than anything, an overwhelming sense of relief.

The deal meant there would be no more Noudga. No recounting of what Crown attorney Craig Fraser described as “the horrific and soul destroying details of Tim Bosma’s murder.” No three-week-long trial to determine if Noudga should be found guilty as an accessory after the fact to the murder of Tim Bosma.

Instead, Noudga, whose trial would have begun this week, pled guilty to the lesser charge of obstructing the course of justice by destroying evidence. The deal meant Tim Bosma’s family would finally be able to end their painful involvement with the criminal justice system. “They believe Ms. Noudga is being held to account for her actions,” Fraser told the court. “The public interest…truly is best served by sparing the Bosma family another trial while still holding Ms. Noudga accountable for the role she played in destroying evidence.”

Christina Noudga, dressed in dark blue and black, dabbed at her eyes before the hour-long proceedings, began and as they ended. Although it was impossible to tell if she was wiping away tears, her attitude was markedly changed from the Bosma murder trial where she shocked the court time and again with her lack of empathy and failure to display any remorse. Smart, pretty and ambitious, she managed to leave even hardened homicide cops and veteran criminal lawyers shaking their heads in disbelief. After the trial, Tim Bosma’s mother Mary would describe her as “evil.”

During her week on the witness stand, Noudga laughed in court as if oblivious to the fact she was testifying at a murder trial in front of the victim’s parents, sisters and widow. She said she remembered little or nothing of many of the key events about which she had been called to testify. She appeared to have no sense whatsoever of right or wrong. Respect was a foreign concept.

In one of the trial’s most memorable moments, a letter Millard had written to Noudga from  jail was shown on the courtroom screens. “I believe we deserve each other,” Millard wrote. “I deserve you, and you deserve me.”

“That’s what he wrote to you?” asked Thomas Dungey, the lawyer for Millard’s co-accused, Mark Smich.

“Yes,”replied Noudga.

“Thank you,” said Dungey, “no further questions.” It was the last time Noudga had exited the Hamilton courthouse in the glare of the media.

This week, her lawyer Brian Greenspan said his client can change. She was just 18 when she met Millard and 21 at the time of the events in question. She has since graduated from university and plans to go to graduate school in health sciences. She has a job waiting for her once her legal issues are settled. And she’s doing grass roots work for indigenous peoples in Honduras. She’s joined Amnesty International.

The old days of Christina posting YouTube videos of herself cursing Ecuadorean immigrants and condescending to entire courtrooms are over. She’s rebranding as a human rights advocate and, though this was not mentioned in court, an artsy Instagram party girl.

Greenspan says Noudga accepts responsibility for those actions she engaged in — destroying evidence by wiping away fingerprints — but not for those conducted without her knowledge, by which he means the murder of Tim Bosma.

This question of what exactly Christina Noudga did or didn’t know about that murder would have been at the heart of her accessory after the fact trial had it taken place. To prove her guilty, the Crown would have had to have shown that she knew her boyfriend had murdered an innocent man when she went with Millard to hide the trailer containing Bosma’s truck and to move the incinerator used to cremate the victim’s remains.

Fraser said the prosecution was in a “strong position” but that its case was circumstantial and “inferences would have to go the Crown’s way.” He said there was no direct evidence of Noudga having knowledge of the murder.

What he most definitely did not express, however, is what Greenspan later told the Canadian Press — that it is “clear and accepted by everyone…  that (Noudga) was totally unaware that a homicide had taken place.”

Whether or not Noudga knew or didn’t know is a topic on which there will likely continue to be disagreement along with the question of whether justice was done. But to the people in the courtroom, the plea deal was the right choice. And its rightness was only reinforced when Justice Toni Skarica announced that he would have found there to be “insufficient evidence that would prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the accused knew about the murder that had just occurred.”

It was a surprising declaration from the judge and a reminder of why plea deals so often make sense for both parties. For better or for worse, they take the unknowns and the uncertainties out of the mix.

In exchange for time already served in jail, a sample of her DNA, and a criminal record, Christina Noudga was free to go. And the Bosmas, the police and prosecutors were free to never spend another minute in her presence. That was worth a lot to everyone involved.


You can read the full story of Christina Noudga’s testimony at the Tim Bosma murder trial, and all about the jailhouse letters she received from Millard 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.

Dark Ambition chronicles the Tim Bosma murder investigation and trial

screen-shot-2016-09-16-at-2-37-55-pmDark Ambition: The Shocking Crime of Dellen Millard and Mark Smich went on sale November 8. (Yes, that day.) In between the wall-to-wall Trump election coverage, I did a number of radio and TV interviews about the book, two of which have been posted online.

If you’re curious, my talk with John Gormley can be found here, the last item on the November 9th list. I also spoke to Scott Radley of CHML in Hamilton, who wondered what more there was for the public to know about the Tim Bosma case after the very extensive trial coverage. You can hear my response by going the station’s audio vault and filling in the date (Nov. 9) and time (7:00 p.m.) of the interview and then fast forwarding to 7:42 p.m.

Radley is not the first person to ask me if they will learn something new from the book. Here’s what some readers said:

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Comments like this are extremely gratifying. One of my goals with this book was to take people inside the courtroom and help them understand in detail what it’s like for the police to investigate a murder, and then for the prosecutors to bring the case to trial. Another thing I try to do is give readers a feel for how this tragic and extremely high-profile murder  was discussed in social media and occupied armchair detectives at sites like Websleuths, which not everyone is familiar with.

You can buy Dark Ambition in most bookstores and order it online at Chapters/Indigo and Amazon although the hardcover version is temporarily out of stock until Nov. 17th at Amazon Canada. A few copies are still available at Amazon.com.

I’d be happy to answer any questions you might have about the book in the comments section. Or you could come out and talk to me in person at a special literary evening on Thursday November 17th in Burlington. Writers Stephen Brunt and Brent van Staalduinen will also be there discussing their new books. There’s a $20 admission fee with all proceeds to the East Plains United Church.

From the cutting room floor

Investigative Triangle

Investigative Triangle: Matt Kavanagh, Andrea Richard and Greg Rodzoniak (Photo by Mike Burgess)

Dark Ambition is more than 350 pages long but even at that length, there was material that had to be left out. For example, in the book, I mention the first police file manager on the case, Greg Jackson. Among other things, Jackson interviewed Igor Tumanenko, plotted key cell tower data, and took Dellen Millard’s iPhone to Apple headquarters in Cupertino for unlocking. But he eventually left the case and was replaced by Andrea Richard, whose name you won’t find in the book despite the important role she played.

Although dozens of officers from multiple police forces helped bring Tim Bosma’s murderers to justice, it was simply impossible to include everyone’s stories.

I did, however, want to post this photo taken shortly after the verdict by Mike Burgess because I think it captures the spirit of the team in charge: Matt Kavanagh, the major case manager; Greg Rodzoniak, the primary detective; and Andrea Richard. (Kavanagh had surgery on his leg during the trial and when he returned to court had to sit with his leg propped up on the seat for several days.)

Big thanks to Mike and the officers for this photo. You can see more of Mike’s handiwork in Dark Ambition including great shots of Sharlene Bosma and the three Crown attorneys talking to the media after the verdict.