Bret and Mary-Ann McCann have been married for 40 years, raised two children and are proud grandparents, but they have another major milestone ahead.
This one has caused many sleepless nights.
On Sept. 15, Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Denny Thomas will deliver his verdict in the trial of Travis Vader, charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Bret’s parents, Lyle and Marie McCann.
Global Edmonton and other media outlets will livestream that decision at 10 a.m. Thursday.
Confident Vader will be convicted, Bret calls the trial and other legal proceedings an odyssey. And through it all, the family still suffers with one agonizing question: Where are their parents?
Bret believes Travis Vader holds that answer.
“I hope that he feels remorse, and I hope that he does the right thing and says what he knows about what happened.”
The bodies of Lyle and Marie have never been found. Family members think it’s just a matter of time before a hunter finds their remains in the woods west of Edmonton.
The couple was last seen gassing up their motorhome on July 3, 2010 at a Superstore in St. Albert, a suburb of Edmonton. They were headed on a family camping trip to British Columbia, but never arrived. Days later, their burned-out motorhome was found near the Minnow Lake campground southeast of Edson, Alberta.
READ MORE: The disappearance of Lyle and Marie McCann
“The whole notion that my parents had such a dysfunctional life and would abandon their children at 80 years old is absurd,” says Bret McCann. He was insulted when Vader’s defence lawyer claimed there was no proof they were even dead.
“This is really a sleazy defence tactic.”
Bret and Mary-Ann say they accepted his parents were dead in the months following their disappearance. No one cashed in their $60,000 reward for information.
Mary-Ann, who also called Bret’s parents mom and dad, prays every night their bodies will be found.
“Let whoever tell us where they are so we can lay them to rest.”
Since Vader’s trial ended in June, the McCanns have been on “pins and needles,” waiting for the verdict. They attended every day they could of the nearly three-and-half-month trial, learning for the first time the evidence RCMP had gathered.
RCMP named Vader as a person of interest in the case early on, but he wasn’t charged until April 2012. In March 2014, a month before the trial was set to start, the Crown stayed the charges.
Nine months later, in a rare move, the stay was lifted and the first-degree murder charges against Vader were re-applied.
Vader went to court to have the charges thrown out, citing an abuse of process. His lawyer argued the Crown delayed the trial to buy more time to investigate, but the Crown insisted it was concerned disclosure delays would affect Vader’s right to a fair trial.
Justice Thomas ruled Vader was close in making a case for an unreasonable delay, but it wasn’t enough.
Bret says it wasn’t until that hearing that he realized Vader could walk away a free man.
“That’s when it really hit,” he says, “how easily this could have come off the rails.”
Despite the circumstantial case presented at the trial, the McCanns say they trust the RCMP. They say the investigators told them it was a good case.
Robbed of the time they had planned to spend with his parents, Bret and his wife now reflect on special moments that once seemed mundane.
“I used to play pool with my dad every Friday,” Bret recalls. “He was always better than me.”
Mary-Ann would go garage sale hunting with Marie, and called her in-laws’ 58-year marriage “perfect.”
“They held hands all the time, they referred to each other as ‘darling’ all the time.”
“Darling” is the name of a permanent memorial Bret and Mary-Ann plan to construct in St. Albert. The $60,000 reward money they originally posted will pay for the design and construction.
Their vision is of two loons together on a lake.
“Both my parents were really into nature, my dad knew every tree,” says Bret. “My mom knew whatever bird song; she could make a loon sound.”
Watch below: It’s been an agonizing summer for the McCann family. More than six years ago, Lyle and Marie McCann disappeared and on Thursday, their family will finally learn if Travis Vader is guilty of their murders. Kendra Slugoski reports.