Dark Ambition tells story of Tim Bosma murder investigation, trial

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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

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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

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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.

 

 

Come hear about ‘Dark Ambition’

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Pre-order at Amazon or Chapters/Indigo

I’ll be speaking about my new book, Dark Ambition: The Shocking Crime of Dellen Millard and Mark Smich on Thursday November 3 at the Barbara Frum library.

Although Dark Ambition won’t be officially released until November 8, there will be special copies for sale on Thursday.

Also speaking will be Jeremy Grimaldi, author of A Daughter’s Deadly Deception, the story of the fascinating Jennifer Pan case.

Here are the details.

Hope you can make it if you’re in the GTA.

What brought Mark Smich and Dellen Millard together?

The question of how Mark Smich and Dellen Millard came to be best friends has been asked many times since the two men were charged in May 2013 for the first degree murder of Tim Bosma, a crime of which they were eventually convicted.

In one of his letters from jail to his girlfriend Christina Noudga, Millard wrote: “Some people gave food to food banks, some people donated money to the homeless, and some people spent months in africa building homes. Mark was all three rolled into one for me.”

Smich’s girlfriend Marlena Meneses testified at his trial that she believed Mark was “in love” with Dellen, who had promised to help him fulfill his desires to be a rap star.

A selfie still from one of Mark Smich's rap videos

A selfie still from one of Mark Smich’s rap videos

Although Smich was commonly perceived to be Millard’s follower, when he took to the witness box at their joint trial, he pointed the finger straight at Millard, saying he alone had murdered Tim Bosma.

Smich proved a self assured witness whose story was believed by many. During his four full days of cross examination by Millard’s lawyer, Nadir Sachak, there were many testy encounters between the two. At one point Sachak asked Smich to rap for the jury, Smich’s lawyer Thomas Dungey quickly objected, and the judge agreed, telling the court, “He can read, but I don’t think he has to perform it.”

Smich then read aloud the lyrics he had written:

Its me muthaphuka, so relentless
Runnin from cops outta them spots, over them fences
Im high so im half fuckin demented
But i still
gotta get away nice and splendid
Got my 9
So im runnin like its nothing … Till im dead, kid!
I am not unstoppable
but I like to live my life without the cops involved
Its not probable, but if it happened to me … . Problem solved!
Im just comin for the loot, so shoot first, i come for your new purse, and wallets, I
want some chronics, and that juice cuz ima alcoholic,
No stallin, give it to me in a quick haste, more speedy then fast paced,
Im runnin away from the police in a cash race,
First one, im never last place

The creation date for this particular lyrics file on Smich’s iPad was February 16, 2013, while the date for last modification is May 21, 2013, the day before Smich was arrested.

When Sachak erred in referring to a date, Smich pounced on his mistake. “Could be one those brain cramps,” he said. “You’re probably under a lot of stress.” The comment didn’t fit with Smich’s portrayal of himself as the victim of his powerful friend’s crime, but it provoked laughter in the courtroom and was much remarked upon online by those following the trial live on Twitter.

“Zing,” wrote “meterclicks” on Websleuths. “MS is giving Sachak a taste of his own medicine this morning.”

“Oh snap LOL,” wrote “Kamille.” “MS should have been a comedian LOL.”

“Interesting. I’m starting to believe that MS is not as dumb as what I first thought,” said “Redheart.”

“Smich is getting sassy,” wrote “Katpaws.” “I’m still fully on the fence about MS’s role, but I’m not a fan of Sachak’s style at all … so I can’t help but take a little delight in MS’s quick comebacks. Clearly cleaning himself up has revealed a more clever and quick-witted guy than we initially realized.”

Undeterred by Smich’s retort, Sachak asked again what exactly Smich modified on May 21, 2013.

Smich explained instead that adding one letter or a space would cause a file’s modification date to change.

“Tell us what was modified,” said Sachak in exasperation. “What part was modified on May 21, 2013?”

Smich gave a lengthy account about how Meneses could have used the iPad and caused the modification. He repeated his explanation about inserting a character by mistake, adding that the file could have been opened randomly.

Sachak cut him off. “I don’t need to know how an iPad works,” he said, looking at the jurors as if to say he shared their pain. “Just tell me, What did you modify? Please help me. Please answer that question.”

Smich never did.

Sachak placed more rap lyrics on the courtroom screens.

You can read the full story of Smich’s testimony in my book, Dark Ambition, due out in November 2016.