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Justice tells Douglas Garland triple-murder jury ‘yesterday was difficult’

Justice tells Douglas Garland triple-murder jury ‘yesterday was difficult’
WATCH ABOVE: Court continued to hear testimony from a key forensic investigator at Douglas Garland's murder trial in Calgary on Wednesday. Global's Nancy Hixt reports.

WARNING: This story contains graphic content that some readers might find disturbing. Discretion is advised.

The eighth day of testimony in the Douglas Garland triple-murder trial began with an expression of concern and compassion from the judge presiding over the case.

“I know yesterday was difficult,” Justice David Gates told the jury. “It was difficult for me, too.”

He told the 14 jurors to let him know if they needed a break and reminded them of the importance of the evidence they are hearing.

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.

READ MORE: Timeline – Missing Calgary family Nathan O’Brien, Alvin and Kathryn Liknes

The lead forensic investigator on the case, Const. Ian Oxton resumed his testimony Wednesday morning.

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Oxton said the Garland garage, attached to the home, was filled with unknown chemicals. Investigators had to wear protective gear to enter.

Shoes seized from the Garland property presented in Douglas Garland’s murder trial on Jan. 25, 2017.
Shoes seized from the Garland property presented in Douglas Garland’s murder trial on Jan. 25, 2017. Calgary Police Service forensic exhibit

Court heard a bottle of chloroform was seized and investigators collected 83 pairs of shoes from the garage.

“We were focusing on sizes 12 and 13,” he said, noting none of the shoes matched footprints from the crime scene at the Liknes’ home.

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Oxton said investigators could tell there had been “a lot of activity” around the far south outbuildings on the rural property and explained the grass was matted down with what appeared to be chemical burns.

“I remember some of the tips of the grass being blackened,” he said.

In one of the far buildings, Oxton said he found men’s and women’s clothing, along with approximately 50 adult diapers from the Foothills hospital.

He said there were also a number of shoes and a box of leather straps with leather pouches similar to what a police officer would wear.

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Handcuffs seized from Garland’s property, referenced in testimony Jan. 25, 2017 at Douglas Garland’s murder trial.
Handcuffs seized from Garland’s property, referenced in testimony Jan. 25, 2017 at Douglas Garland’s murder trial. Calgary Police Service forensic exhibit

Court also heard that building contained smaller handcuffs; Oxton said they were for children or small adults. The items were shown to the jury.

Oxton testified he returned to the Garland property March 26, 2015, after receiving more information about what may have happened to the three victims.

READ MORE: Douglas Garland triple-murder jury asked to handle disturbing evidence

The public safety unit did an intense search of the area behind the Garland home, called a “fingertip search.” Officers were down on their hands and knees, but court heard nothing of value was found.

Oxton told the jury it was in March that he seized the burn barrel and all the ashes from the fire pit: 120 gallons of ashes in total.

Oxton became emotional, tearing up as he spoke about sifting through those ashes. It took 10 months, equal to approximately 550 hours.

Watch below: Global’s ongoing coverage of Douglas Garland’s murder trial

He also tried a new method of sifting.

“We pass the ashes through water,” Oxton said. “It cleans the ashes.”

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Oxton told court he recovered “17 fragments that could be teeth.”

Officers searching the Garland property. Photo presented as evidence Jan. 25, 2017.
Officers searching the Garland property. Photo presented as evidence Jan. 25, 2017. Calgary Police Service forensic exhibit

The officer also testified a bottle of “Rnase Away” was seized during the spring 2015 search. Court heard it’s an agent used to destroy DNA.

Oxton told court he did BlueStar chemical testing on Garland’s Ford F150 truck and several areas were positive for presumptive testing for blood, including the back of the licence plate. Swabs were taken and sent for DNA testing.

The Crown alleges Garland violently took the Likneses and young Nathan, killed them, then dismembered their bodies and burned them in the barrel.

Court had adjourned for the day at noon on Wednesday.