The small-town Ontario farm is a picture of spring on most days.
Marked by corn stubble and a windrow of tall trees, the Ayr, Ont., site, about an hour west of Toronto, is a favourite destination for many locals in search of mushrooms and maple syrup.
But on Tuesday, a dark undertaking was playing out as a forensics team worked into the evening sifting through evidence. Police announced earlier in the day they had found remains in the Waterloo region belonging to Tim Bosma, a 32-year-old Hamilton-area father who disappeared more than a week after taking two men for a test drive in his pickup truck.
His body was “burned beyond recognition,” Detective Sergeant Matt Kavanagh said.
The grisly discovery is the latest in a case that has captured the attention of people far beyond the Ontario region since the disappearance of Mr. Bosma, who was last seen on May 6 driving away from his rural home with two men who claimed to be interested in buying the 2007 Dodge Ram he’d posted for sale online.
Dellen Millard, the scion of a prominent aviation family, was arrested on Sunday. The 27-year-old will now face charges of first-degree murder in addition to charges of forcible confinement and theft over $5,000 in relation to the disappearance.
The police investigation involves more than 120 officers – most of them searching a farm property in Ayr, south of Kitchener, which records show Mr. Millard bought two years ago for $835,000.
The discovery took the investigative heft of six police agencies, whose efforts will turn to sifting through evidence discovered on farmland owned by Mr. Millard and tracking down at least two more suspects.
The news devastated the family of Mr. Bosma. In the days after his disappearance, his wife, Sharlene, and mother, Mary, made emotional appeals for his safe return, spawning a massive social-media campaign and postering effort.
“The agony in this house is indescribable,” Peter Lowe, a spokesman for the family, wrote on a Facebook page set up to help find Mr. Bosma that was flooded with condolence messages.
For a second day, investigators also searched an aircraft hangar owned by Mr. Millard at the Region of Waterloo International Airport. Members of the force’s auto squad were focusing on several vehicles found in the hangar.
Under the Criminal Code, any murder is raised to first-degree when it also involves kidnapping and forcible confinement.
Deepak Paradkar, Mr. Millard’s lawyer, said Tuesday that he was in court on another case and was unaware of the development.
“I don’t have any comment as I have not been advised by police nor the Crown of this,” he said by e-mail late in the morning.
Det. Sgt. Kavanagh said Mr. Bosma, a churchgoer and family man, was targeted for his truck.
After the announcement by police Tuesday morning, a stream of family and friends arrived at the Bosma home bearing flowers.
A little after noon, the minister at the Ancaster Christian Reformed Church, John Veenstra, was changing the church’s sign from “Find Tim” to “Pray for the Bosma family.”
“All this for a truck,” he lamented, shortly after peeling a Bosma bumper sticker off his truck and taking down a Bosma poster from the church door. “A life devastated, a family devastated, all for a used truck.”
Mr. Veenstra visited the Bosmas, long-time worshippers at the church, earlier in the morning and called them “devastated.”
“How would you feel if your husband, dad or brother had been rubbed out, burned?” he said. “The best thing I can offer them is a hug and a shoulder to cry on.”
Neighbours said they would miss the outgoing young dad whom they remember for once visiting on Halloween with his baby girl dressed as a pumpkin. The couple’s daughter is now two years old.
“This is much too close to home, just terrible,” said Isabelle Brymer, who recalled the tight bond between Mr. Bosma and Ava, the family’s Great Dane. “His dog loved its master more than anything else.”
Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne also offered condolences to Mr. Bosma’s family via Twitter.
Mr. Millard, who is in custody and has a court appearance scheduled on Wednesday, has not spoken with investigators, Mr. Paradkar said on Monday.
Mr. Paradkar said Mr. Millard and his family were “shocked” by the allegations, saying he is a humble young man who comes from an affluent family and would have no reason to steal a truck. In addition to his family aviation company and the land near Kitchener, records show the pilot and car enthusiast owns several other properties in the Greater Toronto Area.
Police say they seized a large trailer containing Mr. Bosma’s black Dodge from Mr. Millard’s mother’s home in Kleinburg, north of Toronto, on Sunday.
Another Dodge Ram owner led investigators to Mr. Millard. He said two men had test-driven his truck one day before Mr. Bosma’s disappearance and provided a description matching Mr. Millard’s appearance, right down to an “ambition” tattoo police say is etched on his wrist.
Mr. Millard’s grandfather, Carl, founded Millardair, a charter airline and storage company, which was passed on to Dellen’s father, Wayne. The company was primed to open a 50,000-square-foot hangar for heavy-aircraft maintenance work at the Waterloo airport late last year, according to an article in the aviation magazine Canadian Skies.
However, after Wayne died in late 2012, Millardair’s operations appear to have shrunk. Dellen, who became the youngest pilot to fly solo in both a single-engine airplane and a helicopter when he turned 14, is now CEO of the company, his lawyer said. The company cancelled a key operational certificate required from Transport Canada in February, according to a departmental spokeswoman.
Last fall, Millardair hired several mechanics and other staff in preparation for launching its aircraft repair and maintenance business, according to an employee at another company based at the Waterloo airport. However, after Wayne’s death the workers were laid off and neighbours spotted little activity at Millardair’s new hangar. One online listing shows the hangar was available for lease.
Indeed, an archived version of Millardair MRO’s website from October shows 13 job openings and says applications were pending for regulatory approvals.
However, Mr. Paradkar said the firm was recently “tooling up” to continue its operations.
With a report from Rick Cash