Millard appears to be enjoying himself
Dellen Millard would have us believe he is an utter arsehole.
Which doesn’t take much convincing, actually.
But better that than a cold-blooded killer, as the 31-year-old stands co-accused — first-degree murder in the death of Laura Babcock, her remains burned in an industrial incinerator.
The rich boy — court has heard about his several properties, from a condo in the Distillery District to a farm near Kitchener to the hangar at Pearson airport for his private plane (surrounded by Cadillacs and town cars and vintage vehicles) — presented himself in court on Monday as an unscrupulous playboy and spendthrift.
“I used to have quite a bit of money, didn’t I?” he asked Karoline Shirinian, one-time best friend to Babcock and later aligning herself with a romantic rival, a young woman Millard had been dating for over a year at the time Babcock disappeared.
“That’s what I heard,” Shirinian responded.
And she’d heard quite a lot in those months before Babcock vanished just after Canada Day, 2012, from both women. Just as she’d seen — been a party to, on the girlfriend’s end, Christina Noudga — nasty emails zinging between the female principals, about who was sleeping with whom, notably Millard, and when.
“It’s no secret I would sleep with other women when I was with Christina and I would tell her about it?” Yup. “I wasn’t too thoughtful when it came to Christina, I wasn’t too caring.” A statement, not a question.
Kept coming around to that same point.
“It was plainly apparent that I wasn’t thoughtful about Christina,” continued Millard, pointing out he’d only bought her a necklace and a pair of earrings during their relationship, never even attended her 21st birthday party.
Shirinian: “Yes, and for some reason she still stuck around.”
It was common knowledge, suggested Millard, that he was sleeping with at least two other women during his romantic liaison with Noudga, including a former fiancée who was still staying at one of his homes.
Indeed, there was that time — at what Millard described as a “Jew party,” no further explanation provided — when Babcock had tried to hook her, Shirinian, up with him.
The witness recalled it somewhat differently. “You made a pass at me. You said something that was inappropriate.”
Millard: “Obviously nothing ever happened between us?”
Shirinian, dripping with snark: “Obviously.”
Since the witness admitted following news about Millard’s arrest and the many background stories written about his character afterwards, surely that coverage would have affected her opinion of him, would it not, he inquired.
“No, I disliked you before you were arrested.”
Shirinian agreed that Millard was aware of the bad blood between Babcock and Noudga, especially after Babcock broke up with her own boyfriend around Christmas 2011. (Millard and Babcock had briefly dated a couple of years earlier.).
“And I didn’t seem to care too much about it, did I?” asked Millard about the feud between girlfriend past and girlfriend present. “No,” Shirinian said. The clear implication in this line of questioning is that Millard would not have been angry over Babcock revealing to Noudga, in February of 2012, that she’d had sex with him just a couple of weeks previous. Certainly not furious enough to murder her.
It is the prosecution’s theory that Millard committed the crime — with his close pal and co-accused Mark Smich — after Noudga complained that Babcock was tormenting her with that information. The jury has heard about texts Millard sent Noudga in April 2012: “First I am going to hurt her. Then I’ll make her leave.” And: “I will remove her from our lives.”
Yet he was a sybaritic single man, a lousy boyfriend in his own estimation, and didn’t give a toss about these simmering tensions.
Millard asked all these questions in cross-examination because he is representing himself at the trial before Justice Michael Code. Both Millard and Smich, who does have a lawyer, have pleaded not guilty.
It’s rare, one might say foolhardy, for a defendant to act as his own lawyer, particularly when the charge is murder. But Millard appears to be enjoying himself as the trial moved into a second week. He may not wear the robes — a charcoal jacket and jeans will have to suffice — but he’s certainly assumed all the mannerisms and posturing of a lawyer.
He leans with his elbows against the lectern, pushes his professorial horn-rimmed glasses up his nose, practically salaams bending at the waist when the judge enters.
And he speaks the pedantic lingo. Such as when he directed Shirinian to the statement she’d given to police during their investigation.
“Just read the page silently to yourself and then I’ll ask you a couple of questions.”
When the witness had done so, he remarked pleasantly: “You’re a quick reader!”
At that point Millard was trying to elicit that 23-year-old Babcock — who’d been working for an escort agency in the months before she disappeared — “knew enough other sketchy people to get herself in trouble.”
Further, while Babcock and Shirinian had often hung around his place, drinking and smoking weed, the witness hadn’t actually seen much of Smich in his company, isn’t that correct?
Not so much, in that last year, Shirinian acknowledged.
Millard — apparently trying to put distance between himself and Smich — implied that the co-accused wasn’t a best buddy, as court has heard, and that his “wingman” in those days was a completely different fellow. Repeatedly, Millard used “prostitute” and “prostitution” when referring to Babcock’s moneymaking exploits and Shirinian, just as repeatedly, corrected him with “escorting.”
“There’s a lot of things about that line of work that a lot of people would find embarrassing . . . dangerous,” suggested Millard. “She was reckless in the way she got into this line of work, wasn’t she?” Shirinian: “She was over-trusting.” With some objections from Crown attorney Jill Cameron, Millard also crept up on hearsay rumours that Babcock had been seen alive after July 3-4, when the prosecution believes she was killed. “Did you tell police that you think Laura is still out there?”
He reframed the question. “Is there any basis for believing Miss Babcock is still alive?”
Shirinian: “I have none whatsoever.”
The next witness, Megan Orr, was emotional and tearful from the moment she took the stand.
Orr testified that she’d become tight friends with Babcock in the last year of the victim’s life and had been privy to the love triangle. “I know she had a lot of emotional issues going on but I understood her. She was bubbly, she was outgoing, she was amazing.”
Babcock, she said, was getting her marijuana from Millard and the two were exchanging “dirty-talking” texts. Millard: “Dirty? Lewd? Sexual?” Orr: “If you say so.” She also recalled an incident where Babcock told her she’d had sex with Millard in the parking lot of Sherway Gardens mall.
They “disconnected” in March, 2012, to the extent that Babcock “unfriended” her on Facebook, because “I didn’t agree with the lifestyle she was living at the moment, the escorting and the drug use.”
But before the rupture — and they subsequently reconciled — Orr had seen the catty text messages exchanged between Babcock and Noudga. When Babcock told Millard’s girlfriend she’d recently had sex with him, Noudga responded with a “rude text,” said Orr.
“Did you miss your meds today? You’re a crazy psycho b----, you had him, you lost him, give it up.”
The trial continues. Rosie DiManno usually appears Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.
Dellen Millard, left, accused with Mark Smich, centre, is defending himself in the Laura Babcock murder trial.