News / Calgary

Testimony of missing boy's father wasn't heard by jury in triple-murder case

CALGARY — The father of a Calgary boy who was killed with his grandparents said their deaths have had a huge impact on his two remaining sons and other members of their family.

It was testimony the jury didn't hear at the trial of Douglas Garland, the 57-year-old accused of killing the three.

Jurors were asked to leave when Rod O'Brien took the witness stand to oppose a request from some media that an aerial photo of Garland's farm be released.

The photo showed the mostly naked bodies of two adults and a small child lying near a burning barrel a few days after Alvin and Kathy Liknes disappeared in 2014, along with five-year-old Nathan O'Brien.

O'Brien said Nathan's death has been hardest on the child's 14-year-old brother Luke.

"He doesn't talk about it. He's living his life without Nathan and at times I see him depressed," O'Brien told the judge.

He said the deaths have also had a strong impact on his brother-in-law, Jeff Liknes, who lost both his parents.

"I would say Jeff is trying to get back into a full life, but I do see a change," O'Brien testified. "He's more introverted and staying away. He's just trying like the rest of us, but he has no one to talk to."

O'Brien worried what further damage would be done by the release of the photo, which he was shown by police.

"It's going to harm my boys and us. It puts us at risk of developing as a family, and (risks) the development of our children," he said.

"They don't want to see their brother lying in a field," he continued. "Luke is going to be re-accessing that photograph — the grief, the depression, which opens the door to suicide."

The father said his other son, four-year-old Max, would grow up to be old enough to see the photo again and again if it were on the Internet.

A lawyer for a number of media outlets had applied to have the photo released arguing that it was important that the public have access to all aspects of the trial. The request, which was later rejected by Justice David Gates, indicated the photo would have the images of the bodies blurred if it was to be published.

The jury heard from 50 witnesses and saw 1,400 pieces of evidence during four weeks of testimony.

It was told about hundreds of items found on the Garland farm, including a straitjacket, adult diapers, two mannequin heads with long blond hair and 80 pairs of size 13 shoes for men and women.

But during Garland's preliminary hearing, it was revealed that there were also bags and bags of women's clothing, a set of prosthetic breasts and two baby soothers.

The hearing was also told about Internet searches found on the hard drive of Garland's computer which included information on how to decompose a body using acid and whether the body could be put in a bathtub.

More disturbing yet was a search on how to butcher a human carcass for consumption and how to get rid of your friends.

A neighbour of the Garland's testified at the hearing that there was a large fire on the farm the morning of July 1, 2014.

Donald Dikow, who is also a paramedic, said he opened his garage door early in the morning and "immediately smelled a heavy, heavy, heavy plastic burning smell."

But on cross-examination he agreed the smell was not that of burning flesh.

— Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter

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