On Tuesday May 23rd, the trial begins for Matthew Odlum, a 30-year-old Toronto man accused of trafficking the gun used to kill Dellen Millard’s father, Wayne. Very little is publicly known about Wayne Millard’s death beyond information contained in newspaper reports that he was shot through the eye with an illegal handgun.
Odlum and two other men — Matthew Wawrykiewycz and Matthew Ward Jackson — were arrested in April 2014, shortly before it was announced that Dellen Millard had been charged with the murder of his father, and that he and his friend Mark Smich had also been charged with the murder of Laura Babcock, a 23-year-old Toronto woman.
In the three years that have elapsed since then, Millard and Smich have been convicted of the murder of Tim Bosma and there have been a number of developments in what has come to be known, among those familiar with it, as “The Three Matthews” gun trafficking case.
Why only one Matthew is on trial
Unlike his co-accused, Odlum faced just one set of criminal charges, which has made his journey through the legal system somewhat quicker (relatively speaking) and simpler. Thanks partly to this, Odlum’s case was “severed,” as the lawyers say, from those of his co-accused after a preliminary hearing.
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Back last fall I tried a crowdfunding experiment to see if I had enough interested readers willing to pay to read a series about a sexual assault trial. Sexual assault is a huge topic these days and I had done a previous but very different series in 2015, which was well received. Given that I have a decent mailing list and a small but devoted social media following interested in true crime, I thought I’d give crowdfunding a try to see if it might work for journalism.
Unfortunately, things did not go at all as I had planned. I wanted to find 500 readers willing to pay $10 each but instead, my very generous friends started chipping in $100 here and $50 there. This was vaguely embarrassing as I didn’t want my friends supporting me. I wanted readers to pay a fair amount for a product they valued.
I had also hoped that a legacy publisher might chip in, but the idea of crowdfunding an article wasn’t something accounting departments could wrap their heads around. In the end, the Walrus magazine made a generous offer to buy the new series in the conventional way and I put a halt to the crowdfunding campaign.
Because it was an “all or nothing” campaign — which means no one gets charged unless and until the funding goal is met — my friends didn’t end up paying a cent.
I have now embarked on a new crowdfunding campaign, but with some modifications to avoid past mistakes. I’m out to reach people willing to pay a minimum of $10 to read in-depth coverage of a trial that interests them. So far, I haven’t told any of my friends so unless they read my blog or newsletter they don’t know about this.
This time around, I’m not doing an “all or nothing” campaign because I’m hopeful that once the trial gets going and people see how interesting it is, they will want to pay for coverage. I’m trying to keep my options open.
The goal for this pre-trial period is to build momentum so that the first two days are funded before the trial begins and I can guarantee at least two days of coverage.
If this model works, I will be thrilled as it will be a win/win situation both for me and interested readers.
Please check out the campaign if you want to read about this trial. If I didn’t think it were going to be very interesting, I wouldn’t be so keen to attend.