The Ontario buyer said he wanted to dispose of dead farm animals.
When the man placed an order for a portable livestock incinerator last summer, he asked all the usual questions about the device's size and fuel source. Soon after, the unit was shipped for about $15,000.
But nearly a year later, salesman Bill Penner was horrified to learn the incinerator was linked to the grisly May death of Tim Bosma, a husband and father whose charred remains were found on Dellen Millard's farm after he'd been missing for a week. Police said Mr. Bosma's body had been "burned beyond recognition."
"We're terribly sad for the family," said Mr. Penner, who works at Tristar Dairy Centre, the Manitoba-based distributor. "That's not what the unit is for."
After Mr. Millard bought the bucolic plot of land south of Kitchener in May, 2011, neighbours said livestock were never seen on the property. "There was definitely no animals there," said Tom Sherk, who drives past the farm every day.
Why Mr. Bosma fell victim to such brutality after taking two men to test-drive his 2007 Dodge Ram on May 6 is the subject of speculation among Canadians baffled by motive and intent. Investigators remain tight-lipped about the high-profile case and about the connection between the pair accused of first-degree murder: Mr. Millard, 27, and Mark Smich, 25.
But based on their Internet footprints, they appear to be friends, each travelling a winding path that sometimes took dark turns: Mr. Millard in software design, culinary arts, soft-core porn photography and cars; Mr. Smich in low-level crime, so-called horror art and rap music under the nickname "Say10" (a common play on "Satan").
Mr. Millard's lawyer, Deepak Paradkar, said his jailed client is a "philosopher" who now spends 30 minutes outside in a cage each day and has been reading up on the law ahead of trial. Mr. Smich's lawyer, meantime, has said little about a client who appeared last fall in a gory rap video portraying a hatchet-wielding killer.
Both of the accused have maintained their innocence through their legal counsel.
While Hamilton Police have offered few details, the incinerator provides a haunting glimpse into the evidence. Typically used by poultry farmers, the SuperNova SN500 model holds 500 pounds of waste and burns 125 pounds an hour at temperatures up to 871 C. An employee of the Millard family's aviation company, Millardair, handled the transaction around July of last year, Mr. Penner said.
Since police seized the incinerator from Mr. Millard's farm, investigators have been in regular contact with both Mr. Penner and SuperNova Manufacturing in Georgia. Tim Cook, a manager there, said police asked "how it operates and how long it takes for cremation and things like that."
Mr. Millard sports a tattoo on his wrist that says "Ambition," but his past reveals a pattern of starting things and not necessarily finishing them.
Born into a life of privilege, Mr. Millard was a teenaged, record-setting pilot who later abandoned his father Wayne's dream of running an aircraft maintenance hub at their multimillion-dollar hangar in Waterloo. Instead, he allegedly stored stolen cars and auto parts there. He used his family's earlier Toronto hangar to host a rave and take photos of a naked woman for a 2005 online album entitled "Cockpit."
The photos are posted on SuicideGirls, a paid soft-core porn website featuring tattooed and pierced models that claims more than five million unique visitors monthly. Mr. Millard's subject, "Josie," coyly wrote that her first "official act as captain was to make the DC-4 a 'clothing-strictly-prohibited' aircraft."
Mr. Millard attended the prestigious Toronto French School but left after Grade 10. He studied 3D games animation at Humber College in 2002 but was once "caught red-handed" plagiarizing the work of his classmates, according to a source at the college.
He is passionate about cars and even employed a mechanic to look after his collection, but after starting a 500-mile off-road race on Mexico's Baja peninsula two years ago, he and his friend pulled their yellow Jeep TJ out of the race at the sixth mile, a competitor said.
"If you met him, you would have no idea who he was or where he was from or that he had money because he'd never present like that," Mr. Paradkar said of his client, who was arrested on May 10 and has no criminal record. "He'd always present like, 'I'm just Joe Blow average guy.'"
Mr. Millard also spent time on a gaming website called Steam. His avatar – a graphic picture of himself with a bloody eye – was last modified on Nov. 13. Sixteen days later, his father died, reportedly of a gunshot wound to the eye. Police originally deemed his death a suicide, but are now re-investigating. No charges have been laid.
It was staged to look like a murder scene: plastic sheets covering the floor and walls to shield against blood, and a single light bulb dangling above an otherwise dark space. The star of the rap video wore coveralls and rubber gloves, blindfolding his subjects before pretending to torture them with a hatchet.
The star was Mr. Smich, and the man behind the 2012 video is one of several people who have gone online proclaiming his innocence.
Beyond posting a defence on the video's YouTube page, the producer, who identified himself as James Crockett, said in an e-mail that Mr. Smich is "the type of guy who stayed home to take care of his sick mother and dogs." And Toronto model Aly Stewart, who appears to be friends with both Mr. Smich and Mr. Crockett, wrote on Twitter: "Its all love SAY10. 25bid, we'll still be here for you. I can't believe this sh-t. I love u man." (25bid is street slang for a life prison sentence.)
Mr. Smich's rap sheet includes possession of cocaine and magic mushrooms, failure to appear in court, breach of a mandated curfew and driving while impaired. In the fall of 2012, he and another man were chased by police after allegedly spray-painting a highway overpass, authorities said at the time.
It remains unclear how Mr. Smich and Mr. Millard know each other, although a photograph has emerged of the pair outside Mr. Smich's Oakville home. Mr. Millard's Internet gaming profile may reveal another link: One of his friends on Steam is a user with an uncommon name spelled almost exactly like Mr. Smich's co-accused in the overpass incident. (The man's identity is protected by a publication ban in relation to Mr. Smich's murder charge.)
On the quiet Montrose Abbey Drive block where the photo was taken, neighbour Fred James sometimes saw Mr. Smich mowing his mother's lawn and shovelling the driveway, but said he and his wife would cross the street to avoid Mr. Smich and his friends because they felt "uncomfortable."
Mr. Smich, who after his May 22 arrest is in prison in Thorold, outside St. Catharines, is slated to make his next court appearance on Aug. 1 with Mr. Millard. Mr. Smich's lawyer, Thomas Dungey, did not respond to interview requests but has publicly promised to defend the case "vigorously."
Last July, around the same time the SuperNova incinerator was purchased, Laura Babcock, a longtime friend of Mr. Millard's, went missing.
Ms. Babcock and Mr. Millard had begun a sexual relationship in the first half of 2012 while Mr. Millard had a girlfriend, said Shawn Lerner, Ms. Babcock's ex-boyfriend and close friend. The phone records of Ms. Babcock, a 24-year-old University of Toronto graduate, show she was last in touch with Mr. Millard on July 3. Police say Ms. Babcock had started working in the sex trade.
Mr. Millard, who is being investigated in relation to Ms. Babcock's disappearance, later told Mr. Lerner that she had been asking him for drugs and a place to stay, which Mr. Millard said he declined.
Ms. Babcock's aunt, Lori Ryan, is optimistic her niece will come home, clinging to the fact that police found nothing when they dug up Mr. Millard's farm last month.
"My hopes are that she is [alive]," she said, "and that she'll just walk through the door one day."