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Incinerator can burn 150 pounds of carcass in an hour, Babcock murder trial told: DiManno

Toronto Star logo Toronto Star 2017-11-15 Rosie DiManno - Star Columnist
Dellen Millard (left), 32, of Toronto and Mark Smich (centre), 30, of Oakville, Ont., have pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in the death of 23-year-old Laura Babcock. © Provided by Toronto Star Dellen Millard (left), 32, of Toronto and Mark Smich (centre), 30, of Oakville, Ont., have pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in the death of 23-year-old Laura Babcock.

More burn for the buck.

An odd point for murder defendant Dellen Millard to elicit from the witness — the economy of buying a 250 pound capacity carcass incinerator over a 500 pound capacity model, when the latter cost just some $2,000 more.

“Pretty good value,” Millard suggested to William Penner during cross-examination on Tuesday. “Makes it multipurpose.”

Efficient to consume anything from a turkey to a deer. But not a moose. That would require a jumbo 5,000 pound sucker.

Read more:

Objects in photo of incinerator look like human bones, Babcock trial told

Babcock trial video shows incinerator dubbed The Eliminator burning: DiManno

Dellen Millard ordered incinerator days before Laura Babcock disappeared: witness

But for a slim, 23-year-old woman, the SN500 model would be quite up to the job.

Laura Babcock, the prosecution maintains, was stuffed down the hatch and obliterated.

Babcock, who disappeared from sight and cell phone sound just after Canada Day, 2012, her remains never found.

Cross-examinations have been peculiar, often seemingly pointless — just as often pedantic — at the first degree murder trial of Millard and co-accused Mark Smich, at least when Millard is asking the questions.

He is representing himself, thus gets plenty of talk-time in the courtroom.

Both men have pleaded not guilty.

After weeks of the jury hearing about text messages and emails flying back and forth among the principals, the victim, their clique of frequently snide and pathetically self-absorbed friends, technical crime experts and police searches, evidence Tuesday swung to interminable details about The Eliminator: a squat black sinister-looking apparatus the Crown alleges was ordered by Millard through a mechanic friend intermediary.

All the way from Georgia, The Eliminator began its odyssey, via flat-bed truck — Penner’s Winnipeg-based company the Canadian distributor — destined for the Waterloo-area plane hangar owned by Millard’s aviation firm — actually his family’s company. Found on his Kitchener-area farm, where police eventually executed a search warrant.

“He was looking for an incinerator to do some custom incinerating, to go around from farm to farm,” as Penner described the exchanges he had with the interested buyer, Shane Schlatman, Millard’s mechanic buddy. Schlatman’s emails always contained a pro forma “MillardAir” reference at the bottom and he referred to Millard, this defendant, as “the boss.”

Court has been told that Schlatman, at Millard’s behest, had initially attempted to knock together a home-made incinerator, which proved a disappointment for the purpose purportedly intended. So Millard ordered the commercial version — “The Eliminator” stamped in giant red letters across the front. Charged to Millard’s Visa — $15,424.50, freight costs and HST included, with a $5,000 deposit.

It arrived the second week in July but took some time to figure out, the proper amount of propane required for a “5-hour” burn and so forth.

The jury last week saw video of The Eliminator doing its business, hot orange embers sparking and drifting about.

The body of Babcock allegedly inside. She was killed, the prosecution contends, July 3-4, murdered by Millard, it is alleged, because Babcock, his long-ago ex-girlfriend, had boasted to his current girlfriend that they were still having sex, which got current girlfriend all upset. “First I am going to hurt her,” Millard texted current girlfriend about Babcock. “Then I’ll make her leave.” And: “I will remove her from our lives.”

So, all cranked up, was the monster — the machine, not the man. “The BBQ is ready for meat,” Millard had texted Smich on July 23. It was late that night, says the Crown, that Babcock’s remains were consigned to the flames.

Schlatman had asked of Penner, in their exchange: “How long to burn 150 pounds of carcass?”

Roughly an hour, Penner responded; a “complete burn” more like three hours. “Depends what you have in there.”

At a temperature of at least 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit for the main burner, or chamber; 1,400 for the afterburner attached to the top, which eliminates smoke and emissions.

Open the bottom chamber door afterwards and scoop out the ashes that have sifted through a grid of cement tubes with a shovel.

Except, as any funeral crematorium well knows, bones aren’t all rendered into ash. They are extraordinarily indestructible, the larger pieces. Cremates are left behind, fragments of bone that need to be sieved.

The day began with cross-examination of Dr. Tracy Rogers, forensic anthropologist — bone whisperer.

Last Friday, Rogers testified that she’d examined photographs taken on Millard’s iPhone at 11:20, July 23, 2012, recovered by police, looking inside the incinerator. The unknowing eye would be unable to make heads or tails of the contents. But Rogers was, she believed, able to distinguish two objects that appeared similar to a human radius, the bone that runs the length of the firearm, and a humerus, the bone in the upper arm between the shoulder and the elbow.

Rogers was very careful to say that she couldn’t say so positively but in her expert opinion, those bones did not come from a deer — which has a similar looking humerus and radius — or any other animal. “I was able to state that the objects in the incinerator appear similar to human bone.”

But no more information — male or female, for example — could be forthcoming.

Under questioning from Millard, Rogers reiterated that cremated bones might shrink and shrivel and become warped but some remain fairly intact. She pointed to “markers” — proximal and distal ends, spool shapes and indentations as features to support her hypothesis that the bones examined, albeit only in enhanced photographs with poor resolution, could be human remains.

Rogers agreed that she compared the bones only to two species: human and deer. “I wasn’t given any reason to compare any others.”

Fish, Millard mentioned. Fish?

“You can tell us that this doesn’t appear to be fish bones?”

Rogers: “I can tell you that, yes.”

Millard: “There’s quite a few species out there that share characteristics with human bones?”

Rogers: “Um, no . . . humans are fairly distinctive.”

Because we walk upright.

He made his point, however, a point which Rogers had emphasized from the beginning of her testimony.

Millard: “Essentially, you’re telling us that you can’t for certain identify what species these bones came from.”

Rogers: “Correct.”

And The Eliminator is indifferent.

The trial continues.

Rosie DiManno usually appears Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.

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