Murder is one of the most egregious crimes in our society.
Taking someone's life is permanent and those left behind are forever changed. The most broken people I have ever met are the parents of murder victims.
There are many interesting and significant non-homicide cases coming up in 2015, but I've chosen to highlight trials that involve murder charges because the crimes have significant implications for our community.
The cases involve victims who were particularly vulnerable — children or the disabled — or people just in the wrong place at the wrong time. The upcoming gang trials signify the end of a bloody era in Calgary when dozens were killed.
Two of the other cases gripped this city in ways we have never before experienced.
1) Murder for money?
Accused: 57-year-old Brian Malley.
Charges: First-degree murder, causing an explosion likely to cause harm or death and sending an explosive device to a person.
Victim: 23-year-old Victoria Shachtay.
Trial: Jury trial beginning Jan. 26, 2015.
Lawyers: Bob Aloneissi (defence) and Anders Quist & Todd Buziak (Crown).
Former financial adviser Brian Malley is charged with first-degree murder in the bombing death of a disabled single-mother. Victoria Shachtay was killed by an explosion at her Innisfail home after a package was delivered there in November 2011.
The single mother of a then seven-year-old girl had received a $1-million court settlement following a 2004 car accident that left her in a wheelchair.
Malley was supposed to help her manage the money but Shachtay became suspicious when her money started disappearing and she began asking Malley more questions about her portfolio.
Malley also faces an $80-million lawsuit after being accused of losing roughly $50 million from dozens of clients.
2) A tortured child
Accused: 25-year-old Marie Magoon and 29-year-old Spencer Jordan.
Charges: First-degree murder.
Victim: Six-year-old Meika Jordan.
Trial: Judge alone trial beginning March 23, 2015.
Lawyers: Allan Fay (Magoon), Mitch Stephensen (Jordan), Susan Pepper and Hyatt Morgrabee (Crown).
It took a year for Spencer Jordan and Marie Magoon to be charged in connection with the death of Jordan's six-year-old daughter.
Meika Jordan died of multiple blunt force traumas in November 2011 while in the care of her father and stepmother. who originally told police the child fell down the stairs. She suffered numerous, brutal injuries leading up to her death — including a severe burn to her hand.
The first-degree charge could be precedent-setting in that the Crown plans to prove the element of forcible confinement — arguing the child, because of her age, was unable to leave her father's home.
3) Domestic death
Accused: Kristopher (Tray) Guenther.
Charges: First-degree murder.
Victim: 20-year-old Lacey Jones McKnight.
Trial: Feb 17, 2015.
Lawyers: Kim Ross (defence) and Joe Mercier (Crown).
Kristopher (Tray) Guenther is accused of killing his fiancée Lacey Jones McKnight after she broke off their engagement.
Shelly Jones, McKnight's mother, says her daughter was terrorized in the weeks leading up to her death. She began keeping close tabs on her daughter by driving her to and from work and calling police for a break-in, threats and an incident where McKnight's tires were slashed.
McKnight's body was found in a car in the northeast on Oct. 25, 2012, and Guenther was hospitalized after an apparent suicide attempt.
Jones has been adamant since the day her daughter was killed that police, who records show were called numerous times leading up to her death, failed the family as well. She has spent much of her time since Lacey's death trying to hold police accountable.
4) Operation Desino: The fall of a street gang
A Calgary gang war between the FOB (Fresh Off the Boat) and the FK (FOB Killers) is connected to at least 25 deaths between 2002 and 2009.
Police and Crown prosecutors successfully flipped two major players for the FOB gang, convincing Michael Roberto and Hans Eastgaard to testify against their former friends in exchange for immunity deals.
The Desino charges stem from three incidents: the restaurant shooting deaths of Tina Kong and Kevin Ses, the drive-by shooting death of Kevin Anaya and the Bolsa restaurant triple-murder of Sanjeev Mann, Aaron Bendle and innocent bystander Keni S'ua.
The five men charged in connection with those murders, as well as the two former associates who will testify against them, are all connected to the FOB gang — which has essentially been broken up since the charges.
In addition to murder, Nick Chan faces a charge of instructing a criminal organization. It's the first time in Calgary the charge has been laid.
Two trials related to the deaths of Kong, Ses and Anaya will take place in 2015 and could affect the Bolsa trial set for 2016.
Keep an eye on the credibility of witnesses Roberto (who got a partial immunity deal for his role in the Bolsa murders) and Eastgaard (who was granted full immunity for his admitted role in the Ses, Kong and Anaya killings).
The Bolsa shootings have already gone to trial once. Roberto, Zuccherato and Real Honorio were all originally convicted of first-degree murder but new trials were ordered by the Alberta Court of Appeal after a key Crown witness recanted.
Food in the East shooting
Accused: Thoai Van Luc and Nathan Zuccherato.
Charges: Two counts of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder.
Victims: Tina Kong and Kevin Ses.
Lawyers: Janice Rea, Bob Sigurdson (Crown), Andre Ouellette (Van Luc) and Alain Hepner (Zuccherato).
Trial: February 23, 2015.
Restaurant killings of nursing student Tina Kong and her friend Kevin Ses who were shot at Food in the East restaurant in October 2008.
Police said at the time that Ses was a loose associate of a gang member, but Kong had no connection to illegal activity.
Accused: Nathan Zuccherato, Dustin Darby, Nick Chan and Tim Chan.
Charges: First-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder. Nick Chan also faces the charge of instructing a criminal organization.
Victim: Kevin Anaya.
Lawyers: Adam May, Ryan Persad (prosecutors), Alain Hepner (Zuccherato), Karen Molle (Darby), Richard Cairns (Nick Chan).
Trial: September 14, 2015.
Kevin Anaya was the victim of a daytime drive-by shooting in Marlborough in August 2008.
The shooting continued when the attackers then got out of the vehicle and walked up to Anaya, an FK associate, leaving him dying on the pavement.
5) Preliminary inquiries
Two crimes — one that involved a family believed by police to have been murdered and the other that involved five young people stabbed to death — gripped the entire nation in 2015. The collective grief has led to countrywide interest, with many following every step of the court processes.
However, the two cases are not getting individual mention because each is set for preliminary inquiry — the details of which will almost certainly be covered by a publication ban. These hearings won't new detail or conclusions, but are rather a step to move the process forward.
After the hearings we will know two things: what charges the accused, Matthew de Grood and Douglas Garland, will be sent to trial on and the dates of those trials.
Accused: Douglas Garland.
Charges: Three counts of first-degree murder.
Victims: Nathan O'Brien (5), Kathy Liknes and Alvin Liknes.
Preliminary inquiry: May 19, 2015.
Lawyers: Shane Parker (Crown) and Kim Ross (defence).
For weeks people held out hope that five-year-old Nathan O'Brien and his grandparents Alvin and Kathy Liknes would be found alive.
Nathan had been at their home for a sleepover in late June. When his mother came to pick him up the next morning, all three were missing. No bodies were ever found despite massive searches for the three.
Two weeks after their disappearance, Douglas Garland was charged with their murders.
Garland has connections to the family. He had business dealings with Alvin Liknes. His sister, Patti Garland, is also the common-law wife of Alvin Liknes's son.
Accused: 23-year-old Matthew de Grood.
Charges: Five counts of first-degree murder.
Victims: Kaiti Perras, 23, Lawrence Hong, 27, Joshua Hunter, 23, Zackariah Rathwell, 21, Jordan Segura, 22.
Preliminary inquiry: March 13, 2015.
Lawyers: Neil Wiberg (Crown) and Allan Fay (defence).
Calgarians woke up to horrifying news and images on April 15, 2014.
Five young people — Zackariah Rathwell, Lawrence Hong, Kaitlin Perras, Jordan Segura and Joshua Hunter — were stabbed to death at a house party celebrating the end of university classes.
At issue is his mental state at the time. A report that contains doctors' opinions on whether they believe he should be found not criminally responsible for the crimes he is alleged to have committed remains sealed.