Accused killer Mark Smich barely glanced at his ex-girlfriend as she told jury members at the Laura Babcock murder trial last Friday that she saw him and co-accused Dellen Millard fire up an animal incinerator, “testing it.”
Marlena Meneses, 23, is back in the witness box Tuesday in Ontario Superior Court in downtown Toronto. Not only will she be grilled by her ex-boyfriend’s lawyer, but she’ll also come face to face with his onetime best friend, Millard, who is acting as his own lawyer.
Both Millard, 32, of Toronto, and Smich, 30, of Oakville, Ont., have pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder.
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Over the last four weeks, the prosecution has detailed a complicated love triangle as a possible motive for Babcock’s alleged murder in early July 2012. Her body has never been found.
Jury members saw text messages written by Millard comparing Babcock to herpes, a problem he vowed get rid of.
Millard has made it no secret he was involved with a number women, including Babcock, while in a relationship with another Toronto woman, Christina Noudga. The Crown contends Babcock’s body was burned inside a piece of farm machinery, designed to dispose of livestock, in late July 2012.
Meneses testified Friday she and Smich were inseparable that summer. Both were high school dropouts, neither worked. Instead they did odd jobs for Millard — Meneses, who was 18 at the time, cleaned the washrooms at his airport hangar — in exchange for cash and marijuana.
She and Smich regularly crashed at Millard’s expansive bungalow in Etobicoke, Ont., partying in his basement, painted entirely in black.
She described one party on Canada Day, July 1, 2012, as a haze of drinking, smoking pot, and fireworks. The regular group was there, she said, Smich, Millard, Noudga and herself.
Just a few days later, the Crown argues Babcock was killed at or near Millard’s home, between July 3 and July 4, 2012.
Meneses told the court she’d never met Babcock, never even heard her name before learning about the investigation into her disappearance.
‘A crackling noise’
What stood out to Meneses was when a large black piece of farm machinery, called The Eliminator, suddenly showed up at Millard’s hangar that summer.
The accused killer told her it was his new toy. Smich later explained it was for farm animals.
“I thought it was weird because Dellen didn’t have any farm animals,” she told the court Friday.
The night she saw the incinerator in use, the trio had picked up the machine from Millard’s hangar, towing it to his farm property, both of which are in the Waterloo Region.
She said Millard and Smich ordered her to stay in the car, leave them alone, and listen to music — instructions they often gave her.
“I didn’t have a choice,” she said.
Millard and Smich eventually returned, saying they needed a power cord, so they drove back to Millard’s airport hangar about 10 minutes away.
That’s when she says she walked by the incinerator — now smoking and crackling.
She said she never looked inside.
“They said they were trying to test out the machine,” she told the court.
Meneses, now an assistant retail manager, didn’t have many fond memories of Millard.
She liked him in the beginning, she explained, he had money and a nice house. But then she says he started making inappropriate comments about her appearance.