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Pastor Everett Vander Horst of the Meadowlands Christian Reformed Church in Ancaster, Ont., where Mr. Bosma lived, says there is a sense of anticipation and apprehension in the community about the upcoming trial. (Peter Power for The Globe and Mail)
Pastor Everett Vander Horst of the Meadowlands Christian Reformed Church in Ancaster, Ont., where Mr. Bosma lived, says there is a sense of anticipation and apprehension in the community about the upcoming trial. (Peter Power for The Globe and Mail)

Tim Bosma murder trial raises uneasy truths for community Add to ...

The killing of Tim Bosma inflicted a wound on his community that has stopped bleeding, but has not healed.

In the coming weeks, two men – a privileged millionaire and his alleged sidekick – will stand trial in the first-degree murder of the young father and husband. The case made national and international headlines: A man puts an ad online to sell his high-end Dodge Ram pickup, joins two men who arrived at his door for a test drive, tells his wife he’ll be right back – and never returns.

The details of Mr. Bosma’s last minutes, how and why he was killed, will be presented by the Crown on Feb. 1 after 1,800 potential jurors are whittled down to 12 in a process that started Monday. It’s unlikely, though, that the revelations will provide much comfort to the community left reeling by Mr. Bosma’s death in May, 2013.

“The feelings here are complicated because I think, on the one hand, there is a sense of sombre anticipation. It’s coming up on three years in May and it’s time for the wheels of justice to begin to roll,” said Rev. Everett Vander Horst of the Meadowlands Christian Reformed Church in Ancaster, Ont., where Mr. Bosma lived. “On the other hand, there is a sense of apprehension about how difficult this is going to be for his wife, Sharlene, and the Bosma family.

“How ugly is this going to be, learning about the monsters who live among us?”

The days after Mr. Bosma went missing were a flurry of hashtags, Facebook posts and thousands of flyers tucked under windshields and slapped on poles. The Bosmas’ garage was a command post for an army of volunteers. The story of the missing 32-year-old went viral across Canada, and police set up special lines to handle hundreds of tips. Key clues trickled in, including Mr. Bosma’s cellphone found in Brantford and descriptions of a suspect from another man selling a truck.

Soon came the arrest of aviation heir Dellen Millard and the discovery of Mr. Bosma’s truck stashed in a trailer in the driveway of Mr. Millard’s mother. But what happened to Tim?

“It was just a truck. It is just a truck. You don’t need him. But I do. And our daughter needs her daddy back,” Sharlene pleaded as six police services worked to find him. “So please, please let him come home.”

Instead, Mr. Bosma’s burned remains were found eight days after he disappeared on a rural property owned by Mr. Millard in Waterloo Region, about 40 minutes away from his home. Since that spring night, there have been more questions than answers, the central one being: Why kill a man for a pickup truck?

“There are lots of strange and bizarre elements in this case,” Canadian crime writer Rob Tripp said.

The incineration of the body, the privileged and party-boy background of Mr. Millard, have fascinated observers. But the close-lipped nature of investigators and Crown attorneys about the evidence they have amassed against Mr. Millard and co-accused Mark Smich mean that the narrative of this crime – at least the prosecution’s version – will only be revealed in the courtroom. Both men have pleaded not guilty to killing Mr. Bosma.

The Crown took the unusual step of proceeding in the case by preferred indictment, meaning there was no preliminary trial in which the Crown is normally tasked with proving to the court there is enough evidence to proceed to trial. Three lawyers will present the Crown’s case, something unprecedented in Hamilton.

“I think the public fascination is in watching a case unfold in court and waiting to see if there is an explanation for why someone would do something so evil,” Mr. Tripp said. “But a lot of the time, the answers are unsatisfying because they are not rational or reasonable.”

The Bosma family declined to speak on the eve of the trial, but have worked hard to ensure Mr. Bosma was known as more than just a victim. They’ve told stories of how he doted on his young daughter and teased his nephews and nieces. He was a hard-working, simple guy who loved backyard bonfires and his Great Dane and was putting the final touches on his dream home.

In the early days, there were skeptics who said surely there was some secret Mr. Bosma carried that would put him face-to-face with violence. It couldn’t just be random, could it?

The truth, according to police – that Mr. Bosma was an innocent victim who opened his door to the wrong people – has been hard for the community to accept.

“We all hope that if you’re a good person and you live a good life that evil won’t rain down upon you,” said Bill Kelly, a long-time Hamilton radio talk-show host who has spent hours on the air discussing Mr. Bosma’s death. “This wasn’t just a tragedy. This was evil. And it was frightening because if it could happen to him, then it could happen to me.”

Eighty per cent of murder victims in Canada know their killer, said Mr. Tripp, who tracks crime statistics.

“I think the stranger component is the most fascinating part of this case,” he said. “It was a rare and sensational act of violence.”

Mr. Millard and Mr. Smich are also charged with first-degree murder in the death of Mr. Millard’s friend Laura Babcock, who disappeared in July, 2012. Mr. Millard faces the same charge in connection with the shooting of his 71-year-old father Wayne Millard in November, 2012, a death previously ruled a suicide. Those trials will proceed separately.

Michelle Fawcett, a mother of three, says she became “obsessed” with the Bosma case, reading everything she could find and joining a Facebook group dedicated to the crime. “I just couldn’t stop thinking about it,” she said. “Nothing made sense and nothing seemed human anymore.” She thought about all the times her husband bought and sold musical instruments and camera equipment online.

The complicated case, expected to take five months, will be heard in Courtroom 600 in the John Sopinka Courthouse in downtown Hamilton. It seats 150 and there are plans for a spill-over room.

Answers, if they come at all, won’t be easy to hear and may not be enough, said Mr. Vander Horst.

“People are wondering will justice be served and what will that even look like,” the minister said.

“What will it take to be satisfied at the end of all this?”

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