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Garland appeals triple-murder conviction

Police search the Garland property northeast of Airdrie in 2014. On May 7, Douglas Garland appealed his convictions of first-degree murder in the deaths of Alvin and Kathy Liknes and Nathan O'Brien. File Photo/Rocky View Publishing

Douglas Garland, the Airdrie man found guilty of first-degree murder in the 2014 deaths of Alvin and Kathy Liknes and their five-year-old grandson Nathan O’Brien, appeared before the Alberta Court of Appeals in Calgary May 9 to appeal his conviction. A panel comprised of Justices Peter Costigan, Peter Martin and Thomas Wakeling reserved their decision.

According to the Canadian Press (CP), Garland’s lawyer, Alias Sanders, told the court Garland’s original trial judge, Justice David Gates, should not have allowed certain evidence gathered from Garland’s parents’ farm, located northeast of Airdrie, to be presented to the jury because police should not have been there in the first place.

Sanders, according to CP, argued "police detained and questioned Garland, but he wasn’t charged initially.” Garland’s lawyer also contended Gates overemphasized the graphic nature of photographic evidence in a way that was prejudicial.

Crown prosecutor Christine Rideout countered, “police didn’t violate any of Garland’s constitutional rights and there was plenty to link him with the victims,” according to CP.

Garland was arrested and charged with the three murders July 14, 2014, after an extensive search of his parents' property. After a five-week trial, a jury found Garland guilty of three counts of first-degree murder, delivering their verdict Feb. 16, 2017. He is currently serving a life sentence with no chance of parole for 75 years.

O’Brien and his grandparents disappeared from the Liknes’ Calgary residence overnight June 30, 2014, following an estate sale. O’Brien stayed with his grandparents for a sleepover and police were alerted to the crime the following day after Nathan’s mother arrived to pick him up.

At the scene, officers discovered “blood throughout the residence,” including two bloody drag marks that “were consistent with a person(s) being dragged out the side door of the home and then north along the residence’s sidewalk,” according to an affidavit filed by Det. David Sweet.

The bodies of the three victims were never recovered. During the trial, the court heard from several witnesses, including a police officer who testified a burn barrel was still smouldering when it was discovered on the Garlands’ property July 5, 2014.

Crown Prosecutor Shane Parker told the court in 2017 the likely motive for the murders was a business deal between Garland and Alvin Liknes that had gone sour.

As the story returns to the forefront, Colleen Maurice, volunteer manager with Airdrie and District Victim Assistance Society (ADVAS) said, in general, appeals can dredge up difficult feelings for victims and their families. Maurice did not speak specifically to the Garland case, but said appeals can force those who have experienced violent crime to confront emotions that may have been put to bed.

Victims often deal with the fallout of a violent crime not only when the incident occurs, she said, but must continually revisit those feelings during the protracted process of a trial, testimony and sentencing. An appeal, she said, can steal closure victims may have felt they’ve gotten.

“When someone appeals, it brings [victims] right back to the beginning, and them having to relive that again and having to go through all those feelings that they were going through when they went through the court process the first time,” Maurice said.

She added she wants to remind the public that families and friends of victims are real people who may be struggling during renewed coverage of the case, and to be sensitive as developments unfold.

“We don’t know what’s going on in that person’s life, and there could be a whole bunch of other things that these families are dealing with, on top of the things that are in the media,” she said. “We don’t know their story; we don’t know what they’re going through. Be mindful of the things you’re saying.”

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