The last sign of life was a shaggy, white dog.
Clayton and Linda Babcock arrived home last June to find their daughter’s two-year-old Maltese, Lacey, had been dropped off without warning.
Laura Babcock, 23, was last seen in Toronto on June 26, 2012. She hasn’t been heard from in almost a year.
Her last phone call, according to phone records, was to Dellen Millard, the 27-year-old Etobicoke man charged with the murder of Ancaster resident Tim Bosma.
Toronto police are now investigating Babcock’s disappearance in connection to Millard, something his lawyer dismissed as “speculation”.
“I would almost think the dog has kept us sane,” Clayton Babcock told Torstar News Service at the family’s Toronto home. “Laura wanted to be a free spirit.”
After graduating from high school with honours and earning a degree in English and drama from the University of Toronto, Laura — a “social butterfly” — became restless under her parents’ roof.
She was crashing at friends’ houses, hanging out with girls she met through her sorority, the Babcocks said. She would float in and out of the family home. But then she missed Christmas, and her birthday in February.
Linda Babcock remembers Millard would come to the house to pick up her daughter — who started using the name Elle Ryan — for parties or to hang out.
But police never interviewed Millard in connection with their daughter’s disappearance, the Babcocks said. After the detective assigned to her file was reassigned, they weren’t sure what had happened to the case.
“All this information was in their hands,” Linda Babcock said, tearing up as she spoke about Laura. “We don’t know anything more than we’ve known since the beginning.”
Shawn Lerner, Laura’s ex-boyfriend, last saw her on June 26, 2012, when she called looking for a place to stay. Lerner put her up at a hotel in the Queen St. W. and Roncesvalles Ave. area and took her out for dinner. He wouldn’t hear from her again.
“It’s so uncharacteristic of her,” he said. “For her to just escape and hide somewhere and not tell anyone, it just doesn’t make sense.”
Lerner said Laura was bubbly, a kid at heart who worked in a toy store and loved board games.
Linda Babcock is hopeful the renewed attention to the case will help bring her daughter home. “They have to find her now.”
As police probe Laura’s disappearance they appear to be wrapping up the extensive ground search that followed the discovery of Bosma’s charred body.
Police confirmed for the first time on Tuesday that his remains were found at the sprawling Waterloo farm purchased by Millard in May 2011.
At the rolling, grassy property partly covered in dense woods, a search was concluded on Tuesday, said Hamilton police Const. Debbie McGreal.
Large tents had been taken down and only two cruisers guarded the scene. Outside the front gate, a small memorial held now-withered flowers.
Police have denied earlier reports that additional remains were found at the farm over the weekend.
A spokesperson for the coroner’s office said Bosma’s body had not been released as of Tuesday afternoon. The remains will likely be absent at a funeral the family has scheduled for 11 a.m. Wednesday.
Police confirmed they are looking for two outstanding suspects in Bosma’s death, after he took two men for a test drive in his 2007 Dodge Ram on May 6. It is believed he was followed by a second vehicle.
Earlier, police said they were looking for at least two suspects, but have not explained how they came to the definitive number.
Hamilton police’s lead homicide investigator, Det.-Sgt. Matt Kavanagh, told the Hamilton Spectator he does not believe the public is in any danger.
“You’ll just have to trust me on this,” he said when asked to explain.
While investigators continue their search, a legal spat has erupted between Millard’s lawyer and another high-profile law firm.
Deepak Paradkar, who is defending Millard, said a Derstine Penman associate visited his client at the Hamilton-Wentworth Detention Centre without his consent, contravening the Law Society of Upper Canada’s rules of professional conduct.
“He did not solicit their services nor did he solicit a second opinion,” Paradkar said. “The family has full confidence in my ability to represent him.”
Dirk Derstine, a partner at the firm, said they did visit Millard in jail and tried to contact Paradkar afterward.
“Our contact with Mr. Millard was above board,” Derstine said. “It was not unsolicited.”