An innocent young father, killed for his truck by someone who answered an online ad.
It's the kind of horror usually reserved only for true-crime dramas—but remains a plot line Tim Bosma's family struggles to accept as real life.
"This only happens in movies and on TV," were Sharlene Bosma's own words in the days following her suburban church-going husband's murder back in May 2013, after two guys responded to an online ad for his used Dodge Ram pickup truck.
Everyone posts stuff to sell online. No one expects to be killed for it.
Bosma's story captured the nation's attention since his May 2013 disappearance for that very reason—it could have been any one of us. And the already disturbing case has grown into an even greater spectacle at trial, where details of the bafflingly senseless killing have been revealed.
Money was getting tight for Tim and Sharlene, who were trying for a second child. Hoping to make some cash, they put Tim's truck—a lemon—on Kijiji and Auto Trader for $24,000.
Friends Dellen Millard, 30, and Mark Smich, 28 are accused of murdering Bosma together while out for a test drive of the pickup. The 32-year-old dad—born and raised in Ancaster, a rural suburb of blue collar Hamilton, Ontario—was shot in the passenger seat, his body later incinerated to ash inside a giant animal cremator (literally called The Eliminator) designed for disposing of livestock.
The first-degree murder trial of Millard, a wealthy playboy, heir to a Canadian aviation dynasty; and Smich, a drug-dealing aspiring rapper—has bordered on spectacle, with lineups of people waiting outside the courtroom each morning to get a peek at the proceedings.
I have covered this case since the beginning for the local newspaper, back when it was still a missing person's case and Bosma's family was frantically looking for him. Three years later, after sitting through four months of testimony, with close to 100 witnesses taking the stand, a sick and twisted narrative has emerged about the pair's "mission" that night—one replete with sex, lies, and money. Secret jailhouse letters. Attempted witness tampering. A dog-child named Pedo. Even terrible rap made it into the courtroom.
The two friends—who nicknamed each other Dellen the Felon and Say10—were playing their own IRL version of Grand Theft Auto, the Crown prosecutors argue: for more than a year, they crafted a plan to steal a truck and then kill and incinerate the owner—and on May 6, 2013, they the executed that plan with "chilling perfection."
But with the jury now out to deliberate a verdict in the trial, the two accused killers have pointed the finger squarely at each other.
Both agree they were on a "mission" that night, but insist it was only to "scope out" a diesel pickup truck, with the intention to go back and steal it later if the conditions were right.
Both insist a gun—and murder—was not part of the plan.
It was a night in May three years ago. Tim Bosma was frustrated because the guys who were supposed to test drive his truck were late. He was anxious to make the sale—but it was weird that people were coming to see the truck so late.
He asked his wife whether he should go with them when they came.
"Yes," Sharlene Bosma recalled saying, through tears, on the stand. "We want the truck back."
Just after 9 PM, he got a call from the guys that they were arriving. Simultaneously, Sharlene—who was having a cigarette in the garage with their basement tenant Wayne De Boer—heard footsteps coming up their rural gravel driveway.
Bosma came outside, and told the guys they could've parked in the driveway. She recalled that the taller of the two explained they'd been dropped off by a friend who'd gone to Tim Hortons.
(Sharlene and De Boer were never asked to formally identify the two guys, but Millard and Smich would concede at trial that it was them.)
The taller guy—Millard—was confident and outgoing. Handsome. Friendly. De Boer described him as someone you would "trust."
The other one—Smich—seemed "sketchy," according to De Boer. He hung back in the shadows, wearing an oversized hoodie, his hands stuffed in his pockets.
They did a walk-around of the truck for a minute and hopped in—Millard in the driver's seat, Bosma in the passenger seat, and Smich in the back.
Bosma told his wife he'd be right back.
She and De Boer watched as they pulled out of the driveway. Something about the whole exchange gave them bad vibes. De Boer, feeling the tension, recalled on the stand that he tried to make a joke:
"That might be the last time we see him."
It turned out to be true.
The two alleged killers have given very different stories from the prosecution as to what happened on the test drive that night, after the truck rolled out of view down the rural country road.
Only Smich took the stand during the trial to give his version.
He claims it was "lunatic" Millard who went rogue and killed Bosma that night, and that he wasn't even in the truck when it happened.
Smich claims he got out of the truck shortly after leaving Bosma's house—after Millard pretended to get a text from that made-up friend he'd said dropped them off. He says Millard told Bosma the friend had gotten lost and was parked around the corner.
The story told to Bosma was fiction. They had arrived just the two of them in Millard's GMC Yukon, which they'd parked around the corner in a field. But for whatever reason, Smich says, Millard drove back to the Yukon and turned to him in the truck, suggesting he get out and go with their friend and follow them.
Smich says he was confused—he knew there was no one in the Yukon except Millard's dog, Pedo—but took the hint and got out. He got in the Yukon and followed them, he says, until the truck swerved suddenly and pulled over on a side road in Brantford.
On the stand, he recalled his "shock" and "confusion" there as Millard got out of the truck and stuffed a gun in his satchel, declaring "I'm taking the truck, I'm taking the truck."
Smich says he got out and walked over to the truck.
"That's when I saw a bullet hole in the window and Mr. Bosma lying head first on the dashboard," he testified.
He says he then followed "mad man" Millard to his air hangar at the Waterloo airport and helped to strip and wash the blood-soaked truck—but only because he was afraid.
Smich was just a petty thief and a drug dealer, his lawyer argued, he had no motive for murder. Only a lunatic would kill someone over a used pickup truck—and that lunatic was "twisted and demented" Millard.
Millard's lawyers told their own story to the jury of what happened that night (though the judge would tell them to disregard this version, because zero evidence was presented to support it).
They say it was Smich who brought the gun along on the test drive, unbeknownst to Millard; that he pulled it out while the three men were driving on the highway, announcing "we're taking the truck, we're taking the truck."
There was a struggle, they suggest, and the gun went off—killing Bosma.
They say Millard wanted to steal a truck so he could drive it—so why would he destroy his prize by murdering a man inside it? Plus, he was absolutely loaded. If he really wanted a truck that badly he could've just bought one. It was Smich who was "desperate" they say, to get the red Cadillac Millard had promised him in exchange for helping him get a truck.
The Crown disputed both of their finger-pointing stories as "nonsense," and argued both men knew exactly what was going to go down that night.
They liked to steal, Leitch argued and this was just an escalation of their missions. Text messages show they had secured a trafficked gun (a Walther PPK pistol), ammo, and an animal cremator as "ingredients" for this next-level plan.
"This is about Dellen Millard taking what he wants, with the help of Mark Smich who idolizes him, was in love with him," assistant Crown attorney Tony Leitch told the jury in his closing arguments.
They say it's likely we'll never know exactly what happened to Bosma—and that it's pointless to try and rationalize the senseless killing.
"It seems absurd to murder a man over a used truck, but that's what they did," Leitch said.
"Killers are not always rational."
On their way to Bosma's house for the test drive that night, at 7:40 PM, Dellen Millard sent his girlfriend Christina Noudga a text message: "I'm on my way to a mission now, if it's [a] flop I'll be done in 2 hours. If it goes...it'll be an all-nighter."
"Mission" was a word their group of friends used to describe criminal activities, the jury heard—including thefts the two men had done together in the past, lifting things like a wood chipper, a Bobcat skid-steer loader, and several trailers.
Around 11:30 PM, Millard sent his girlfriend an update: "gonna be an all-nighter."
By this time, by all accounts, Bosma was dead.
Millard and Smich headed first that night to Millard's sprawling Waterloo area farm property, where in his barn, he kept ''The Eliminator'—a $15,000 animal cremator that they nicknamed "the BBQ." He'd bought the monstrous device a year earlier, telling friends he was going into the pet cremation business with his veterinarian uncle (a story the uncle vehemently denies).
From there, they hauled the 6,000 lb. device to his family's air hangar at the Waterloo airport, where it would be used to incinerate Bosma's body. As he burned, his blood-soaked truck would be stripped and washed.
This, they both admit to.
Surveillance video from the hangar shows the pair was there until around 7 AM the next morning. Before they left, Millard sent his employees a text message, telling them not to come to the hangar that day: "Airport politics. No one comes to the hangar today, not even just to grab something."
When they arrived in Oakville to pick up Smich's girlfriend, Marlena Meneses, an hour later, they were excited and jittery.
On the stand at trial, Meneses, 22, was nervous, tearing up more than once as she recalled her boyfriend's behaviour that week—and the fact that she did nothing. But she was confident in her memory. She testified that the two men seemed "very happy" when she got in Millard's Yukon that morning. She says they were "celebrating" and told her that "the mission went well."
They got their truck.
Millard's girlfriend Christina Noudga was also called to the stand at trial—offering perhaps the most dramatic—and bizarre—testimony of all.
The 24-year-old psychology/kinesiology grad and med school-hopeful is charged with being an accessory after the fact to the murder--but claims, conveniently, to have virtually no memory of the week Tim Bosma was killed.
Noudga is alleged to have helped Millard hide key pieces of evidence the night before his arrest, on May 9, 2013:
She was with him when he hauled Bosma's truck, inside a car trailer, up to his mom's driveway in Kleinburg. She was with him when they went to his farm late that night and moved the giant incinerator into the woods, and she was with him when he made a mysterious drop-off at his friend's house at 4 AM, handing over a locked toolbox that contained a gun.
All of this hidden evidence would be tracked down by police—after Millard's "ambition" put him on their radar.
One day before the Bosma test drive, Millard and Smich had gone to see another truck in Toronto. They used the same burner phone to set up both appointments, and when police tracked down the owner of that truck—Igor Tumenenko, an intimidating former Israeli soldier—through phone records, he gave an eerily similar description of the two men that had visited him.
Tumenenko couldn't say much about them, but he did remember seeing a small tattoo on the driver's wrist. It said "ambition." Immediately, police put out a call for information about anyone with such a tattoo. Within hours, they had a lead.
Emotionless on the stand at trial, Noudga claimed she didn't ask a single question about what she and Millard were up to the night before his arrest—they were stoned, she testified, and she was too busy giving him "fellatio" as they drove to chat.
To observers, it seemed like she looked pleased with herself as she gave this story. Bizarrely, her mom (sitting in the gallery with her lawyer) also smiled as her daughter recalled giving sexual favours to her accused killer boyfriend during a trip to hide a dead man's truck.
The very Christian Bosma family, in stark contrast, were visibly horrified.
Noudga similarly played dumb about having wiped down the trailer for fingerprints after Millard's arrest. She argued she wasn't trying to get rid of evidence, she was just getting rid of her "involvement."
She was one of several women playboy Millard was seeing at the time, the jury heard.
Millard had two nicknames for her: Rubiks, because of her ability to solve the eponymous cube, and Kinks, "for other reasons," she testified.
It came to light during her testimony that she had been secretly corresponding with her boyfriend in the year following his arrest—despite a no-contact order between them—through dozens of secret letters sent to and from the jail.
In the "Noudga Letters," as they became known in court, Millard mused to her about his sexy body and his jailhouse epiphanies. He talked about how smart he was (spoiler: much smarter than everyone else), and how badly he wanted her—but he also pleads with her to tamper with witnesses and get friends to change their stories.
He asks her to be his "secret agent," which she testified in all seriousness was a career she has legitimately considered.
Specifically, Millard asked her to reach out to his friend Andrew Michalski—who testified that Millard had talked to him about stealing a truck just days before Bosma disappeared.
"Fucking panzy, scared into giving up a true friend," Millard wrote. "His testimony, not forensic science, is going to get me convicted. He is the most important single piece of evidence against me...someone needs to shake him up."
He warns Noudga that only the "craftiest of coyotes" will be able to duck charges of witness tampering and perjury: "If you're going to undertake contacting Andrew it has to be done with Mission Impossible, James Bond, super spy perfection."
"Help me Obiwan Rubikinks, you're my only hope," he wrote, including a pencil drawing of what appears to be Noudga wearing a Star Wars rebel pilot helmet.
On the witness stand, Noudga was huffy about the letters and expressed confusion as to why they were relevant. They were private, she argued, sentimental. She was "surprised" to learn they would be admitted as evidence in the case.
When asked why she didn't go to police with the letters and all the information her boyfriend had revealed in them—letters he'd repeatedly instructed her to destroy—Noudga claimed she didn't understand the justice system because she is an immigrant (she has a university degree, and arrived in Canada when she was three years old).
In one letter, Millard referenced a secret phone call between them. On the stand, she testified that they didn't speak—his mother had passed the phone to her during a call, and she stayed silent as Millard sang her Oasis' "Wonderwall."
"So he has the opportunity to speak to you in person, and all he does is sing Wonderwall?" Leitch asked her on the stand. "Yes," Noudga insisted.
Millard also made it clear in his letters that he wanted Smich to take the fall for this "mess." He outlined a script-like narrative for Noudga to memorize and then destroy, suggesting that "Itchy's Boyz" were the real killers—and that he wasn't even there.
"Maybe Itchy's Boyz were already involved with the dead guy or his wife," he theorized.
He wrote about practicing his address to the jury—one "not of his peers," he lamented—and noted that he was waiting on the full disclosure before deciding what his story would be.
In the end, he opted not to take the stand.
* * *
Sharlene Bosma, 36, has listened to all of this.
So has all of Tim Bosma's family.
Dozens of friends and family from their church community have also been there each day to pray for and support them—a group that has come to be known around the John Sopinka Courthouse in Hamilton as the "Bosma Army."
From the moment she finished her testimony, Sharlene has been front row centre in the courtroom gallery, surrounded by her army, to bear witness to every second of the excruciating details around her husband's senseless murder.
In the mornings, they gathered in the hallway to pray before the testimony began—testimony that more than once sent Bosma's mother Mary running out of the courtroom, sobbing, unable to handle one more minute of it. Sharlene, even when left crumpled in her seat, chose always to stay.
In his final remarks to the jury, assistant Crown attorney Tony Leitch reminded the jury who Tim Bosma was.
"Tim Bosma had everything to live for, and his truck was not worth dying for," he said. "Don't forget about Tim."
But the judge told the jury to disregard those comments. There is no room for sympathies at the deliberations table—only facts.
However, as with any trial, the jury never gets all the facts.
What the jurors in this trial don't know—what they were never told—is that this trial is just the tip of the iceberg for these two.
A year after they were charged with Bosma's murder, the two men were also jointly charged with the first-degree murder of Toronto woman Laura Babcock—romantically linked to Millard—who vanished in July 2012.
Millard alone was also charged with the first-degree murder of his father, Wayne Millard, whose November 2012 shooting death was originally ruled a suicide.
Those trials are scheduled to take place next year.
Noudga's trial will take place in November.
Sometime this week, the jury is expected to return with their verdicts.
For Sharlene and the rest of the Bosma family, that may provide some closure—an end, at least, to the courthouse spectacle.
But if the upcoming trials are anything like this one, it's safe to say that this story will only become more twisted from here.
Follow Molly Hayes on Twitter.