Safety, Security, and Crime Headlines


Toronto Star

After delays, cost overruns, and tragedy, a subway to Vaughan is complete

Dec 16, 2017 9:04:46 PM

spadina subway extension after delays cost overruns and tragedy a subway to vaughan is complete 16 12 2017 transportation gta news thestar dam content  https:

When trains carrying the first passengers on the Spadina subway extension start rolling Sunday morning, it will mark the opening of the first addition to Toronto’s rapid transit network in more than a decade.

But while Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Premier Kathleen Wynne, Mayor John Tory and the other dignitaries who gathered at the new Vaughan Metropolitan Centre station Friday to finally cut the ribbon on the project were all smiles, the journey to opening day was anything but smooth.

The completion of the line, an extension of the TTC’s Line 1, will extend the TTC subway outside of Toronto’s borders for the first time and was the culmination of a decades-long saga marked by political feuds, hundreds of millions of dollars in cost overruns, and a two-year delay. In the end, was the Spadina subway extension worth it?

For those who will enjoy service at one of the 8.6-kilometre extension’s six new stations, the answer is undoubtedly yes.

Read more:

Spadina extension has been in the works for decades

Students at York University, whose commutes by bus to the campus off of Keele St. and Steeles Ave. West are notoriously guelling, are celebrating.

“We’re more excited than you can understand. It’s a big deal,” said David Ampofo, a first-year software engineering student, who every day takes the subway from Wilson to Sheppard West station and then has to wait in a long, “painful” line to catch a bus to the university. Sometimes as many as 200 students could be caught waiting, he said.

He expects the extension to cut his commute from 40 minutes to 10. By 2020, the TTC predicts there will be close to 14 million annual boardings and alightings at the two stations serving the campus.

“This is something we can all look forward to and celebrate,” Ampofo said.

Officials in Vaughan believe the two new TTC stations within their borders will be transformational. They’re hoping a new city centre will take shape around the extension’s terminus at Vaughan Metropolitan Centre.

“We are presently living through Vaughan’s golden era where everything is perfectly aligned to provide citizens with the best city they could possibly dream of,” said Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua.

Around the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre station is 179 hectares — about 300 soccer fields — worth of development opportunities, Bevilacqua said. The city wants to see offices, retail space and residential units built up around the station, some of which has already begun.

Vaughan councillors have recently approved 11 condominium towers, an eight-storey office building, and Edgeley Pond and Park spanning 7.5 hectares. Last year financial giant KPMG opened a 14-storey office tower steps from the subway station.

“The subway is becoming the core of York Region,” Bevilacqua said.

The $3.2-billion subway project was jointly funded by three levels of government, with Ottawa contributing $697 million, the province $974 million, the city of Toronto $904 million, and York Region $604 million. The extension’s operating costs, estimated at about $25 million annually, will be borne entirely by the TTC.

But if the project came about because of intergovernmental co-operation, it was a point of political friction for decades after it was first pitched in the 1980s, with Metro council and then Toronto council flip-flopping on the idea for 30 years.

In May of 1988, York Centre MPP Greg Sorbara called for expanding the Spadina subway line to York University to better connect it to Toronto, boost TTC’s flagging ridership and make it easier for people to go to work. His words would be repeated, often falling on deaf ears, by York University officials and York Region politicians in the years to come.

By 1992, Metro Council had rejected the extension to York University in what the Star reported to be a shocking vote.

After another decade of officials squabbling over whether or not it would be worth it, York Region and the City of Toronto eventually pledged funding for the then-$1.5-billion extension. The province followed suit in 2006, but insisted the line continue all the way to what is now the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre.

The original completion date was set as 2015, but construction started almost year-and-a-half late due to difficulty finalizing funding agreements. A harsh winter, coupled with tunnelling problems under York University, slowed progress.

The project’s darkest day came Oct. 11, 2011, when Kyle Knox, a 24-year-old backhoe operator, was killed when a drilling rig tipped over at the York University station site.

The ministry of labour closed the location while it investigated, stopping work for four months and adding to project delays.

By early 2015 the extension was in danger of going off the rails. The cost, which had already jumped to $2.6 billion as the result of the decision to extend the line to the centre of Vaughan, was set to increase by another $400 million, and the opening date of 2016, already pushed back once, was deemed unachievable.

In March of that year, a livid Mayor Tory described the project as a “fiasco” and said someone had to be held accountable. A week later, the TTC fired two veteran managers.

The TTC turned over management of the project to Bechtel, granting the engineering firm an $80-million sole-source contract, which TTC CEO Andy Byford argued was the only way to ensure the opening date wouldn’t slip to 2018 or 2019.

Although the reset mitigated delays, the TTC is still settling claims from contractors who allege they’re owed money for work on the line, and will likely spend years sorting out payments. The transit agency says it’s confident settlement costs won’t exceed the existing budget.

Judged solely in terms of ridership, the extension doesn’t put up impressive numbers, and least not in the immediate future.

According to the TTC, the extension will carry 24 million riders annually by 2020. However, the majority of those are people who already take existing TTC services.

The agency predicts the extension will add just 1.2 million net new riders to the network next year, a small amount compared to the 535 million annual customers the agency already serves.

Steven Farber, a transportation geographer and assistant professor and the University of Toronto Scarborough, argues that despite the ridership projections the extension could have substantial benefits.

In a paper published earlier this year, he evaluated Toronto transit projects by determining the number of new people and jobs they would make accessible. The measure is important because the number of employment opportunities people can access from a transit stop will attract residential development to the area, and the number of people who can reach the area by public transit will draw businesses that need a supply of workers and customers.

He found that the Spadina extension would increase the number of new jobs and people accessible by 74 per cent and 50 per cent respectively.

“In terms of accessibility gains, it’s a clear success,” he said.

However, compared to other planned projects, the Spadina extension gives a lower return on investment. Farber calculated that every $1 billion spent on the Spadina extension would make roughly 760,000 jobs accessible to residents. By contrast, the planned Finch West LRT would make over 2 million jobs accessible for every $1 billion spent.

“The catch is that a subway is super expensive, and the cost for that amount of accessibility gain is pretty high,” Farber said.

Murtaza Haider, a Ryerson University professor who specializes in transportation planning, argued that Toronto shouldn’t be extending the subway network to the outskirts of the city before it addresses congestion closer to downtown. He noted the St. George interchange on the Spadina line is already crowded heading southbound on weekday mornings, and the Spadina extension risks simply adding more people.

“We continue to expand the system, adding capacity at the fringe, but not addressing the capacity constraints at the core,” he said.

“Without building the downtown relief line there’s not much merit going out extending transit to the suburbs.”

In an interview, Mayor Tory said he was “long past” debating the “wisdom” of building the Spadina extension. “I’m not sure I’d know,” he said.

He acknowledged that more development could have been integrated into the stations, which while architecturally impressive are stand-alone structures that don’t directly incorporate additional uses like office and residential space.

But the mayor predicted as long as Vaughan and Toronto enact policies supportive of new commercial and residential builds near the stops, development, and more transit users, will eventually come.

“I think you have too look at these transit projects in the longer term, you can’t look at them the day after they open, or the week after they open,” he said.

“The bottom line is, it’s built.”

Police investigating possible murder-suicide in deaths of billionaire and his wife

Dec 16, 2017 2:32:01 PM

barry sherman murder suicide is the working theory for police investigating death of billionaire and his wife 16 12 2017 gta news thestar dam content  https:

Toronto police are investigating the possibility that the deaths of billionaire Barry Sherman and his wife were a murder-suicide — a theory the family is rejecting as “irresponsible” rumors.

The bodies of Sherman, 75, and his wife, Honey, were found in their North York mansion just before noon Friday.

Officially, Toronto police have released little information about the deaths, beyond that they were deemed suspicious. But police sources confirm to the Star that police are now probing the possibility that they were a murder-suicide.

Late Saturday afternoon, the family of Barry and Honey Sherman released a statement saying they don’t believe theory. The couple have four children.

“Our parents shared an enthusiasm for life and commitment to their family and community totally inconsistent with the rumours regrettably circulated in the media as to the circumstances surrounding their deaths,” the statement said.

“We are shocked and think it’s irresponsible that police sources have reportedly advised the media of a theory which neither their family, their friends nor their colleagues believe to be true.

“We urge the Toronto Police Service to conduct a thorough, intensive and objective criminal investigation, and urge the media to refrain from further reporting as to the cause of these tragic deaths until the investigation is completed.”

The bodies were discovered by the couple’s real estate agent, who had been helping to sell the multimillion-dollar home. The agent entered the house after not being able to contact the couple.

The bodies were located together by the Shermans’ indoor pool, according to a police source.

The Toronto police homicide squad is being consulted on the investigation, but the squad has not taken over as lead investigators. As of Saturday afternoon, the case was being handled by detectives with Toronto police’s 33 Division.

A post-mortem on both bodies was being conducted Saturday.

Sherman, the founder of generic drug giant Apotex, was one of the richest men in the country, with an estimated net worth of $4.6 billion. He built Apotex from a two-employee company in Toronto into a global pharmaceutical organization that employs more than 11,000 people around the world.

Police said circumstances of the deaths “appear to be suspicious,” but noted they are not looking for any suspects and that there were no signs of forced entry.

After building their residence, the Shermans moved into the house in January 1991.

Friends and colleagues of the couple were heartbroken to hear of the deaths on Friday.

“All of us at Apotex are deeply shocked and saddened by this news and our thoughts and prayers are with the family at this time,” Apotex wrote in a news release.

On Saturday, the home page of the Apotex website memorialized Barry Sherman and the legacy he built.

“Dr. Sherman gave his life to the singular purpose of our organization — innovating for patient affordability,” the commemoration read. “Patients around the world live healthier and more fulfilled lives thanks to his life’s work, and his significant impact on healthcare and healthcare sustainability will have an enduring impact for many years to come.

“As employees, we are proud of his tremendous accomplishments, honoured to have known him, and vow to carry on with the Apotex purpose in his honour.”

The couple had donated millions across the city, from the United Jewish Appeal to the United Way. A charitable arm of Apotex has shipped millions of dollars worth of medicine to disaster zones.

In addition to donating to charities mainly in the Toronto area, Barry Sherman was a prominent backer of the Liberal party led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

This year, Karen Shepherd, the federal lobbying commissioner, said she was investigating the propriety of Sherman hosting a Liberal party fundraiser in 2015 that featured Trudeau before he was elected prime minister.

Because Sherman was registered as a lobbyist at the time, some political opponents and a political ethics group charged that the event violated federal lobbying rules. Apotex had asked a court to end the investigation, calling it an “unanchored fishing expedition.”

Trudeau was among many prominent Canadians who expressed sorrow over the Shermans’ deaths.

“Sophie (Grégoire Trudeau) and I are saddened by news of the sudden passing of Barry and Honey Sherman,” Trudeau wrote on Twitter. “Our condolences to their family & friends, and to everyone touched by their vision & spirit.”

Mayor John Tory also released a statement Friday.

“On behalf of all Toronto residents, I want to express my deepest condolences to the Sherman family.

With files from Victoria Gibson, Brennan Doherty, Jaren Kerr, Alex McKeen, The Canadian Press

Rosie DiManno: His letters to a girlfriend were the undoing of Dellen Millard

Dec 16, 2017 4:12:49 PM

millard smich combo his letters to a girlfriend were the undoing of dellen millard 14 12 2017 star columnists opinion thestar dam content  https:

Justice can be agonizing, even when the jury gets it right.

Little peace, or that chimerical thing called closure, can be found in a guilty verdict for the murderers of Laura Babcock. Not for her parents and not for her friends, just as there was precious little comfort for Tim Bosma’s widow and the child who will grow up never knowing her dad.

A six-week funeral, Clayton Babcock described the trial, after the jury returned its verdict on Saturday: First-degree murder convictions for Dellen Millard and Mark Smich, life sentences with no possibility of parole for 25 years. Sentences that could, depending on how the judge decides, run consecutively – a quarter-century more on top of the quarter-century imprisonment they’re already serving for the Bosma killing.

Either way, Millard and Smich will grow old behind bars, well into their 50s before they can breathe air again as free mortals.

“Today’s verdict really brings us little joy,” Mr. Babcock said outside the courthouse. “The loss of Laura is no less painful today than when it was realized five years ago. Like any parent that loses a child we can only move forward with the thoughts of what might have been.”

A grieving father forced to answer questions in cross-examination from the defendant accused of slaying her — Millard was self-represented — could finally unleash just a little bit of his fury.

“You all know what a wonderful woman (Laura) was, as well as all the pains and struggles that she faced. You also know about the evil beings that took her life. And if society’s lucky, we will not see them again in the streets.”

But we will see one of them again — Millard — in court, facing a third first-degree murder trial, in the death of his own father, initially ruled a suicide.

That’s serial murderer territory. Dangerous offender territory. Life ever after behind bars territory.

It took the jury five days of deliberation to agree on the verdicts, longer even than the Bosma trial. There were tears from the Babcock congregation, stony faces from the defendants.

Millard didn’t look surprised. Very straight-faced, nothing that showed he had any disappointment.

In the Bosma murder, the motive was unfathomable, the crime so appallingly senseless. In the Babcock murder, the purported motive — the Crown’s theory for it — was stunningly venal.

The prosecution was prevented from arguing “thrill-killing” as an underlying factor. Yet thrills seems so befittingly a common denominator.

They weren’t Leopold and Loeb, driven by a superior, if craven, intelligence; an exercise in outwitting investigators by committing the perfect murder. Though Millard clearly considers himself ingenious, to the point of impersonating a lawyer. (And more fool, he.)

Except it was such an imperfect, stupid, sloppy crime, in both murders, the pair’s fingerprints all over the disappearance of 23-year-old Babcock — their first victim — and the disposal of her remains. The paper trail led directly from Millard to the Eliminator — the incinerator in which Babcock’s body was burned (ready for the “BBQ”, as Millard referred to it); the photo trail led directly from that body wrapped in a blue tarp to the incinerator; the cellphone trail led directly from Millard to Babcock, meeting her at the Kipling subway station on the evening July 3, 2012, tracking together to his Etobicoke home on what was the last night of her life; later moving along the QEW, westward bound, towards Millard’s farm property, Babcock’s phone no longer making any outward communication because she was, said the prosecution, dead by then, killed sometime that night or in the very early morning — between 8:21 p.m. and 12:42 a.m., a period during which neither Millard nor Smich used their phones.

They were busy killing a girl.

We’ll never know the how of that killing, unless either felon comes clean, and with automatic appeals already afoot the slim hope of that happening would be far in the distance.

Perhaps shot by the .32 calibre revolver Milllard had bought from a shady gun dealer on July 2, though Smich’s girlfriend, Marlena Meneses, who had also been in the house, did not testify about hearing a shot. Maybe pummeled by that gun instead, or strangled, or smothered — so many ways to snuff out a life. Next day, Millard put in an urgent order for a new mattress.

A crime driven, said the Crown, by puerile animosities and trivial grudges, triggered by an exchange of obnoxious tweets between two heedless, mutually taunting young women, allegedly bickering over the affections of so odious a creature as Millard.

“You already know but, I really do love you,” Babcock texted Millard on Feb. 12, a point in her chaotic life when she’d recently broken up with her boyfriend, Shawn Lerner, was struggling with mental illness, drifting like a tumbleweed among the homes of friends, casting around for a place to sleep with her beloved dog Lacey, at loggerheads with her parents. “And you don’t need to respond.”

But he did, alternately with crudeness and with something approaching kindness, albeit self-absorbed.

“Love is a wonderful and terrible thing,” Millard wrote. “I am thankful for, and sorry for, your feelings. It will be better for U if you found someone else to love. Even to myself I am not available.”

There was also this brushback: I’m not going to naked f---sville with you.; Don’t get me wrong. It would be fun. I don’t want the drama that would come with it.”

Babcock’s lingering infatuation with Millard was a fatal weakness, expressed in distressing imagery: “I want you to hurt me as you f--- me. (Smiley-face.)”

They’d been lovers long before, briefly, and then Babcock regrettably tumbled back into Millard’s orbit. A wealthy playboy heir to an aviation fortune, buying loyalty, buying a posse of acolytes. Smich was certainly one of those, a wingman plucked from the wrong side of the tracks and groomed partner-in-crime. Or maybe Smich groomed Millard. Certainly they were equally all-in, concocting plans as wannabe outlaws that ran the gamut from drug trafficking to, well, murder.

“I’m down to merk (murder) people if it’s a big enough payoff,” Millard texted Smich, long before they got down to the who and what of it. A grand boast and a shallow pipsqueak yip.

The trail of the texts, retrieved by investigators from Millard’s backup computer files, was evidentiary nirvana for the prosecution – thousands of back and forth parleys, colossally incriminating, delineating a plot now and then secreted beneath a thin patina of coded language.

Texts provided a genesis for murder too, mean-girl pinches that flew between Babcock and Millard’s girlfriend Christina Noudga: I slept with Dellen first time on your birthday. Big deal, I slept with Dellen a couple of weeks ago.

The proverbial love triangle, said the Crown, although it certainly appears in hindsight that Babcock was far more preoccupied with just trying to stay alive, a couch-surfing stray lured into the escort service by the shiny temptation of fast, easy money.

Noudga with her nose out of joint, whining to Millard about Babcock’s gall. Millard, chronically unfaithful, assuaging and mollifying Noudga, vowing he’d rid them of this parasite, this Herpes virus. “First I am going to hurt her. Then I’ll make her leave.’’ And: “I will remove her from our lives.”

In court, however, in his closing address, Millard told the jury he didn’t much care about the hostility between the women. What a ridiculous motive for murder, he argued.

Noudga was the spectre who flitted through the trial, never summoned by the Crown — a prudent decision, it now seems.

Again and again her name came up. But the jury was never to know — just as the Bosma convictions were kept inside the inadmissibility vault — that Noudga was actually charged with being an accessory after the fact in the Bosma murder, pleading guilty to obstruction of justice for destroying evidence.

“Sweet serial killer” this succubus called Millard in a letter that was apparently never mailed.

But it was another batch of letters, from Millard to Noudga, which provided the coup de grace for the prosecution, a one-way folie a deux in which Millard clearly was directing Noudga to lie for him should the cops come ‘round, sketching out phony scenarios about how they’d both last seen Babcock alive on July 3, doing cocaine with Smich in the basement; cooing love, depicting himself as a tragic hero.

“Destroy these letters,” he commanded. But she didn’t. And police then pursuing the Bosma murder — another victim put through The Eliminator — recovered them from her house in April 2014. That began the unraveling, the arrests, the connections, the second look at Babcock’s disappearance, her remains never found.

Yet even last Tuesday, after the jury had begun its deliberations, Millard was up on his feet, tendering another motion, taking aim at how Justice Michael Code had framed his jury instructions, specifically as it related to a purported “gap” in the prosecution’s narrative — the no-Noudga gap.

Millard argued, incoherently, that the jury had been left with an “absence of evidence”, from which they might draw an adverse inference.

It was a tortured contention that found no favor with the judge.

“What’s the gap?” Code queried. “You’re trying to characterize a failure to call a witness as a gap in the evidence.”

Even though Millard well knew, and the Crown explained again, why they chose to pass on Noudga, cancelling the plane ticket they’re arranged to bring her back to Toronto — from, apparently, Poland.

“There’s no gap in the evidence,” Code intoned. “The evidence is the letters.”

Those enormously damning letters that Noudga hadn’t destroyed.

Yet, disingenuously, Millard continued to claim that Noudga had a valuable story to tell, if they had let her. Presumably, he meant that she would perchance bolster his version of events — crucially, last seeing Babcock alive.

Code: “Is it your position that Ms. Noudga would say she was there and she could confirm it?”

Well, maybe. “It’s been a very long time since I’ve had contact with Miss Noudga. I cannot say what she would say.”

Code: “The overwhelming evidence is that the (alibi) evidence is false, because of the subsequent letters.”

And then the judge basically called out Millard on the game he was playing with the court — the obstructing, conniving, delaying game he’d played throughout trial.

“You didn’t want to call this witness any more than did the Crown.”

If it was a game: You lose, a--hole.

Rosie DiManno usually appears Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.

CP24 News

Top Stories

Man suffers critical injuries after crash in Guildwood

Dec 17, 2017 6:17:17 AM

One man has been rushed to hospital with life-threatening injuries after a single-vehicle crash in Guildwood.

Family urges end to rumours surrounding billionaire couple's death

Dec 16, 2017 11:13:00 AM

The family of billionaire pharmaceutical giant Barry Sherman and his wife Honey broke their silence Saturday afternoon, urging the media to “refrain from further reporting” about rumours surrounding the couple’s suspicious death.

Man, 52, shot to death in his downtown apartment: police

Dec 16, 2017 10:28:00 AM

Homicide detectives have been called in after a 52-year-old man was shot to death in his apartment in the city’s St. Lawrence neighbourhood overnight.