Two-and-a-half years since five-year-old Nathan O’Brien and his grandparents Alvin and Kathryn (Kathy) Liknes were last seen, Douglas Garland was found guilty of three counts of first-degree murder in their deaths.
Here’s a timeline of events in the missing persons investigation, from the Amber Alert to Garland’s trial, which began Jan. 16 and ended Feb. 16, 2017.
June 28-29, 2014 – Nathan’s grandparents held an estate sale in the 100 block of 38A Avenue S.W. The Liknes’ had bought a home in Edmonton, where they were planning to live after spending time in Mazatlan, Mexico. The sale was planned to help get rid of some of their belongings ahead of the move.
June 29, 2014 – Nathan’s mother left him at his grandparents’ home for a sleepover following the estate sale. The last time he and his grandparents were seen was at around 10 p.m.
June 30, 2014 – Nathan’s mother called police from his grandparents’ home around 10 a.m. when she went to pick up her son, but found no one at home. Police issued an Amber Alert later that day.
Police said evidence found in the Parkhill home suggested the disappearance may be suspicious, since it was “not in the condition it typically would have been left in,” according to Kevin Brookwell from the Calgary Police Service. Everyone’s vehicles were accounted for.
July 1, 2014 – Police went door to door to speak with neighbours of the grandparents. Neighbours said they saw Nathan playing in the backyard Sunday afternoon, with his grandfather watching nearby.
Police added the trio may have left their home against their will. At that time, it was too early for police to say whether the estate sale was connected to their disappearance.
July 2, 2014 – Nathan’s parents, Rod and Jen O’Brien, tearfully spoke directly to their missing son in a press conference.
Police asked anyone who was at the Liknes’ June 28 to 29 estate sale to speak to police at the Parkhill Community Centre starting July 3.
July 3, 2014 – Police investigators spent 12 hours at the community centre, having asked anyone who purchased an item at the Liknes’ estate sale to bring a photo of that item.
“We just want to make sure we’re aware of what was sold,” explained Calgary Police Staff Sgt. Doug Andrus.
“In other words, if anything was taken after the sale was completed.”
Andrus said police looked at pictures of items sold at the estate sale and asked people to provide fingerprints to eliminate fingerprints found at the crime scene.
July 4, 2014 – Police confirmed a “violent incident” occurred inside the residence.
“Based on the evidence at the scene, somebody would be in medical distress,” said Andrus, adding he expected forensic lab results within several days to a week.
Investigators released two photos of a green truck that was seen “several times” in the area the night of the family’s disappearance and asked the owner to come forward.
July 5, 2014 – Police conducted an area search near the home of Nathan’s grandparents for the second time, to make sure nothing was overlooked in the initial search.
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July 6, 2014 – Dozens of police officers searched an upscale residence in a rural area north of Calgary following a tip relating to the green truck. Douglas Garland, who neighbours said lives on the rural residence, was taken into custody for questioning on July 4.
“We’re questioning the man and following the lead on the vehicle,” Calgary Police Duty Insp. Joel Matthews said. “He is a person of interest.”
Global News confirmed there’s a family connection between the Garland and Liknes families, but police didn’t comment on that information. Garland had a criminal history in British Columbia for producing his own amphetamines.
July 7, 2014 – Garland appeared in court on charges related to identity theft, but remained a person of interesting in the missing family case.
Global News learned that Alvin Liknes’ son is married to Garland’s sister. A family member said Liknes and Garland had a falling out several years ago after a business deal ended badly.
Police questioned Garland, but he was later released in connection to the case.
July 9, 2014 – Police confirmed a green truck was seized from Garland’s property but continued to ask the public to call police if they saw any other trucks matching the description.
Garland appeared in court, facing an additional charge of possession of a stolen credit card. The Crown consented to release Garland on bail on July 11 if he could provide an address where he planned to live.
Police began searching the Spy Hill Landfill in northwest Calgary, looking through the waste as a precaution.
July 10, 2014 – Police searched a second landfill off of 17 Avenue and 68 Street S.E.
A quantity of chemicals were located at the Garland home in Airdrie, but police said it was too early to speculate what they were.
Hundreds of people attended a candlelight vigil for the missing boy and his grandparents, just a short distance from the Liknes’ home.
July 11, 2014 – The Crown agreed to the release of Garland from custody Friday afternoon.
An Amber Alert remained in effect for five-year-old O’Brien and his grandparents.
July 14, 2014 – Garland was re-arrested and the Amber Alert was discontinued.
Calgary police said they had taken a man into custody and murder charges would be laid Monday afternoon (two counts of first-degree murder related to the Liknes’ and one count of second-degree murder related to O’Brien).
Police said the bodies of the victims have not been found, but the evidence has convinced investigators it has turned from a missing persons investigation to a homicide investigation.
“There are still many questions left to be answered,” then-Calgary Police Chief Rick Hanson said. “Ultimately we want to be able to find the bodies, so the family can have final closure.”
July 15, 2014 – Garland was officially charged with two counts of first-degree murder in relation to the deaths of Kathryn and Alvin Liknes and one count of second-degree murder in the death of Nathan O’Brien.
September 17, 2014 – Garland appeared in court and his preliminary inquiry was set for May 19 to 29, 2015.
March 29, 2015 – Calgary police searched the rural property near Airdrie belonging to Garland’s parents, where Garland lived for some time prior to his arrest. Police were looking for additional evidence to support the upcoming court case.
May 19, 2015 – The preliminary inquiry began in Calgary, scheduled to last two weeks. The inquiry was to determine whether there was enough evidence to send Garland’s case to trial. Details discussed during the inquiry were under a publication ban and cannot be reported on.
May 27, 2015 – An Alberta judge ordered Garland to stand trial for three counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Kathryn and Alvin Liknes and Nathan O’Brien. Garland had previously been charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of the Liknes’ and one count of second-degree murder in the death of O’Brien. That count was upgraded to first-degree murder.
July 3, 2015 – Gruesome details of blood stains and drag marks found at the home of Alvin and Kathy Liknes on June 30, 2014 were released to the public for the first time. An affidavit filed by police stated officers believed the couple and O’Brien were “likely murdered” within hours of the investigation.
April 8, 2016 – Demolition began on the house that once belonged to Alvin and Kathryn Liknes. The home was sold before the trio disappeared and buyers had always planned the demolition, family members said.
December 1, 2016 – A voir dire (trial within a trial) was held at a hearing to determine the admissibility of some evidence in Garland’s case. Evidence presented was under a publication ban.
January 11, 2017 – A jury was selected for Garland’s trial.
January 16, 2017 – The murder trial began, scheduled to last five weeks. The bodies of Nathan and the Liknes’ have yet to be found.
January 17, 2017 – Garland’s mother testified on Day 2 of the trial, saying she was “shocked” when she saw the Amber Alert on the news on June 30, 2014 and immediately went to talk to her son about it.
January 18, 2017 – Const. Derek Alexon said officers were initially told they could be dealing with a possible kidnapping or robbery during his testimony on the third day of the trial.
January 19, 2017 – The lock on the side door of the Liknes home had been tampered with and disabled, according to testimony from a master locksmith heard on Day 4 of the trial.
January 20, 2017 – An expert in footprint identification and comparison testified on the fifth day of the trial, along with a homicide detective who took part in the original arrest.
January 21, 2017 – Court heard testimony from officers involved with the search of the Garland farm, as well as cadaver dog handlers.
January 24, 2017 – Key forensic investigators from the Calgary Police Forensic Crime Scene Unit testified, showing photographs taken of Garland after he was arrested. The photos depicted abrasions on Garland’s head and upper lip along with a large bruise on his knee and an injured thumb.
January 25, 2017 – The eighth day of testimony began with an expression of concern and compassion from the judge presiding over the case. An investigator described additional items seized from the Garland property, including men’s and women’s clothing, along with approximately 50 adult diapers from the Foothills hospital.
January 26, 2017 – No DNA belonging to Garland was found in the victims’ home, court heard during cross-examination of the primary forensic investigator of the case.
January 30, 2017 – Calgary Police Const. Doug Kraan took the court through the findings of a forensic examination of a computer hard drive found hidden in the rafters of the basement of the Garland house.
January 31, 2017 – Court was shown a written presentation that included a list of Internet searches, such as “force needed for concussion” and “best butcher knives.”
February 1, 2017 – Alberta’s Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Elizabeth Brooks-Lim said based on her observations, it’s possible Nathan and his grandparents could have survived an attack in the Liknes home.
February 2, 2017 – An expert forensic dentist testified he believed a tooth found in the ashes at the Garland farm was a “baby tooth.” Court was also shown images taken from surveillance videos June 30, 2014 near the Liknes home and two nearby businesses.
February 6, 2017 – Peregrine Aerial Surveys pilot Paul Gagnon took photos over the Garland property just days after Nathan and his grandparents disappeared. He showed court disturbing photos taken with a high tech $1.5-million camera.
February 7, 2017 – Forsensic lab specialist Vivian Mohrbutter testified DNA of Nathan as well as that of his grandparents was found throughout the Garland farm.
February 8, 2017 – A police blood spatter expert and officers who tracked Garland’s movements prior to his arrest testify.
February 9, 2017 – Lawyers for Garland told court they will not call any evidence in the case, which means he will not testify in his own defence. The prosecution closed its case by showing infrared video and sharing a dramatic tale of Garland’s arrest.
February 13, 2017 – There were people sobbing in the courtroom during a lengthy closing argument by the prosecution, which included the Crown asking the jury to convict Garland on three counts of first-degree murder.
February 15, 2017 – The jury was sequestered and began deliberating after detailed final instructions were given to the jurors by Justice David Gates.
February 16, 2017 – Garland was found guilty of three counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Nathan O’Brien and his grandparents.
February 17, 2017 – Garland was sentenced to life with no parole for the maximum of 75 years.
March 17, 2017 – Garland’s defence team filed an appeal of his three first-degree murder convictions and sentence.
With files from Nancy Hixt, Tamara Elliott and Melissa Ramsay