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Mandel: Accused killer Dellen Millard plays lawyer

By Michele Mandel, Toronto Sun

Dellen Millard (Facebook)

Dellen Millard (Facebook)

t is uncomfortable to watch. And no doubt more difficult to endure.

Shawn Lerner clearly loved Laura Babcock. Even after their relationship ended, they remained close friends. He cared for her. He worried about her. And when the bubbly 23-year-old suddenly disappeared without warning in July 2012, he spearheaded the search for her.

And now he must sit in the witness box and maintain his composure while being questioned by the very man accused of her murder.

“Shawn, you don’t like me very much, do you?” asks Dellen Millard at one point during the tense cross-examination.

“No,” Lerner responds.

“Find me sketchy?”

“Yes.” 

Millard seems to revel in his ability to make Lerner uncomfortable — for almost two hours, the 32-year-old aviation heir will stand at the lectern, his long hair grazing his shoulders, his heavy-rimmed glasses often peering down at his notepad as he grills Babcock’s former boyfriend.

When it is he and close friend Mark Smitch, 30, who are the ones on trial.

Both have pleaded not guilty to killing Babcock and disposing of her body in an incinerator called The Eliminator on Millard’s Waterloo farm. Court has heard Babcock had been involved with Millard before he began dating Christina Noudga. According to the Crown’s theory, Babcock upset Noudga by claiming she was still sleeping with Millard and he promised his new girlfriend that he’d “remove her from our lives.”

“First I am going to hurt her,” Millard allegedly vowed in a text message. “Then I’ll make her leave.”

Unlike Smitch, Millard is representing himself and while he isn’t wearing the black robes of a defence lawyer, he’s clearly relishing the role nonetheless with all the legal flourishes and jargon borrowed from a TV courtroom drama.

“Good morning,” Millard begins.

A grim-faced Lerner doesn’t answer.

“When was the first time we met?” he jauntily continues.

It was Feb. 12, 2011 and Lerner had invited Millard to Babcock’s birthday party. He knew Millard as his girlfriend’s friend. Was he aware they had a sexual relationship? “No, my understanding was that you were just friends.”

Lerner admitted finding him “sketchy.” Millard’s background story continued to shift, he said, until he abruptly shut down the conversation by saying he couldn’t discuss the family business.

He also wasn’t impressed when he saw Millard give Ecstasy to Babcock. “You made it clear that it was a birthday present,” Lerner tells him. “She was my girlfriend and I cared about her and I loved her … I was generally upset that a friend of hers gave her drugs unsolicited.”

Millard delves into their relationship: how did they meet? On an online dating site. How did it end? She wanted a break, he said they should end it. They broke up at the end of 2011 or early 2012 but remained friends. And then came Millard’s tasteless question that caught everyone off guard.

“She was your first sexual partner, wasn’t she?”

The Crown immediately rose to object, the displeased judge ruled the question inappropriate and Lerner simply looked disgusted. How much more must he endure from this man?

More.

Millard presses about Babcock’s troubles before her disappearance: Lerner acknowledges she was dealing with mental health issues, had begun working as an escort, had been quarrelling with her parents and couch surfing with friends. In late June 2012, he’d paid for two nights at a hotel for her and offered more but she refused further help. Later he learned she’d slept in a park.

Did he feel guilty? Millard demands. Did Lerner really offer to put her up longer or is he just trying to make himself look better now?

His eyes filled with loathing, Lerner insists he did try.

The two men didn’t meet again until July 2012 after Babcock had gone missing. Lerner was frustrated by the police investigation — he’d eventually file a complaint — and he’d mounted his own search, setting up a Facebook page, “Help us find Laura” and poring over her cellphone bill to try and piece together who she’d last spoken to.

“The last eight outgoing calls were between you and Laura,” Lerner reminds him.

“Are you trying to shift suspicion onto me?” Millard asks.

“No, I’m trying to answer your questions.”

As unpleasant as that may be.

mmandel@postmedia.com