For the latest news, see: Douglas Garland sentencing to hear from victims' family members


A Calgary jury has found Douglas Garland guilty of three counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of a five-year-old boy and his grandparents after deliberating for 8½ hours.

Garland, 57, was charged with three counts of first-degree murder in the 2014 deaths of five-year-old Nathan O'Brien and Alvin, 66, and Kathy Liknes, 53, of Calgary.

Family members of the victims cried when the verdicts were read out, but Garland showed no reaction. 

Justice David Gates told jurors they could recommend consecutive life terms, which would mean Garland would not be allowed to apply for parole for 75 years. After a short deliberation, 10 of the 12 jurors agreed to make that recommendation. 

If the judge agrees, it would mean Garland would be tied with Justin Bourque for getting the stiffest sentence in Canada since the death penalty was abolished. Bourque pleaded guilty to three counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of three Mounties and the attempted murder of two other RCMP officers in Moncton, N.B., in 2014. 

Douglas Garland

Douglas Garland showed little expression throughout the trial and declined to speak when invited by the judge at his sentencing hearing. (CBC)

Garland will be sentenced on Friday.

'They're numb, they're still processing'

After the decision, Crown prosecutor Shane Parker said the verdict was just, but family members of the victims are unlikely to find much relief for their suffering. 

"You're not going to get an emotion such as relief or anything like that. I think for them, they're numb, they're still processing," he said. 

Parker said Garland will spend the rest of his life in jail, and the only real question in sentencing will be when he "can hand in his paperwork" for parole. 

Defence lawyers Kim Ross and Jim Lutz wouldn't comment on the possibility of an appeal.

"It's always a hard case for the jury to think about when they are dealing with a young child and a family — always — everyone appreciates that. But, you know, it's a question of weighing the evidence ... This is perhaps a case where reasonable doubt should have applied," said Lutz.

They briefly spoke to Garland after the verdict about what would be happening on Friday when they return to court.

"In a case like this there really are no winners. I can't think of a way to put a positive spin on it because everybody — both sides of the case — really has lost on this one," said Lutz.

Jurors began deliberating at 5:15 p.m. MT Wednesday evening and returned shortly after 2 p.m. on Thursday. 

The bodies of Nathan and his grandparents have never been found, and prosecutors believe the three family members were taken from the Liknes's home alive on June 29, 2014, then killed on a farm near Airdrie, north of Calgary, where Garland lived with his parents. The Crown's theory is that Garland burned the bodies. 

Liknes, Nathan O'Brien, Garland trial

Douglas Garland was found guilty of three counts of first-degree murder Thursday in the deaths of Kathy Liknes and Nathan O'Brien, left, and Alvin Liknes, right, in June 2014. (Calgary Police Service)

Crown prosecutors Parker and Vicki Faulkner as well as defence lawyers Ross and Lutz made closing arguments to the jury on Monday.

Jurors had heard earlier in the trial that Garland was angry at Alvin Liknes over a business relationship formed and broken years earlier.

The defence team did not call any witnesses to testify. 

Internet searches found on a hard drive that was found hidden in the farmhouse where Garland lived with his parents showed obsessive research on the Likneses, killing, torture and weapons, according to the Crown.

Nathan was sleeping over at his grandparents' on the night of June 29, 2014, when the three family members disappeared.

Jurors heard testimony that DNA from all three was found on the Garland farm, including on a hacksaw and meat hook. 

Two small pieces of human remains — belonging to Alvin and Kathy Liknes — were also found on the property.

Garland green truck box

The photo on the left shows what the Crown says are three bodies covered by something white in the bed of Douglas Garland's pickup truck around 5:15 a.m. on June 30, 2014. Two hours later, the truck was spotted again, but it was empty. (Court exhibit)

The search for Nathan and his grandparents ended two weeks after their disappearance when Garland was arrested and charged with murder.

A first-degree murder conviction comes with an automatic life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years.

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Edited by Alison Downie