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Murder victims’ families outraged over Ontario killer move to medium-security prison

TORONTO — The families of two people killed by an Ontario man are demanding answers from the federal government after the multiple murderer was moved to a medium-security prison. 

They say Mark Smich should be serving his life sentences in a maximum-security prison.

While Smich was moved two years ago, the families say they are speaking out now after recent national outrage over a similar transfer of serial killer Paul Bernardo. That transfer is under review, and the families of Smich’s victims are calling for similar scrutiny of Smich’s file.

“Does anyone really think that someone who has killed several people and never expressed any remorse is going to be a new person after their sentence?” Linda Babcock, the mother of one of Smich’s victims, told The Canadian Press.

“Why should you kill two people, write a song about it and then be in a more comfortable location – come on.”

Smich, along with his friend Dellen Millard, killed 23-year-old Laura Babcock – Millard’s former flame – in July 2012. The pair went on to kill a stranger, Hamilton’s Tim Bosma, 32, after taking him and his truck for a test drive 10 months later.

In 2016, a jury found both guilty of first-degree murder in the death of Bosma. In 2017, another jury found the pair guilty of first-degree murder for the death of Babcock, whose body has never been found.

Last week, Ontario’s highest court dismissed the killers’ appeals on both murders. They are currently serving two life sentences each.

The pair were originally sent to Millhaven Institution in Bath, Ont., a maximum-security prison outside Kingston, Ont., that houses some of Canada’s most notorious criminals.

In May of 2021, five years after his first conviction, Smich was transferred to Beaver Creek Institution, a medium-security prison in Gravenhurst, Ont., before briefly moving to another medium-security prison and then back to Beaver Creek.

The families got notification of Smich’s move, but not an explanation, said Linda Babcock, Laura Babcock’s mother.

While the fact Smich is in medium security has weighed on the Babcocks and Bosmas for a while, the families say the national furor over Bernardo’s transfer prompted them to speak out.

Bernardo’s move from maximum security to a medium-security prison in Quebec triggered cross-country anger and even calls for the resignation of the public safety minister in recent weeks.

Linda Babcock, speaking on behalf of her family and the Bosmas, said Smich’s transfer deserves a review too. 

On Monday, she wrote to Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino to make her case. 

“Could you please explain to my family and the family of his other victim, Tim Bosma, why this person who murdered our children should not be in a maximum-security prison?” she wrote.

The families have not heard back from the minister, she said.

Mendicino’s office said he plans to issue a directive to ensure the public safety minister is personally informed when a high-profile inmate is to be transferred and that the correctional service notifies victims in advance of such decisions being made.

“Our thoughts are with all victims, and their families and friends during these difficult moments,” Mendicino’s office wrote in a statement.

“Minister Mendicino will be issuing a ministerial directive to the Correctional Service of Canada requiring that they put victims at the centre of their approach and process when it comes to transfers.”

Mendicino was not the minister at the time of Smich’s move – it was Bill Blair, now emergency preparedness minister.

Correctional Service Canada declined to comment on Smich’s transfer, citing privacy rights, which Babcock took issue with.

“The powers that be are so worried about the prisoner’s rights and comfort, but we wake up every day without our daughter, they denied her life,” she said.

Smich’s lawyer, Richard Litkowski, also declined to comment on his client’s location or the conditions under which he is incarcerated.

But he did say, speaking generally, “that it is disappointing for elected officials to be commenting on a specific decision of the CSC.” 

“(Correctional Service Canada) is a body that is guided by a set of detailed statutory and regulatory criteria. Uninformed criticism of these decisions for what I can only guess is some perceived political advantage is to be lamented, not applauded,” he said.

The Babcocks and Bosmas have the support of Ontario Premier Doug Ford.

“I am totally disgusted to hear that one of the murderers of Laura Babcock and Tim Bosma has been moved to a medium-security prison,” Ford said this week. 

“This is a disturbing pattern within the federal prison system that needs to be addressed. The offenders of heinous, violent crimes should remain in maximum-security prisons where they belong. We owe it to their victims and their families.”

– with files from Jordan Omstead.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 22, 2023.

Liam Casey, The Canadian Press

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