News / Calgary

Garland verdict: Jury finds accused guilty of murder in triple homicide

Garland, 57, who was on trial over the last five weeks, was found guilty by a jury of 12 Calgarians Thursday.

Douglas Garland has been found guilty on all three counts of first-degree murder by a jury of 12.

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Douglas Garland has been found guilty on all three counts of first-degree murder by a jury of 12.

Douglas Garland has been found guilty on all three counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of five-year-old Nathan O'Brien and his grandparents Kathy and Alvin Liknes.

Garland, 57, who was on trial over the last five weeks, was found guilty by a jury of 12 Calgarians Thursday. The jury deliberated their decision for just over 8 hours. 

Nathan O'Brien.

Metro File

Nathan O'Brien.

Family members of the victims wept as the verdicts were read out in court.

Ten of the jurors suggested the three 25-year sentences be served consecutively, for a total of 75 years. Two had no opinion on the matter.

The judge will make the final call on the sentencing Friday.

In the summer of 2014 an Amber Alert gripped the city as citizens held their collective breath — hoping for the safe return of Nathan and his grandparents. Nathan's mother, Jennifer O'Brien, discovered the bloody crime scene and her parents and son missing the morning of June 30, 2014 — prompting police to open an exhaustive investigation that would span days, months and years.

Alvin Kathy Liknes.

Metro File Photo

Alvin Kathy Liknes.

The Crown told jurors in their opening statement of how Garland held a "petty grudge" against Alvin Liknes over a patent on an oil and gas pump he'd worked on before being fired in 2007.

The culmination of the all-encompassing investigation lead by the Calgary Police Service -- that brought in resources including the RCMP and CBSA— was revealed to Calgarians through testimony from 48 witnesses and the submission of 89 exhibits.

Exhibits included crime scene photos from both the bloodied Liknes home, and the crammed rooms and buildings at the Garland farm.

Members of the Calgary Police Service searching the grass of the Garland farm shoulder to shoulder on their hands and knees.

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Members of the Calgary Police Service searching the grass of the Garland farm shoulder to shoulder on their hands and knees.

Other exhibits included DNA swabs, charred bone and tooth fragments, knives, meat hooks, and a saw.

One exhibit, a hard drive, detailed research into the Likneses, a lock that was disabled on their side door, and disturbing documents detailing gore, conducting autopsies, killing without emotion, grinding bones and diapered and bound women.

Hard drive located by CBSA officers in the rafters of Garland's home.

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Hard drive located by CBSA officers in the rafters of Garland's home.

On day 14 of the trial, jurors heard evidence from an aerial photography company which flew over the Garland farm for mapping purposes on July 1 and 2, 2014. They were shown two sets of photos.

The firs set, from July 1, provoked an emotional response from the jurors, one of whom asked for a break after they’d already soldiered through 13 days of disturbing evidence without asking for a single break.

The photos showed what appeared to be two naked adult bodies laying face down in the field of the Garland farm near the south outbuildings. The bodies appeared to be wearing diapers. Off to the side, a smaller figure was curled up naked.

This is the area of the farm where aerial photos showed what appeared to be the naked and diapered bodies of Alvin and Kathy Liknes and a curled up Nathan O'Brien.

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This is the area of the farm where aerial photos showed what appeared to be the naked and diapered bodies of Alvin and Kathy Liknes and a curled up Nathan O'Brien.

The photos from the next day showed an empty field.

Evidence was presented by 48 different witnesses—many of whom were qualified as experts in their fields by the court.

Jurors heard from one CPS officer who spent more than 550 hours over several months sifting through ash and debris from a burn barrel on the Garland farm. The barrel was found smouldering when officers arrived the morning of July 4, 2014.

Const. Ian Oxton’s sifting led to the discovery of bone and teeth fragments—one of which would later be identified by a forensic dentist as a baby tooth.

Tooth found on Garland farm, identified by forensic dentist, Dr. Blair, as a baby tooth.

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Tooth found on Garland farm, identified by forensic dentist, Dr. Blair, as a baby tooth.

Another CPS officer—a blood spatter analyst—took jurors through the bloodied Liknes home. She explained the different blood spatter patterns, and what they revealed about the violent episode that took place in the Liknes home in the early hours of June 30, 2014.

Sgt. Jodi Arns explained how both Alvin and Kathy had been impacted three or more times each, while at or near floor level, in multiple areas of the home, and how the DNA of Nathan was a match for a bloody hand mark on the wall of his grandparents home.

Bloody handprint from the Liknes residence that tested positive for the DNA of five-year-old Nathan O'Brien.

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Bloody handprint from the Liknes residence that tested positive for the DNA of five-year-old Nathan O'Brien.

Sgt. Lyn Gallen, a footwear impression expert, identified bloodied footprints from the Liknes home as a match for Dr. Scholls Delta 2 size 13 shoes—a match for an empty box found in Garland’s office. They also saw CCTV footage of Garland wearing the shoes while purchasing supplies believed to be used to carry out his crimes—including meat hooks that would later test positive for Kathryn Liknes’ DNA.

Shoes seen worn by Douglas Garland in this CCTV footage from Princess Auto appear to match Dr. Schools Delta 2 shoes which were identified as the footwear that made the bloodied impressions at the Liknes home.

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Shoes seen worn by Douglas Garland in this CCTV footage from Princess Auto appear to match Dr. Schools Delta 2 shoes which were identified as the footwear that made the bloodied impressions at the Liknes home.

A DNA expert testified to identifying the DNA of all three victims at the Liknes home, and for all three victims and Garland at his family farm. 

What could be considered the most important piece of evidence– a rubber boot– tested positive for DNA of all three victims as well as Garland.

These boots, found in an outbuilding of the Garland farm, tested positive for DNA of all three victims as well as Douglas Garland.

Metro File Photo

These boots, found in an outbuilding of the Garland farm, tested positive for DNA of all three victims as well as Douglas Garland.

Jurors were also taken through CCTV footage collected from the Likneses' street in the days and hours surrounding their disappearances, that showed a green truck—matching the Ford F150 driven by Garland.

The videos showed the route of the green truck as it appeared to stop on the Likneses for sometime in the early hours of June 30, 2014—before driving out of the city towards Airdrie with a white object in the back of the truck.

A Green Ford F150 truck was seen leaving the Liknes residence the morning of June 30, 2014 with a white object in the back. A few hours later the truck returned to the Liknes' street, this time empty.

Metro File Photo

A Green Ford F150 truck was seen leaving the Liknes residence the morning of June 30, 2014 with a white object in the back. A few hours later the truck returned to the Liknes' street, this time empty.

Garland, who was described as a “loner” by his parents and sister, spent the five weeks sitting in the prisoner box showing little emotion, and sometimes taking notes while the evidence was presented.

Lawyers make post-conviction comments

Following the verdict, Crown prosecutor Shane Parker told media everyone who worked on this case put in the utmost effort to “achieve” justice for Alvin, Kathy and Nathan. 

“We didn’t want to let the community or the family down. We wanted to seek justice and I think the verdicts were just. Like everyone we want to put our best work forward and I think we did that,” he said. 

Parker said he spoke with the family after the trial.

Crown prosecutor Shane Parker addresses media following the conviction of Douglas Garland.

The Canadian Press

Crown prosecutor Shane Parker addresses media following the conviction of Douglas Garland.

“I think from them you’re not going to get an emotion such as great relief or anything like that. I think for them they’re numb, they’re still processing,” he said. “At the end of the day they’ve lost Kathy, they’ve lost Alvin and they’ve lost Nathan…It’s the loss of three critical people in their family…this decision doesn’t change that.”

Defence lawyers Kim Ross and Jim Lutz said it wasn’t the outcome they were hoping for.

 “In a case like this there really are no winners. There is no good way to come out of this and put a positive spin on it,” said Lutz