About those New Year’s Resolutions

January 6th is about the time my New Year’s resolutions start to die. At lunch today, I ate a giant Italian cream puff, or more accurately cream horn, from the new branch of Forno Cultura in First Canadian Place.

You should definitely go there unless you have New Year’s resolutions that would make it a bad idea. The coffee is delicious. They have amazing breads and the mini ricotta turnovers and petits palmiers are a healthier option to the cream horn.

What else? I’m still listening to the audio book of Wolf Hall, and it is fantastic. I’ve always been fascinated by the story of Anne Boleyn. As a kid, I remember watching a PBS series on Henry’s wives and then going to see the movie, Anne of the Thousand Days. Genevieve Bujold and Anne’s tower soliloquy made a big impression on me. (Watch the soliloquy starting at 1:57)

For some reason though, I never researched it until today. I learned the movie was based on a play by a guy called Maxwell Anderson, who seems to have led quite the life. Now, I’m reading all about him.

No, Christina Noudga does not carry a torch for Dellen Millard

Christina Noudga (2015)

Earlier today, I read a comment on Facebook about how Christina Noudga is still carrying a torch for Dellen Millard. (If you don’t know who these people are, I recommend my book, Dark Ambition.)

I don’t understand this type of thinking at all. It seems reductive and sexist. All women can think about is looove type thing.

It also flies in the face of what happened at Millard’s trial. Sure, there were times when Noudga’s evidence played in Millard’s favour, but only when it worked in Noudga’s favour as well. Her infamous blow job testimony is a good example of this. By claiming that Millard seemed sad that night, and that she was in no position to talk because her mouth was full, Noudga bolstered her story that she and Millard didn’t discuss why they were moving giant trailers and livestock incinerators in the middle of the night. That helped both of them.

In contrast, Noudga never had anything helpful to say about Millard that went against her own interests. And she had some pretty damning evidence to give about him when it didn’t hurt her own case.

For example, Noudga said her ex-BF bought the incinerator to burn materials from his aviation company. This did not help Millard, whose stated position at trial was that he was planning on getting into the pet carcass disposal business. If she were truly out to help Millard, the love of her life, she would have told the pet story. She didn’t

Noudga also stated in court that she loathed Millard, and that “he had (her) arrested.” While she couldn’t muster up any remorse or empathy for the Bosma family, it was crystal clear that she felt pretty sorry for herself and was furious about the four months she had spent in jail and the humiliation she had endured after her arrest.

It wasn’t much fun for Noudga to learn about her boyfriend’s infidelities either. She had long been suspicious he was cheating on her, but the evidence at trial confirmed it. Texts showed him arranging dates with his ex-fiancee and flirting with his realtor side chick.

All these things considered, there really are zero grounds for claiming Noudga’s still in love with Millard other than a general belief that women can never let go.

 

L’Affaire Joseph Boyden

The Joseph Boyden affair broke just before Christmas, which is probably why it hasn’t blown up into mega-controversy deserves to be be. APTN found pretty indisputable evidence that Boyden, the country’s number one indigenous author, isn’t indigenous at all.

This provoked all sorts of nonsensical responses about blood and DNA, which might have made sense had Joseph Boyden been brought up aboriginal. But he hadn’t. According to Boyden, his childhood was spent in suburban Toronto, where his father was doctor, who had been awarded the Distinguished Service Order and was the most highly decorated medical officer of World War II.

Under the circumstances, someone should probably look into that story about Boyden Sr. There are a few things about it that set my spidey senses tingling. I feel bad writing that but checking out people who aren’t who and what they say they are is a big part of my work as a private investigator. And I am regularly reminded how easy it is to create a false persona and have others fall for it.

Here’s what initially strikes me as strange about Dr. Raymond Wilfrid Boyden. This obit says he was born in 1906 and graduated medical school in 1924, which would have made him a doctor at 18. Of course, that could just be a typo, but then Dr. Boyden’s medical career history is also out of the ordinary. He was supposedly a Toronto gynaecologist and obstetrician before joining the armed forces at the start of World War II. That doesn’t seem like a medical specialty, which would have been particularly in demand on the battlefields, but maybe he retrained. And then there’s Dad’s brother, Erl Boyden, who posed as “Injun Joe” in the fifties.

At the very least, it would be worth taking a more detailed look into Dr. Boyden’s background as his son Joseph tried to do in 2004. It may be that it’s fabulism that runs in the Boyden blood, and there’s no DNA test for that.

Update: I have done some further research which shows there definitely was a Dr. Raymond Boyden with the Canadian Army Medical Corps.

Here is his medical school graduation photo and blurb, giving his birth date as 1899, which would make him 66 or 67 when Joseph was born. That’s an older father, even by today’s standards, so it makes sense some of the details got blurred along the way.

Dr. Raymond Boyden

Dr. Raymond Boyden

 

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.