A sentencing hearing began Monday for Travis Vader, the man convicted of two counts of manslaughter in the deaths of St. Albert, Alta. couple Lyle and Marie McCann.
The McCanns, in their late 70s, disappeared in 2010 while on a road trip to British Columbia. Their bodies have never been found.
The hearing began Monday with victim impact statements.
“Travis Vader, where are the bodies of my parents?” son Bret McCann asked.
McCann spoke about the pain of not knowing where they are and the nightmare of imagining what his parents’ dying moments were like.
“All too often my thoughts of my parents are interrupted by thoughts of Travis Vader killing them,” Bret McCann said in court Monday.
“It is so, so sad that my parents didn’t live to fully enjoy their golden years,” their son told court. “And, especially, did not live to enjoy their great-grandchildren. They and us were robbed of this happiness. The pain will be revisited as they grow up, and their parents (our children) will need to explain what happened to their great-grandparents.
“Since my parents’ disappearance, I have noticed anxiety when individuals in my family travel. Especially, my children and wife. I always ask that they call or message me when they leave, when they stop mid-trip, and when they arrive at their destination. Occasionally, if the family member does not respond when expected, I find my anxiety will escalate. I’m sure this can be sourced back to my parents’ disappearance.”
He elaborated on his nightmare outside the courthouse.
“In my victim impact statement, I said that I have a recurring nightmare — I mean, it doesn’t happen all the time — but I have this nightmare, where Vader kills one of my parents and the other one watches, knowing that they are next. And I… I can’t get that vision out of my head and I know I will have that nightmare until… forever.”
In total, 10 statements were submitted, with eight being read on Monday. All painted a picture of a loving, elderly couple whose death has left a family reeling.
“Our loss is huge. Our pain everlasting. We will never forget and I will never forgive what Travis Vader has done,” McCann said.
McCann said the entire family is looking forward to the conclusion of the trial this week. He reiterated the pain of not being able to say goodbye.
“Now, over six years after Vader killed my parents, their remains have still not been found. It is very important to myself and my family that my parents’ remains be located and buried properly. That thing is a critical component of grieving process. And the one individual who knows where my parents are has said nothing for this whole time,” McCann said.
The hearing is expected to last a week. The Crown is seeking two life sentences, while the defence is asking for four to six years behind bars.
“I think a four to six-year sentence, with time off, he will be out on the street carrying on in a year, less than a year. I think it’s absurd,” McCann said.
The hearing will resume Tuesday at 9:30 a.m., when Vader is expected to take the stand.
In September, Justice Denny Thomas found Vader guilty of second-degree murder in the deaths. However, Thomas erred in his ruling and by using Section 230 of the Criminal Code, which the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional in 1990. The government didn’t remove the section from the books, as antiquated laws are rarely repealed.
Vader’s legal team applied for a mistrial. On Oct. 31, Thomas denied the mistrial application and instead convicted Vader of manslaughter in the elderly couple’s deaths.
“I concluded beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Vader committed homicide. He killed the McCanns to facilitate his robbing of them,” Thomas wrote in his manslaughter decision.
Bret McCann, Lyle and Marie’s son, said overall, his family was pleased with the judge’s decision and felt “comfortable” justice was being served.
“I was quite relieved we didn’t have to go through another trial.”
A manslaughter conviction carries no minimum sentence and has a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
In Canada, any “culpable homicide” that doesn’t meet the definition of murder is considered manslaughter. Culpable homicide includes a person causing the death of another human by means of an unlawful act, by criminal negligence, by causing that person (through threats or fear of violence or deception) to do anything that causes their death or by wilfully frightening that person.
In September following a lengthy trial, Thomas determined that Vader was a desperate drug addict who came across the couple in their RV and shot them during a robbery.
WATCH: Bret McCann shared the nightmare of imagining his parents’ dying moments in his victim impact statement on the first day of Travis Vader’s manslaughter sentencing hearing. Kendra Slugoski reports from the law courts.
Court heard that Lyle McCann’s blood-stained ball cap was found with a bullet hole in the couple’s SUV. DNA that matched Vader’s was also on the hat and his fingerprint was on a can of beer in the vehicle.
A friend testified Vader was broke, yet showed up flush with cash and driving an SUV that matched the one owned by the McCanns the day they disappeared.
The defence argued that the DNA evidence was sketchy, that witnesses had lied and that – with no bodies and no murder weapon – there was no real proof the McCanns were dead.
TIMELINE: The key events in the Travis Vader case
— With files from Emily Mertz, Global News, and The Canadian Press