WARNING: This story contains graphic content that some readers might find disturbing. Discretion is advised.
An expert cadaver dog was the focus of the sixth day of testimony as Douglas Garland‘s triple-murder trial entered its second week.
Garland, 56, is charged with three counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of five-year-old Nathan O’Brien and his grandparents, Alvin and Kathy Liknes.
Nathan, Alvin and Kathy were last seen alive June 29, 2014.
Sully, a 10-year-old yellow Labrador Retriever, was taken to the Garland property on multiple occasions to pinpoint areas of interest to police officers. The dog used his sense of smell, considered to be 40 times that of humans.
Court heard he was first taken to the farm on July 5, 2014—six days after Nathan and the Liknes’ disappeared.
His handlers testified his behaviours indicated human remains in three spots on the farm.
Sully sat to indicate one discovery on the southwest corner near the south fire pit.
“Immediately he showed an immense amount of interest around that pile in that corner,” Sully’s handler Const. Darcy Williams said.
When the dog went to the area near the burn barrel and wood chipper, Williams said he “sat facing the burn barrel, beside the barrel.”
The dog put his nose to the ground and walked back and forth “frantically” at the third location—between the green house and one of the outbuildings.
“I’d never seen anything like this from him before,” Williams said.
Watch below from Jan. 20: A Calgary court heard how accused murderer Douglas Garland was originally arrested and listened to an expert witness describe how a pair of shoes could be connected to the high-profile murder that shocked the city. Nancy Hixt reports.
Earlier on Monday, officers involved with the search of the Garland farm testified.
The RCMP Emergency Response Team assisted with the first search of the property on July 4, 2014.
Court heard the tactical team was told to be prepared for a “hostage rescue.”
“I was looking for people, primarily two elderly people and a small child,” RCMP Sgt. Troy Switzer said Monday.
He told court officers did not find any bodies that day; instead, he found a duffel bag in one of the Garland outbuildings.
Inside he said he found two pairs of handcuffs, hunting knives and a billy club (baton).
Officers described finding the burn barrel on the farm “still smouldering.”
Staff Sgt. Tim Walker was in charge of the Calgary-area RCMP Forensic Identification Section at the time.
He said he quickly extinguished the fire in the barrel with a garden hose.
“There was a lot of embers and ash,” he said.
Walker said while they waited for the barrel to cool, he was involved in a search of several outbuildings.
He explained he applied a chemical called “Bluestar” to areas of suspected blood–the areas would then fluoresce.
In two of the buildings, there was an indication of blood near the light switches.
Court heard swabs of those areas were taken and sent to the lab for DNA testing.
Once the burn barrel cooled, at approximately 3:50 p.m. July 5, 2014, Walker said, “we emptied the burn barrel onto a large tarp and proceeded to sift through it.”
“We found some bone. We thought we recovered a tooth.”
The jury was shown photos of the items sifted from the barrel, including charred glasses.
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The Crown’s theory is Garland obsessively and meticulously researched and carried out a plot to murder Alvin and Kathy Liknes, as well as their grandson, Nathan O’Brien.
The trial is scheduled for four more weeks.
Watch below: Global’s ongoing coverage of the Douglas Garland triple murder trial