A 2017 New Year’s Resolution

Crime Writers On discusses Someone Knows Something

The Crime Writers On episode about Someone Knows Something features an epic rant

I’m not a New year’s Resolution person. And I hadn’t made any for 2017 — until I read this New Year’s Blogging Resolution from Elizabeth Spiers.

“Hey,” I thought. “I can do that. I should do that. I will do that.”

So I’m starting today with some of the crime podcasts I’ve been listening to, most of which I’ve written about before.

For me, the Accused podcast was the hit of 2016. If you haven’t listened, do it now. We can talk about it later. That’s the beauty of my New Year’s Resolution. I don’t have to do everything in one blog post. I’m really, really hoping the police finally make a breakthrough in the Beth Andes case in 2017. I’m also debating whether it would be ethical to pose the question about the suspects I really want to pose on this blog.

When I did my original podcast reviews, I was very keen on Up and Vanished but I’m far less enamoured of it now. The story seems to be going in circles while all those Georgia accents have lost their novelty.

Until this morning, the second season of Someone Knows Something was proving a lot better than the first, which I found useless, but, like Up and Vanished, SKS too seems to have stalled. I hope it get its mojo back.

While we’re on the subject of SKS, I want to mention a discussion about it that took place on the Crime Writers On podcast, where, among other things, the writers critique other podcasts. The Crime Writers accurately dubbed the first season of SKS No one Knows Anything and were wary about diving into season 2.

Kevin Flynn went on an epic rant about what he hated about SKS. Basically it was Dave Ridgen’s writing style, which I also loathe. It’s cliche laden and feels like it’s just trying way too hard to be noir. The only thing I hate more is when people call this kind of writing literary or poetic, wrongly equating purple prose with “literary.”

Bad flowery descriptive passages and wannabe noir does not equal good writing, folks. And I think I’ll stop here.

Tweets from the Tim Bosma murder trial

This spreadsheet of all the tweets from three journalists covering the 2016 trial of Dellen Millard and Mark Smich is an incredibly valuable resource.

Hamilton Spectator columnist Susan Clairmont’s tweets provide an excellent narrative overview of the trial while CBC reporter Adam Carter gives the most transcript-like coverage. Molly Hayes of the Spec often catches fascinating details that others missed.

Big thanks to Ron Verbeek, a “civilian” who followed the trial and pulled it all together.

Since the Bosma trial, I’ve followed some high profile U.S. trials on Twitter and the tweet coverage was nowhere near as good as that provided by these three journalists.

It was an invaluable resource to me as I wrote my book, Dark Ambition.

 

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.

True crime podcasts and two new books

Dear readers,

It’s been a long time since my last newsletter, so thank you for your patience.

So many true crime podcasts, so little time

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While my dog rolls in the snow and on the grass, I listen to podcasts and (in the future) the War and Peace audiobook

I listen to a lot of podcasts while I walk my very stubborn and slow moving dog twice a day. In past weeks, I’ve been binge listening to true crime including several recently released new podcasts that I can highly recommend. You can subscribe to all of them for free through iTunes.

Accused

This is the fascinating story of a 1978 murder case, where the accused was acquitted at his murder trial and then found not liable in a civil case. But despite the fact that two juries didn’t believe he did it, police and prosecutors remained so convinced he was guilty, they refused to pursue other possible suspects.

This series is not as slick as Serial, to which it pays nudge nudge, wink wink homage, but it has a better underlying story to work with. The reporting team, led by Amber Hunt, has also managed to score interviews with just about all the key players, a feat which eluded Serial’s Sarah Koenig.

And, added bonus, Accused comes out twice a week, so you don’t have to wait a full seven days to get your fix.

Up and Vanished

When I first started listening to this one, I had a sinking feeling. The producer, host and writer Payne Lindsey seemed awfully green and episode one was rather formulaic. But the case of Tara Grinsted, a small town teacher and beauty queen who disappeared in 2005, was compelling enough to keep me listening, and I’m glad I did.

By episode two, Payne was getting all sorts of Georgia good ole boys to talk, racking up the scoops, and putting his grandma in the podcast. While she baked Cowboy cookies, it was revealed that she knew someone who knew something about the missing woman. Payne was adorable. No wonder everyone was spilling their guts to him. Not to mention that he held a Cowboy cookie giveaway.

The podcast is on a short hiatus as Payne gets married this weekend. You can catch up on all three episodes while he’s on his honeymoon. Congratulations to the bride and groom.

In the Dark

Just as this podcast about the unsolved 1989 abduction and murder of Jacob Wetterling was about to launch, the killer confessed. Needless to say that caused some last-minute revamping of a project that its creators had already been working on for a year.

The first three episodes have been both timely and strong as they look at why it took 27 years to bring a killer, who should have been a suspect very early on, to justice. The big question for me is whether they will be able to keep it up for five more episodes now that the murderer has confessed

Reading list

screen-shot-2016-09-16-at-2-37-55-pmJust a reminder that my book, Dark Ambition: The Shocking Crime of Dellen Millard and Mark Smich, is coming out in November. You can read more about it and pre-order by clicking here.

Christie Blatchford’s new book Life Sentence: Stories from four decades of court reporting – or, how I fell out of love with the Canadian justice system (especially judges) will be for sale next Tuesday and a piece on judges gone wild is excerpted in the National Post.

 

Have a good weekend, everyone. Next newsletter will be next week.

AnnB

How much is Dellen Millard worth?

Just how much Dellen Millard is actually worth has always been one of the mysteries surrounding the convicted murderer.

Receivership documents filed with the courts in November 2015 indicate there’s a severe cash flow problem.

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Millard’s major asset, a shareholder loan of $4.2 million made to Millard Properties, may not be good and even if it is, he may never be able to collect it for all sorts of legal reasons.

While these documents make interesting reading, two key figures are still missing: the value of Wayne Millard’s estate and how much the hangar sold for. That makes it impossible to estimate how much money remains in the Millard family coffers and how much, if any, may end up coming Dellen’s way.

Also of interest are the claims made by the Bosma family against Millard and the fact that Millard’s mother Madeleine Burns had to go to court to free up $75,000 to pay various legal fees for both herself and her son.