Island yacht charter business feels betrayed by national media, police in assisting Millard probe

LITTLE CURRENT—Following the media circus that broke from The Expositor’s May 29 front page story regarding Manitoulin’s connection to accused murderer Dellen Millard, Chris Blodgett, proprietor of Discovery Yacht Charters, the man who first told his tale to The Expositor of renting a charter yacht to Mr. Millard in 2011, has since been left dizzy with attention and also with a bad taste in his mouth.

Mr. Blodgett spoke with The Expositor on Monday of last week, reluctantly, after this newspaper had learned of his connection to Mr. Millard following the news reports of his arrest and charge of murder over the death of Tim Bosma.

During the summer of 2011, Mr. Millard chartered a vessel from Discovery for a 10-day cruise of the North Channel. Mr. Blodgett explained to The Expositor that during Mr. Millard’s charter, he attended to the vessel at anchorage due to a mechanical problem and while on board, he noticed blood throughout the boat, not large amounts, but blood nonetheless. When he questioned Mr. Millard about the blood (which was seen on the transom, the head (bathroom), the sleeping cabin and the bed sheets), the man responded that his female guest was menstruating and that the head was not working properly. Mr. Blodgett said he guessed this was because of a blockage caused by feminine hygiene products. The female guest, however, was nowhere to be seen.

Before speaking with The Expositor, Mr. Blodgett had contacted the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), recalling the encounter with Mr. Millard, saying that alarm bells went off when he learned the story of the murder of Mr. Bosma and his subsequent experience with the flashy millionaire.

When The Expositor broke the story Wednesday morning of last week, pandemonium ensued with Mr. Blodgett’s phone ringing off the hook and reporters with cameras on his doorstep.

“Immediately after The Expositor ran the information that I shared, that same day a story came out in the Hamilton Spectator that stated I saw ‘large amounts of blood around the boat rented by Dellen Millard, owner Chris Blodgett says’,” Mr. Blodgett explained. “That is when the fear set in because I never said anything remotely close to that statement, to anybody, ever. I was then hounded by the Toronto Star (among many others) who basically threatened me by saying they intended to run the same story unless I spoke with them and gave them a new story. I hoped that if I just stopped responding to their emails and phone calls that they would leave me alone. At the same time I told the CBC that while the information reported in The Expositor was accurate, I would decline any further comment.”

Mr. Blodgett said he was horrified when that exact headline began to run in every small and large newspaper across the province and country, including the Toronto Star, even after he told reporters the story had been exaggerated.

Despite the old adage “any press is good press,” Mr. Blodgett is plagued with the fear that irreversible damage has been done to his name and business. During one TV interview with CTV, the reporter took it upon himself to joke with Mr. Blodgett that he should offer special rates to ‘crime tourists’ who seek out stays in haunted hotels, or maybe even bloodied boats, then inaccurately reported on the six o’clock news from Sudbury that Discovery would be offering discounted rates because of the public relations debacle.

“I did not say this to him, and certainly would have no interest in participating in such a campaign,” Mr. Blodgett said. “In addition, we (Discovery’s crew) had been trying to get some work done on our fleet that day and had just finished rigging one of our boats and we always place signage on them for the dock pedestrians once we are finished rigging and cleaning them. It was after 6 pm and I would learn later I was filmed from afar placing the sign on the boat with (the reporter’s) dialogue about discounted charters. It was all just sickening. Not only did he invent the discount statement, they included me placing signage on the vessel in the evening after I asked them to stop filming us. I really feel that they were trying to discredit me because they were disappointed that I denied the blood soaked boat statement and they should never have been here in the first place.”

Following two days of stress, matters were made worse when an OPP statement was released last Thursday evening which said that the concerns brought forward by Mr. Blodgett were “unfounded.”

“That almost implies that I made the story up even though I gather the police have information from a witness that proves my reports to them were entirely accurate,” Mr. Blodgett said. “Yet somehow not a single news agency has received that information. After spending hours in interviews with investigators, fielding repeated calls from the police, having them come to my home and getting hounded by the media for days on end, I don’t understand why they would choose to leave me looking discredited? Don’t get me wrong, the police took my report seriously and all the officers involved in this case were extremely respectful, polite and professional to me through the entire process, I just don’t understand why the word ‘unfounded’ would be chosen when they clearly received information that my report to them was accurate, deserving of investigation and not exaggerated based on what we had seen aboard that boat back in September 2011.”

“Honestly, what should I have done?” he asked. “We receive a boat back that has blood on its transom, the head, the sleeping cabin and on the sheets then the client gets charged with first degree murder and investigated in a missing persons case. Should I just keep this information to myself next time and avoid subjecting myself and my business to a media frenzy and crazy people calling and emailing me with less than flattering comments?”

The Expositor contacted Manitoulin OPP Detachment Commander Staff Sergeant Kevin Webb to discuss the offending press release and the use of the word “unfounded.”

Staff Sergeant Webb explained that police use the word unfounded when referring to the investigation and subsequent closure of a criminal matter.

“The information brought forward by Mr. Blodgett was valid, and he should be commended for that,” the staff sergeant told The Expositor. “He took initiative, recognizing some information that may have been useful for the police.”

Staff Sergeant Webb said he realized that the information Mr. Blodgett received from Mr. Millard may have seemed valid at the time as to the cause of the blood, but following the charge of murder, he was correct to take a second look at the scene. “We are all very pleased he did,” he added, noting that he can see how Mr. Blodgett must feel following the media stories that appeared once the OPP closed its investigation.

“All the information was correct,” he continued. “Once it was determined there was no criminal activity, the case was deemed ‘unfounded.’ The information itself was not unfounded.”

While the staff sergeant could not shed more light on the now closed investigation, he did say that the two girls who had spent time on the charter with Mr. Millard in 2011 had since been identified and that there was no concern for their safety or well being.

“Regardless of the amount of time consumed and stress this whole situation brought down on me, the most important thing in my mind is that this part of the Millard story has a happy ending,” Mr. Blodgett concluded. “We couldn’t have asked for a better conclusion to this story—that the girls in question that went out on that trip have been located safe. At least with that information I can now sleep a bit better at night.”

Alicia McCutcheon