TORONTO – As police continue to hunt for the bodies of five-year-old Nathan O’Brien and grandparents Alvin and Kathryn Liknes, missing since June 29, one man has been charged with their murders.
Five days after the trio went missing, Douglas Garland was taken into police custody for questioning as investigators searched the residence where neighbours said he was living with his parents. Police said based on a forensic examination, a “violent incident” had occurred inside the Liknes’ home and at least one person was likely in “medical distress.”
Fifty-four-year-old Garland was living on the acreage just northeast of Airdrie that was meticulously searched by police. He has been the sole person of interest in the case.
The man also has a connection to the Liknes family: 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. A police source speaking on condition of anonymity called the bad business relationship a “leading theory” for the potential motive in the crime, according to The National Post.
Drug-related criminal history
Federal court records show Garland has a criminal history in British Columbia. In a 2005 judgment, Garland was charged for producing his own amphetamines in 1992. He left Alberta for Vancouver and assumed the name of a dead person: Matthew Kemper Hartley—a 14-year-old Alberta boy who died in a 1980 car crash.
Garland applied for a social insurance number and driver’s licence with the alias and, “conducted all his activities in Vancouver under the name Matthew Hartley,” wrote the judge.
Garland worked at Can Test Ltd. and the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) until he was arrested in 1999. He pleaded guilty to the drug offences and the charges in connection with his assumed identity, and served 39 months in a federal prison in 2000.
Garland worked at BCIT on a part-time basis in 1999, according to media relations manager Dave Pinton.
“The employment record, because it was inactive after that, was destroyed (according to our document retention policy) in 2007. So we have very few details,” said Pinton.
Parole documents from his previous charges obtained by Global News show Garland was not believed to be a risk to the public back in June 2000, despite the months spent behind bars.
“While the weapons and assault charges are indicative that you may commit a violent offence, given that you are 40 years of age and have never incurred a conviction for violence and in the absence of documented indicators of a propensity for violence, there are no reasonable grounds to believe release is likely to result in a violent crime,” the documents said.
Mental health concerns
But the documents noted concerns about Garland’s mental health leading to criminal activity in granting his day parole to a supervised facility.
“Concerns regarding mental issues have contributed to the property offences and close monitoring by a psychologist and psychiatrist will be required.”
A second review by the parole board on October 20, 2000 suggested Garland’s mental health had stabilized.
“Your mental health is assessed as having stabilized and with close monitoring in the Community Residential Facility and by mental health professionals, you are assessed as a manageable risk.”
Released, then re-arrested
Garland appeared in court on charges related to the identity theft of Hartley’s name on July 7, but was released.
Two days later, police confirmed a green truck was seized from Garland’s property and he appeared in court again for an additional charge of possession of a stolen credit card.
The Crown released Garland on $750 bail on July 11, but he was rearrested three days later when the Amber Alert was discontinued. As he was led into a processing unit by police, Garland remained silent when reporters asked where the victims’ bodies might be.
Garland was officially charged with two counts of first-degree murder in relation to the deaths of the Likneses and one count of second-degree murder in the death of O’Brien late Monday night. Police said in general terms, a first-degree murder charge suggests premeditated intent while a second-degree charge does not.
Garland is set to appear again in court on Wednesday. Police appealed to the public for more information on the case.
With files from Tamara Elliott and Marlisse Silver Sweeney