EDMONTON – The sentencing hearing continues Wednesday in Edmonton for an Alberta man who killed an elderly Edmonton-area couple in 2010. Travis Vader was convicted of two counts of manslaughter in the deaths of St. Albert couple Lyle and Marie McCann.
On Wednesday the court is expected to hear more cross-examination of Vader, as well as audio tape recordings.
Vader, who did not testify during his high-profile murder trial, stood in the prisoner’s box Tuesday and listed numerous allegations of abuse over the last six years. Vader said he was humiliated with strip searches, attacked by guards and subjected to horrendous living conditions while in custody.
Much of Vader’s testimony focused on the time when he was still a person of interest in the McCanns’ disappearance, as he wasn’t charged with the murders until 2012.
Vader said after being arrested in 2010 on unrelated charges, he was taken to Edson, where he was strip-searched in a cell next to a booking counter in view of many other people.
“It’s humiliating, absolutely humiliating,” he testified. He was then transferred to the Edmonton Remand Center.
“I wouldn’t treat my dog like that,” the 44-year-old said about the many times he spent crammed in a holding tank with about 20 other people.
Other times he was in segregation, alone in a cell for 23 hours a day with no TV or radio, and feces was squeezed under his door.
Guards also taunted him, Vader said.
“Did you do it?” he said they repeatedly asked him.
“Where’s the bodies, Vader?”
Vader was convicted earlier this year of manslaughter in the July 2010 deaths of Lyle and Marie McCann. The couple, in their late 70s, vanished on their way to a camping trip in British Columbia.
Tn the days after they vanished, their burned-out motorhome and a vehicle they had been towing were discovered in the woods near Edson. But their bodies have never been found.
A judge determined that Vader, a desperate drug addict, came across the seniors in their RV and killed them during a robbery.
Defence lawyer Nathan Whitling is asking the court to stay Vader’s conviction or at least reduce his sentence — even to time served — because of mistreatment. An application before the court also claims RCMP prevented Vader from consulting with a lawyer when he was questioned about the McCanns.
Whitling has suggested a maximum sentence of four to six years, before credit, while the Crown is asking for a life term, but has not yet addressed parole eligibility.
Bret McCann read his victim impact statement in court Monday, demanding Vader admit where his parents’ bodies are. After listening to Vader’s complaints Tuesday, McCann said outside court that being in custody isn’t supposed to be nice.
“Vader sort of plays the classic victim,” said McCann. “I really don’t believe much of what he says.”
Vader, who has also filed a lawsuit claiming mistreatment by guards, stifled a couple yawns and cradled a bandaged right hand as he talked at length on the stand about his time in custody.
At one point, he was escorted to the judge’s bench, where he unwrapped his bandage to show a lump on his wrist. He said the bone snapped during an assault by guards at the Edmonton Remand Centre after his arrest in 2010.
He wasn’t given medical attention and it didn’t heal properly, he said.
There was another attack by guards the following year, before a bail hearing, in which he was jumped from behind and repeatedly kicked, he said. His mother and sister then saw him with a bloody face on a closed-circuit court camera.
TIMELINE: The key events in the Travis Vader case
Just last month, he said staff refused to give him an anti-fungal cream for a razor rash on his face. Guards suspected he was using drugs and he was placed in detox cell.
Other complaints include two strip searches caught on surveillance video — “I was standing there butt-naked, in front of the world,” said Vader — as well as an incompatible cellmate who hid under the bed.
Vader also said he converted to Islam while in custody and staff didn’t always honour his no-pork diet.
The hearing is expected to last a week.
— With files from Karen Bartko, Global News