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Dark Ambition

The Twisted Pact of Serial Killers Dellen Millard & Mark Smich

by Ann Brocklehurst

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criminals & outlaws, serial killers
list price: $20.00
edition:Paperback
also available: Hardcover Paperback
category: True Crime
published: 2019
ISBN:9780143198277
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Description

The gripping true-crime account of a young Canadian aviation heir charged with three murders--Tim Bosma, ex-girlfriend Laura Babcock, and his own father, Wayne Millard--in what appears to be thrill-seeking serial kills. 

     In 2013, Tim Bosma of Hamilton, Ontario, put his truck up for sale online, and then disappeared during a test drive with two strangers. In the disappeareance and the murder investigation that followed, he made headlines on over several weeks that spring. Weeks later, two men were arrested for Bosma's murder: a petty criminal with the Dickensian name of Mark Smich, and Dellen Millard, the good-looking heir of an aviation millionaire. 
     Disturbingly, there appeared to be no motive for the gruesome killing of Bosma, whose charred remains were found on Millard's farm. It seemed to be a cold-blooded "thrill kill" carried out by what some would deem a psychopath and his sidekick. Furthermore, the investigation of Bosma's death would eventually lead to the discovery of two other murders: the pair would be charged with the murder of Laura Babcock, Millard's former girlfriend, who disappeared in 2012, and Millard alone would be charged with the murder of his own father, Wayne Millard, whose death was previously ruled a suicide.
     Ann Brocklehurst, a Toronto journalist and private investigator, has been fascinated by the Millard case and had a front row seat at the Hamilton murder trial. She provides a compelling look at how detectives, lawyers, and journalists work, as well as the contributions made by the newest participants in the world of crime--online sleuths. Her book asks the question: What makes someone who seemingly has everything--money, a supportive family, mobility, social position--turn to evil deeds? And why do some murders fascinate millions while others go unnoticed?

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Excerpt

FOR SALE BY OWNER
A 2007 Dodge Power Ram 3500 Diesel 4x4 pick-up truck
170,000 kilometres – mostly highway
5.9 litre engine
Extended cab – short box Gray cloth interior
New transmission, new brakes
Price $24,000.00
Address: Ancaster, Ontario
 
This is the ad posted online by Tim Bosma’s wife, Sharlene, in the spring of 2013. And it is also the starting point of prosecutor Craig Fraser’s opening address at the first-degree murder trial of the two men accused of Bosma’s murder, Dellen Millard and Mark Smich. Fraser has turned his podium sideways so that he can face the fourteen members of the jury as he explains the case the prosecution intends to prove. His delivery is measured and dry. He is not the type of lawyer who sets off fireworks, inspires TV characters, or wins oratory awards. But for this trial, no special effects are required. Fraser’s style suits the story he is telling—a story that is sensational, tragic, and almost beyond belief. And it all begins with the problems caused by that black Dodge Ram diesel.

The truck had been running up hefty repair bills, causing stress for its owners, a young family on a tight budget. A plan was put in place to sell it and replace it with a cheaper, better functioning truck, but unfortunately there weren’t many prospective buyers. An earlier version of the ad that had run in April had failed to attract even one serious prospect. A man who Tim Bosma referred to as a tire kicker had emailed a few times to ask a lot of questions then never bothered to view the vehicle in person.

The first person to actually want to see the truck was a caller from Toronto who was prepared to drive one hundred kilometres to Bosma’s home in Ancaster to check it out. That seemed like a good sign, so in preparation for the visit Bosma washed and waxed his truck. Then, at 7:25 on the morning of the planned appointment, he sent a text to confirm: “Good morning. It’s Tim. I’m working in Hamilton today if you want to meet or do you still want to meet at my house tonight for 7 pm?” He was upset when the text went unanswered and then relieved when the man from Toronto finally called at 7:22 that evening to say he was en route to see the truck and would be there within an hour.

What happened after that would make headlines around the world. Tim Bosma left with two strangers on a test drive from which he would never return. Social media exploded with the news of his disappearance. The police requested help from the public in their search for the missing man and his truck, and their almost daily news conferences were live-streamed online and then endlessly dissected on the internet. Within days, an arrest was made, and then two weeks later another one. But the arrests didn’t make things any clearer. The opposite, in fact: they made the disappearance of Tim Bosma more puzzling than ever.

The first man police arrested was Dellen Millard, a wealthy young heir to his family’s aviation business who owned several million dollars’ worth of properties in Toronto. On the day after he went for the test drive, he had closed on the purchase of a condo for which he was reported to have paid more than $600,000 in cash. As his lawyer and hordes of online commentators kept insisting, he could easily have afforded to buy a brand-new truck. Others pointed out that if Millard were a psychopath, devoid of empathy and seeking thrills, how much money he had was irrelevant.

The second man arrested was Mark Smich, an unemployed drug dealer who lived with his mother in her suburban middle-class home. His last arrest, a few months earlier, had been for spray-painting graffiti on a highway overpass. Until this trial, he had never inspired anywhere near the same level of interest as Millard.

On their first day of trial, both defendants tell the court that they are pleading not guilty to first-degree murder and that they are ready to proceed.

Because of the very public nature of the early investigation into Bosma’s disappearance, it has long been known that the evidence in this case is strong. Two days after Millard’s arrest, Bosma’s truck was found concealed inside a transport trailer parked in Millard’s mother’s driveway. Human remains burned beyond recognition were discovered at Millard’s Southern Ontario farm. And most sinister of all, Millard was revealed to own a portable livestock incinerator, named the Eliminator, despite the fact that he kept no animals on his farm.

Fraser tells the jury that he and his two fellow prosecutors will prove that in the late evening of May 6, 2013, Tim Bosma was killed in his truck, shot by the two accused at close range, and that his body was then incinerated hours later by Millard and Smich. To make the Crown’s case, there will be testimony from multiple forensic scientists, including blood-spatter and gunshot-residue experts as well as the anthropologist who examined the bones and remains found in the Eliminator. There will be video showing the Eliminator being towed to the Millardair hangar at the Region of Waterloo International Airport and then being ignited outside the hangar door—and still more video taken from the security system in the hangar. There will be extensive analysis of the cell phones used by the accused and their friends. There will be testimony from the friends and girlfriends of Millard and Smich, some of whom knew they planned to steal a truck. And there will be letters sent from jail by Millard to his girlfriend, Christina Noudga, who was charged as an accessory after the fact to Tim Bosma’s murder almost a year after her boyfriend’s arrest.

In his letters, Millard asks Noudga to witness tamper and get his best friend to change his statement to police. “If he knew that his words were going to get me a life sentence, he would want to change them,” Millard wrote. “Show him how he can, and he will change them.” He instructed Noudga to destroy his letters, but—whether for sentimental reasons or as an insurance policy or both—she defied his wishes and kept them. The very damaging letters were seized from her bedroom when it was searched upon her arrest.

Noudga’s arrest occurred the same day Millard and Smich were charged with another murder, that of twenty-three-year-old Laura Babcock, on or around July 3, 2012, in the area of Toronto, ten months before Bosma’s death. Millard alone was also charged with the murder, on November 29, 2012, of his father, Wayne. Although not a word will be heard about those cases at the Tim Bosma trial, the complications of prosecuting three overlapping murder cases, not to mention their multijurisdictional nature, are among the reasons it has taken almost three years for the trial for the murder of Tim Bosma to begin. From the test drive on May 6, 2013, to February 1, 2016, when Craig Fraser addresses the jury, a thousand and one days have elapsed.

Throughout this time, someone from Tim Bosma’s family has attended every single court date for Dellen Millard and Mark Smich, from two-minute video appearances to the full days of pretrial motions that took place in the fall of 2015. In the face of trial delays and tedious legal arguments about evidence admissibility and the like, Tim’s parents, Hank and Mary, have remained outwardly stoic—and frequently cheerful. Hank, a small, wiry man with a grey moustache, bald head, and glasses, will often approach journalists to tell them he likes an article they wrote or a TV report they did about his son. He will joke in the elevator of Hamilton’s John Sopinka Courthouse about little things like where to get a coffee and make it back to court in time. Mary, a petite blonde, is more shy, but like her husband she smiles when she wishes everyone Merry Christmas on the last day of pretrial motions. The Bosmas’ faith—they are active members of the Ancaster Christian Reformed Church—has helped carry them through, as have the many friends who have accompanied them to court in the days, months, and years since Tim was taken from them.

Except for some members of the defendants’ families, a few of their friends, and the usual handful of conspiracy theorists, this is not, for the vast majority of people, a trial about guilt. It’s far more about the how and the why of what happened to Tim Bosma and the very nature of evil. It’s also about the dread that almost every major murder trial brings to the surface—the fear that justice will not be done. There might be a “glove doesn’t fit” moment, a secret “deal with the devil.” Or, in this case, one of the accused might succeed in blaming the other and walk away with no more than a few years in jail.

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Contributor notes

ANN BROCKLEHURST is a veteran journalist, licensed private investigator and communications professional. Before working on the crime and courts beat, she reported from Berlin for the International Herald Tribune, worked on the Asia desk of Reuters News Agency in Hong Kong, and covered banking and finance in Toronto. She lives in Toronto.

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Editorial Review

Shortlisted for the 2017 Kobo Emerging Writer Prize, Nonfiction Category
Longlisted for the 2018 Frank Hegyi Award for Emerging Authors

Praise for Dark Ambition:

“What a terrific book this is—technically of the true-crime genre, but so lucid and calm, it raises the bar. In a world where uninformed opinion flourishes, author Ann Brocklehurst keeps her head and treats a ghastly story with facts, fairness and dignity.”
—Christie Blatchford, National Post courts columnist and author of Life Science
“Brocklehurst deftly pulls together the disturbing narrative of Tim Bosma’s murder and the trial of his killers. Dark Ambition avoids sensationalism while exploring a horrible, fathomless crime. A compelling page-turning read.”
—Robyn Doolittle, Globe and Mail journalist and author of Crazy Town: The Rob Ford Story

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