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Toronto family receives death certificate years after daughter was murdered

Clayton Babcock, right, stands next to his wife Linda as he reads a prepared statement outside court in Toronto on Saturday, December 16, 2017. Two men accused of killing a young Toronto woman and burning her body have been found guilty of first-degree murder. Dellen Millard and Mark Smich had pleaded not guilty to the charges related to the death of 23-year-old Laura Babcock, whose body has not been found. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

Linda and Clayton Babcock have known for two years that their daughter suffered a horrific death – her body burned in an animal incinerator – but they have finally received an official document that proves the 23-year-old is dead.

Two men were convicted and sentenced to life in prison in 2017 in Laura Babcock’s shooting death, but her body was never found and the coroner could not declare her dead. That left the young woman’s family tangled in a bureaucratic battle that involved the courts and lasted about 18 months.

Then Premier Doug Ford knocked on their door last month and hand-delivered their daughter’s death certificate.

“Getting the death certificate was like starting all over again,” Linda Babcock said in an interview. “It’s been really tough around here.”

The family’s struggle prompted the province to amend the Vital Statistics Act to allow courts to declare that “an individual has died after disappearing in circumstances of peril, and where the death took place in or is presumed to have taken place in Ontario.”

The new regulation, which took effect Monday, will become known as Laura’s Law, with details to be announced at Queen’s Park on Wednesday.

“It really is a no brainer, it just had to be pointed out,” Linda Babcock said.

The family’s saga began when a voter registration card came in the mail for her daughter before the provincial election in the spring of 2018. That letter arrived about five months after a jury found Dellen Millard and his friend, Mark Smich, guilty of first-degree murder in the death of Laura Babcock.

The jury agreed with the Crown’s case that the pair killed Babcock, who once dated Millard, and burned her remains.

But soon after the two month-trial concluded, the Babcocks realized the coroner would not be issuing a death certificate for their daughter.

Linda Babcock called her local legislator, but when that seemed like it was going nowhere, she reached out to Ford, who promptly responded, she said.

When Ford arrived with the death certificate a few weeks ago, it left the family with mixed emotions.

“Oh, God, how horrible. It brings it all to the forefront, again,” Linda Babcock said.

Yet it also put the family’s mind at ease. Somewhere, in the back of her head, the grieving mother was worried that since her daughter wasn’t legally dead, her convicted killers could use that in their ongoing appeals.

“Now I have security, now the boys can’t say ‘Oh we’re in jail for someone who isn’t legally dead? That’s not right,”’ she said.