National Post (Latest Edition)
Millard murder ruled suicide inside 2 days
Trial highlights series of incurious investigators
It is trite knowledge that what happens in police investigations bears little resemblance to what happens in television police investigations, where things move along at a proper clip and unfold neatly.
But still, the story of Wayne Millard’s death on Nov. 29, 2012, is a story of a non-investigation, or at best an investigation that really wasn’t.
It is a tale of the incurious. Millard was a former pilot and owner of Millardair, the family business and former aviation company he was attempting to turn into a maintenance repair facility when, at the age of 71, he was found dead in his bed at his Etobicoke, Ont., bungalow.
His only child, the 32-year-old twice-convicted killer Dellen Millard (who with his pal Mark Smich was convicted and sentenced to life for the slayings of Laura Babcock and Tim Bosma), is charged with first-degree murder in Wayne’s death too, and is now on trial before Ontario Superior Court Judge Maureen Forestell. He is pleading not guilty. To understand how sleepy was the original probe of Wayne’s death, the graphic pictures now in evidence are the best evidence.
They show Wayne lying on his left side, his right hand under his face, his left arm and hand outstretched.
There is blood on the pillow his face rests upon, and a great thick trail of it drips down the side of the mattress and box spring.
Because the left side of his face is buried in the pillow, it isn’t jump-out-at-you obvious that he had been shot through the left eye, but neither is it a supremely difficult feat to see it.
In fact, to the dopey layman, untrained in investigative techniques, it looks for all the world like the poor man was shot or, assuming he was more lithe and flexible than his general appearance and age suggested, that he shot himself in the head via the left eye while simultaneously cradling his face in his right hand.
And yet, when the first paramedic to arrive at the scene — the call came in from Wayne’s longtime exwife, who had been called to the house by Dellen after his purported discovery of the body — was asked if he observed “any injuries,” his reply was that he had not.
Medic Bill Smith told the judge, in cross-examination by defence lawyer Ravin Pillay, that he’d been told that Wayne was an alcoholic and, he said, it was not unheard of for longtime alcoholics to have blood and vomit coming from their mouths. Sometimes, apparently, the blood vessels there burst.
In any case, Smith said, he knew straight off that Wayne was dead — by his dark skin colour, which means a lack of circulation, by how cold he was — and touched his neck, to confirm there was no pulse.
Next on the scene was a series of Toronto Police officers: a supervisor in the form of Sgt. Richard Nimmo and a couple of folks to preserve the integrity of the place.
None of those who testified Friday appeared to have noticed that at the side of the bed where Wayne lay dead in his black underpants and a T-shirt, between the bed and a dresser, was a Lululemon bag (it had the brand’s usual slogans on it, such as LOVE DEEPLY) with blood at one end and on the top of it, a six-shot revolver.
It was the coroner, Dr. David Evans, who spotted the wood-handled black gun.
(It was later swabbed for DNA by the extremely competent and thorough forensic officer, Det.-Const. Jeffrey Johnston, and later still, after Dellen was under investigation for the Babcock and Bosma murders and the Toronto Police had another look at Wayne’s death, Dellen’s DNA was found on the grip.)
In any case, the discovery of the gun was highly alert of Evans, but it appears that thereafter, his alertness or at least his inquisitiveness vanished.
In less than two days, on Dec. 1, he had concluded that the death was a suicide, and that, at least until police reopened the case in the spring of 2013, was that.
How ironic it is that so many of those involved in the original investigation of Wayne’s death appeared to have been very keen to avoid suspicious thinking. Nimmo, for instance, even had a line in his notebook that read, “Nothing appeared suspicious.” He even gave Dellen and his mother space and time to grieve.
Once upon a time, there was a mantra within the coroner’s office and the city’s homicide squad: “Think dirty,” it held. In other words, be suspicious and curious.
The saying fell into disrepute after the downfall of disgraced pathologist Dr. Charles Smith, who took it to the extreme and was harshly and properly criticized for the wrongful convictions that followed.
But holy moly, a fellow who looked like he somehow managed to shoot himself in the eye while appearing for all the world like he was peacefully asleep doesn’t warrant a smidgen of suspicious thinking?
Dr. Evans is scheduled to testify Monday.