Police believed they found a beer can with Travis Vader's DNA on it during the murder investigation of Lyle and Marie McCann, newly released notes taken during meetings between the Crown and the RCMP indicate.
The notes also suggest that a paid RCMP witness said that he would tell police where the bodies of the missing St. Albert couple are, if he was given more money.
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The sprawling notes were taken during meetings that occurred between Dec. 2, 2013 and July 31, 2014. At the meetings were RCMP investigators, as well as prosecutors who were preparing to take the case to trial.
In some sections notes were difficult to read because they were handwritten and scattered across pages.
But they shed light on the evidence the Crown believed it had against Vader at the time, and the frantic scrambling which ensued when prosecutors realized they were missing key evidence a few months before the trial was first set to begin in 2014 before charges were stayed.
DNA and a fingerprint
Investigators said they had forensic evidence that tied Vader to the McCann's Hyundai Tucson vehicle, found near Edson two weeks after the couple was last seen while leaving on a road trip in 2010.
The notes indicate that cans of beer were found, including "one at site w/ Vader DNA."
Another section discloses that a beer can was found in the McCann's SUV. A fingerprint on it was compared to Vader's right middle finger. It was then "individualized and verified" by an RCMP officer.
The Crown's case against Vader has been described as circumstantial, and the investigation as complicated and immense. Police sorted through 1,400 tips in the case, and the notes show that investigators were working to sort out a timeline of who Vader was in contact with and when.
A memorandum produced after a pre-trial conference in November 2013 said that "it is alleged that Travis Vader has been using (the McCann's) cellular telephone at approximately 2:00 pm on July 3rd," which would be less than five hours after the elderly couple was seen filling up their RV in St. Albert.
The Crown has stated that the defence "does not admit these facts."
The allegations in the notes have not been proven in court. But they further illuminate the disorganization and lack of communication between the RCMP and Crown in the case.
As prosecutors were preparing for trial, the RCMP was trying to locate phone records and text messages.
As the weeks progressed and the trial inched closer, the sheer scale of the problem became very clear. Thousands of documents hadn't been disclosed nor had some audio related to an undercover investigation.
These latest revealed notes detail one significant omission: the Crown wasn't aware that one of its witnesses had been paid thousands of dollars by the RCMP.
The witness, a man whose identity is protected by a publication ban, was in custody. But one of the handwritten notes state that he began working with police in 2011.
Bullet points made during a meeting in March 2014 state that "No one tells MD that he was a paid witness." It is believed that MD refers to Edmonton's chief Crown prosecutor Michelle Doyle.
A note on another page reads there was "no clue he was paid 22 thousand dollars." A separate line suggests that the man told police that "if he gets more $$$" he will say where the bodies are.
The focus of the meetings then dramatically shifts as the Crown concludes that it can't go to trial that April of 2014. Written on one of the pages: "MD: can't salvage trial, not comfortable." Another line says "MD feels betrayed" and "the family of two dead people deserve better than this."
The Crown ended up staying the first-degree murder charges against Vader.. But they were reactivated nine months later in December 2014.
Now the case is back in court again, but the defence is seeking to have the charges stayed again. Vader's legal team has argued at a hearing in Edmonton that the Crown abused the judicial process, and that the delay between when Vader was arrested and when he'll likely go to trial was unreasonable.
Justice Denny Thomas will hand down his ruling Jan. 26, and his decision will dictate whether or not Vader will stand trial for the murders of the McCanns.