HAMILTON — Grieving relatives of an Ontario man killed after taking two strangers on a test drive three years ago broke into smiles and tears of relief Friday as the two men were found guilty of first-degree murder, setting off a wave of celebration that rippled through the courthouse and out onto the street.
Gasps rang out in the Hamilton courtroom as the jury announced the convictions of Dellen Millard, 30, of Toronto, and Mark Smich, 28, of Oakville, both of whom had pleaded not guilty to the murder charges.
Cheers erupted moments later as Bosma’s family members, including his widow, Sharlene Bosma, walked out of the courtroom to a crowd of supporters. “We won!” one supporter said, a sentiment that was echoed by several others.
The family later gathered outside to a raucous crowd of friends, strangers and a deluge of media as Sharlene Bosma described the ordeal that began with her husband’s disappearance.
“For over three years we have waited for justice for Tim,” she said.
“For three years we have been in and out of this courthouse to look at and breathe in the same space with the utter depths of depravity in our society. We have had to endure being near the two men that walked down my driveway that took away the bright life that is Tim.”
While the verdict comes as a relief, nothing can bring back the beloved husband and father whose life was unfairly cut short, she said, adding the family has only begun to rebuild.
WATCH: ‘Justice has been done’: Crown lawyer discusses guilty verdicts for Dellen Millard, Mark Smich
The jury deliberated for five days before coming to a decision Friday afternoon.
The conviction carries an automatic life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years, which means Millard and Smich won’t be eligible for parole before 2038 after being credited for time already spent in custody.
Both are barred from owning weapons or communicating with the Bosma family and have been ordered to submit a DNA sample for the national databank.
The two men declined to comment when given the chance to speak to the court, but Smich’s lawyer said his client would seek an appeal.
In sentencing the pair, Justice Andrew Goodman said their “despicable and callous actions” had led to the death of an “innocent, decent, hard-working and beloved family man.”
What happened to Bosma is “incomprehensible and unimaginable,” he said. “To the Bosma family, I am sorry for your loss.”
Bosma’s disappearance on May 6, 2013 made headlines across Canada and sparked a massive week-long search that saw more than 100 police officers scouring Millard’s properties in Waterloo Region.
Millard, the heir to an aviation empire, was arrested before Bosma’s charred remains were found. Smich was arrested more than a week later, just hours before a memorial service that saw hundreds pay tribute to the Hamilton man.
The two men are also charged with first-degree murder in the death of Laura Babcock, a 23-year-old Toronto woman who vanished in the summer of 2012. Police say Babcock, whose body was never found, was romantically involved with Millard. The trial into her slaying is expected to begin early next year.
Smich intends to plead not guilty to those charges. It is not known how Millard will plead in that case, but he has said he plans to represent himself at trial. Millard also faces first-degree murder charges in the death of his father, Wayne Millard, in November 2012, which was initially deemed a suicide. A date for that trial hasn’t been set yet.
Prosecutors in the Bosma case have alleged Millard and Smich – then a drug dealer – planned for more than a year to steal a truck, kill its owner and incinerate the body.
The trial, which began hearing evidence on Feb. 1, has pitted the two former friends against each other as each man said the other had carried out the fatal shooting.
WATCH: ‘We have waited for justice’: Tim Bosma’s widow reacts to guilty verdicts
Smich, who was the only accused to take the stand, told court they were “scoping” out trucks Millard wanted to steal when they went on the test drive.
With his friend at the wheel and Bosma in the passenger seat, Smich testified that he got out of the truck early on and followed the two men in Millard’s truck.
It was only after they both got out of their trucks at the side of the road that Smich saw Bosma slumped on the dashboard, with blood splattered everywhere and a bullet hole in the passenger window, he told the court.
Shocked and terrified, Smich said he followed Millard’s orders and helped burn Bosma’s body in an animal incinerator dubbed “The Eliminator” and strip and clean the truck.
Millard’s lawyer Ravin Pillay gave an entirely different account, laying blame for the murder at Smich’s feet.
In his closing arguments, Pillay argued that Smich, desperate for money, pulled a gun on Bosma, who was fatally shot by accident as he tried to fend off his attacker.
Millard, Pillay said, feared he’d be blamed for the death and helped his friend cover it up.
Jurors heard from more than 90 witnesses, including a man who went on a test drive with the pair a day before Bosma disappeared and whose description helped police link the two men to the case.
Forensic experts said the slain man’s blood was found throughout his truck and on the outside of the incinerator, which was found on Millard’s farm near Waterloo, Ont.