A judge in Edmonton has found Travis Vader guilty of second-degree murder in the deaths of two Alberta seniors. Lyle and Marie McCann vanished six years ago after they headed out on a camping trip.
Here is a timeline with some key events in the case:
July 3: Lyle and Marie McCann are last seen fuelling up their motorhome in their hometown of St. Albert, north of Edmonton, for a trip to Abbotsford, B.C.
July 5: The burned-out motorhome is discovered in the bush near Edson, about 200 kilometres west of St. Albert. Mounties phone the couple’s home and knock on the door. Officers later explain that they weren’t alarmed because vehicles are often found burning in the bush and it’s not unusual for people to be away from home during the summer.
July 10: Trudy Holder calls RCMP when her parents fail to show up in Abbotsford. Mounties start searching for the couple.
July 13: Two people go to the RCMP detachment in Prince George, B.C., and report having spotted a green Hyundai Tucson like the one the McCanns were towing behind their motorhome, but they are rebuffed. Mounties later issue a public plea for the tipsters to return.
July 16: RCMP announce that the SUV the couple was towing has been found off a bush trail near Edson. Officers name Travis Vader as a person of interest in the case and release his photo.
July 19: Vader is arrested on outstanding warrants on unrelated charges.
July 20: A judge declares the McCanns dead so their wills and estates can be processed.
Dec. 22: Vader is sentenced to 33 months in prison for arsons and break-ins in the Whitecourt, Mayerthorpe and Barrhead areas of Alberta in 2009. He gets credit for time served but is kept in custody on other charges.
April 18: Vader is charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of the McCanns.
May 1: Vader is convicted of drug trafficking, theft and weapons offences in the Barrhead area in June 2010.
Oct. 19: Before Vader can be sentenced, a judge declares a mistrial because evidence was not properly disclosed to the defence. Justice June Ross cites the RCMP as “negligent” and orders a new trial.
READ MORE: Travis Vader murder case heading to trial
Feb. 7: Vader files a lawsuit against the RCMP and justice officials claiming they kept him behind bars on trumped-up charges until he could be charged with murdering the McCanns. He had faced charges related to passing off a forged employment letter in court, but they were dropped.
March 19: Crown prosecutor Michelle Doyle issues a stay on the murder charges, days before the trial is to begin, after discovering Mounties failed to disclose all evidence to lawyers. The RCMP later make changes to the way disclosure is handled in major investigations.
April 22: Vader files another lawsuit alleging misconduct by RCMP, malicious prosecution by the Crown and mistreatment by prison guards.
Oct. 8: Vader is found not guilty of the previous drug, theft and weapons charges after a second trial. He pleads guilty to failing to comply with a 2010 court order and is sentenced to one day of time served. He is released from custody for the first time in four years and tells reporters his treatment by the justice system has been a “witch hunt.”
Dec. 19: RCMP arrest Vader and charge him again with murder in the deaths of the McCanns.
Jan. 26: Justice Denny Thomas denies an application by defence lawyers to drop the murder case over alleged abuse of process and an unreasonable delay in getting to trial.
March 8: Vader’s first-degree murder trial begins. He tells the judge: “I am not guilty of that charge.”
May 30: Vader is denied bail on new charges laid during his murder trial. They include break and enter, possession of stolen property and breaching conditions of his release. His bail had previously been reviewed when he showed up late four times during the trial.
June 22: Final arguments begin. The Crown asks the judge to look at the “totality of the evidence.” The defence suggests there’s not enough evidence to prove the couple is dead and that police should have looked at other suspects.
Sept. 13: Justice Thomas rules that cameras will be allowed in the courtroom to broadcast his verdict. He says it will increase the public’s confidence in the judicial system. Several media outlets had argued for cameras as being in the public interest, because of the cost of the extensive police investigation and trial.
Over the course of the three-and-a-half month trial, 89 witnesses were called to testify and 208 exhibits were shown in court.
Vader was late for court on four different occasions: twice he cited car troubles, once he said he slept in and on the fourth occasion he said someone borrowed his car and didn’t return it on time. As a result, stricter bail conditions were imposed on him, including that he be subjected to random drug testing. The RCMP alleged he broke those conditions by testing positive for meth and contacting a witness during the trial.
The Crown’s theory is that Travis Vader, a father of seven, was addicted to meth and on the run from police when he came across the McCanns in July 2010. In its closing arguments, the Crown painted Vader as a violent, cold-blooded killer, who they believe murdered one of the McCanns after robbing the couple and then killed the other to get rid of a witness.
The defence has asserted there can be no assumption the McCanns are dead and has argued the RCMP investigation suffered from tunnel vision through which it wrongfully zoned in on Vader. The defence says the RCMP failed to pursue other suspects.
Sept. 15: Travis Vader is found guilty of second-degree murder in the deaths of St. Albert couple Lyle and Marie McCann
Judge Denny Thomas delivered the verdict in an Edmonton courtroom. The decision was livestreamed online and broadcast on television, a first in Alberta’s history.
Thomas read from a summary of his 131-page ruling, in which he accepted much of the evidence presented by the Crown. However, he said there wasn’t enough evidence to prove that Vader had planned to kill the elderly Alberta couple.
“I cannot conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Vader killed the McCanns in a planned and deliberate manner,” Thomas said in his decision. “The killing of the McCanns was not a first-degree murder. It is therefore a second-degree murder.”
Family members of the McCanns wept in court and embraced one another after verdict was read.
-With files from Kendra Slugoski and Phil Heidenreich.