Laura Babcock’s federal election voter card showed up at her family’s Etobicoke home in Toronto on Monday — even though she was murdered by convicted killers Dellen Millard and Mark Smich in 2012.
That little piece of paper was yet another stark reminder for a grieving family that is still trying to have Babcock officially declared dead, years after her killers were convicted of murder.
At the same time, the family is trying to change the process around declarations of death in Ontario, so no one else has to go through the same thing they are. The Ministry of the Attorney General has said it is trying to streamline that process, but so far it has not shared any information with the family about how that might happen.
“It just hurts all over again,” said Linda Babcock, Laura’s mother. “Two men are in prison for murdering her … she’s not lost at sea. We know what happened.”
Babcock was one of three people who died at the hands of Millard, 34, of Toronto. He was also convicted of first-degree murder in the death of his father, Wayne, as well as Hamilton man Tim Bosma.
Smich, 32, of Oakville, Ont., was also convicted of first-degree murder in Bosma’s death.
No remains found
The heart of the issue is that the 23-year-old Toronto woman’s remains were never recovered, so the coroner’s office has not been able to issue a death certificate.
Cheryl Mahyr, spokesperson for the Office of the Chief Coroner, said in an email that the Babcock family had requested a medical certificate of death from the coroner’s office, but was told that wasn’t possible.
That’s because two of the things that must be recorded on the document are cause of death and manner of death, she said.
“A coroner cannot complete the medical certificate of death in the case of Ms. Babcock as they cannot answer the questions about cause and manner without examining a body,” Mahyr said.
“This is the legal dilemma.”
That leaves the family in an extremely rare bind. In the eyes of the court system, Laura Babcock is dead. In the eyes of the coroner’s office, solely on a technicality, she isn’t — which leads to things like voter cards still showing up at the family’s door.
“The two parties don’t communicate,” said Linda Babcock, who wants to see a legislative directive in situations where a murder has taken place, where the coroner’s office will accept a conviction as a judgment that a person is dead, body or not.
‘We have to get this pushed forward’
When CBC News first reported about this issue back in August, the ministry said it was “looking at ways of facilitating the issuance of a declaration of death in such cases upon conviction.”
But Babcock said no one from the ministry has told her anything about what’s going on with that process, almost seven weeks later.
“It would have been nice if they had contacted me … I’m the one sitting here,” she said.
In an email Tuesday, spokesperson Brian Gray said the ministry is “aware of the challenges that have been raised with respect to this matter.
“The concerns were shared with ministry officials and we continue to look at ways of facilitating the issuance of a declaration of death in such cases upon conviction,” Gray said.
Linda Babcock did appear before a judge in August to get a court order declaring her daughter dead. Gray noted in his email this happened on Aug. 12.
He said he believes that court order would be “the equivalent” of the coroner’s medical declaration of death, but the coroner’s office could not immediately be reached to confirm if that’s the case.
Babcock, for her part, says no one has told her the issue has been resolved. She says her understanding is she would now have to get a lawyer, go to court again and petition the coroner’s office to officially register her daughter’s death.
“But then this could happen again,” she said. “That’s why I’m holding out for a law to be put in place … if I just [went to court again], nothing would change.
“We have to get this pushed forward and taken care of.”