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Nathan O’Brien’s mother at Douglas Garland trial: ‘My family’s been murdered’

Nathan O’Brien’s mother at Douglas Garland trial: ‘My family’s been murdered’
WATCH ABOVE: Nathan O’Brien’s mother faced the man accused of killing the five-year-old boy and his grandparents in Calgary court Monday. Global’s Nancy Hixt describes the testimony and explains the Crown’s case against Douglas Garland. WARNING: Graphic content. Discretion is advised.

WARNING: This article contains graphic content that some readers might find disturbing.

Nearly two-and-a-half years after her little boy disappeared, a Calgary mother faced Douglas Garland, the man accused of his murder. She described a “bloody scene” when she went to pick up her son during testimony Monday.

Garland, 56, is charged with three counts of first-degree murder for the deaths of five-year-old Nathan O’Brien and his grandparents, Alvin and Kathy Liknes. He pleaded not guilty on all counts.

Nathan’s mother, Jennifer O’Brien, was the first to testify after the Crown’s opening remarks. She told court she had taken her boys to see their grandparents at the Liknes’ home, where they were having an estate sale on June 29, 2014.

“Everyone was in good spirits,” O’Brien explained. “It was a good day.”

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They took a family photo that included Kathy with her grandchildren.

Nathan had asked to have a sleepover and Jennifer agreed. Originally she had also planned to stay overnight with her two youngest sons.

Douglas Garland trial
The last photo of Nathan O’Brien (left) and Kathy Liknes, taken by Jennifer O’Brien at the Liknes’ home on June 29, 2014. Nathan’s younger brother, Max, is pictured on the right. Court exhibit
“I went to bed with Max [youngest son] at around 9 o’clock,” Jennifer said.

But she said the one-year-old was tossing and turning, so she decided to leave at about 11 p.m. and take him home to sleep.

She left Nathan sleeping at the Liknes home and took Max, locking the door behind them.

The outside of Alvin and Kathy Liknes’ home, presented as evidence in Douglas Garland’s murder trial Jan. 16, 2017.
The outside of Alvin and Kathy Liknes’ home, presented as evidence in Douglas Garland’s murder trial Jan. 16, 2017. CPS forensic exhibit

READ MORE: Family of Nathan O’Brien launches children’s foundation with $1 million donation

The next morning, Jennifer tried calling her mother.

“When she didn’t answer, I thought that was weird.”

When she arrived at her parents’ home to pick Nathan up on the morning of June 30, she said she “noticed the door was open, which it usually isn’t.”

The Liknes’ home basement, presented as evidence in Douglas Garland’s murder trial on Jan. 16, 2017.
The Liknes’ home basement, presented as evidence in Douglas Garland’s murder trial on Jan. 16, 2017. CPS forensic exhibit

She found the house covered in blood.

“I immediately saw pools of blood and hand marks of blood on the wall,” she said.

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“It was like a bloody scene: pools of blood on the bed and walls and throughout the kitchen.”

‪Jennifer testified she searched the house then called her husband.

“I said, ‘my family has been murdered and he’s taken the bodies.'” ‬

Prior to Jennifer’s testimony, the Crown presented a lengthy opening statement to the jury, outlining its case.

“The bodies of Alvin, Kathy and five-year-old Nathan were never recovered,” prosecutor Vicki Faulkner said.

“The three individuals were violently removed from their beds and taken to the Garland farm and killed. Their bodies burned in a large burn barrel with only tiny fragments of their bodies left for police to discover.”

The burn barrel on the Garland residence, presented as evidence at Douglas Garland’s murder trial Jan. 16, 2017.
The burn barrel on the Garland residence, presented as evidence at Douglas Garland’s murder trial Jan. 16, 2017. CPS forensic exhibit

The Crown’s theory is Garland held a “petty grudge” against Alvin over a patent that Alvin filed for a pump that Garland did some work on.

“A pump that never made any real money; a pump that didn’t make anyone famous,” Faulkner said.

The prosecution explained police first looked closely at Garland when his sister identified a photo of a truck seen in the area of the Liknes’ home.

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An aerial view of the Garland residence presented in Douglas Garland’s murder trial Jan. 16, 2017.
An aerial view of the Garland residence presented in Douglas Garland’s murder trial Jan. 16, 2017. CPS forensic exhibit

On July 4, 2016, police went to the Garland property, which was owned by Douglas’ parents, Doreen and Archie Garland. There was no sign of Alvin, Kathy or Nathan.

A further search of the property led to the discovery of DNA of all three victims.

“DNA of both Alvin and Nathan are found on a saw,” the Crown told the jury Monday. “DNA of Kathy is found on meat hooks.”

Faulkner went on to describe bones and a small tooth found in a burn barrel.

“A tiny piece of burnt flesh was found in the grass surrounding the burn barrel,” she said.

Nathan O’Brien’s Superman cape, presented as evidence during Douglas Garland’s murder trial Jan. 16, 2017.
Nathan O’Brien’s Superman cape, presented as evidence during Douglas Garland’s murder trial Jan. 16, 2017. CPS forensic exhibit

In the outbuildings, police found weapons: multiple knives, guns, blackjacks (a type of baton) and restraints, including handcuffs and leather restraints.

The Crown said they have extensive evidence from Garland’s hard drive showing “obsessive research…meticulous, painstaking research.”

Jurors were told Garland researched “not only ways to kill, but weapons to kill with. Not only how to preform autopsies, but tools to perform them with.”

The living room and kitchen at the Liknes’ residence, presented as evidence in Douglas Garland’s murder trial on Jan. 16, 2017.
The living room and kitchen at the Liknes’ residence, presented as evidence in Douglas Garland’s murder trial on Jan. 16, 2017. CPS forensic exhibit

The Crown said this was a detailed plot to kill Alvin and Kathy and when Nathan was at the home, he was incorporated into the plan.

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Key evidence to be presented during the trial includes aerial photos from the company Peregrine, hired for mapping purposes.

Court heard the company had a plane over the Garland property July 1 and 2, 2014 and captured photos that show the bodies of Alvin, Kathy and Nathan.

“Alvin and Kathy lying prone, face down on the grass at the Garland farm with no shirt on and no pants on,” Faulkner told the jury. “You will also see a small figure curled up on the grass.”

TIMELINE: Missing Calgary family Nathan O’Brien, Alvin and Kathryn Liknes

The trial is scheduled for five weeks with 11 men and three women on the jury, including two alternates. An estimated 50 witnesses will testify during the trial.

Garland has two lawyers representing him: Kim Ross and Jim Lutz.

“It’s been a long process for all parties involved, so we’re happy to get it moving,” Ross said. “Mr. Garland is happy that it’s getting underway, also. It’s been a long process for all parties.”

When asked about any possible issues with publicity, given it is a jury trial, Ross replied, “I think you’re always concerned about that.”

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The defence team told media it’s unclear if they will call evidence in the case and will make that decision at the close of the Crown’s case.

The case shocked people across Canada and around the world. An Amber Alert was issued that lasted for two weeks.

Garland had several ties to Alvin and Kathy Liknes. Alvin’s son was married to Garland’s sister. Family members confirm Alvin and Garland had a falling out several years earlier over a business deal that ended badly.

Family said Garland previously worked for Alvin. The accused also ran a chemical manufacturing company of his own.

On July 14, 2014, two weeks after the trio disappeared, Garland was arrested and charged with three counts of murder.

Watch below:  A home where one of the most heinous crimes in Calgary’s history is alleged to have happened has now been demolished. Nancy Hixt reports in April 2016.

Liknes home demolished
Liknes home demolished