Calgary

Calgary's top criminal trials to watch in 2017

A triple murder trial, parents accused of fatally failing their children, police officers charged with assault: these are the cases coming out of the Calgary Courts Centre that will dominate headlines in 2017.

CBC court reporter Meghan Grant gives her list of trials to follow this year

Nathan O'Brien, centre, and his grandparents, Kathy and Alvin Liknes were last seen in June 2014. Douglas Garland will go on trial Jan. 16 on three counts of 1st-degree murder. (Calgary Police Service)

A triple murder trial, parents accused of fatally failing their children, police officers charged with assault: these are the cases coming out of the Calgary Courts Centre that will dominate headlines in 2017.

While the list is in no way an exhaustive one, the following are cases that have captured Calgarians from the beginning. 

1) Missing family

A judge and jury will hear five weeks of evidence in Douglas Garland's triple murder trial. (CBC)
  • Accused: Douglas Garland, 56
  • Charges: 1st degree murder x 3
  • Victim: Nathan O'Brien, Alvin Liknes, Kathy Liknes
  • Trial: Jan. 16, 2017
  • Lawyers: Shane Parker & Vickie Faulkner (Crown) Kim Ross & Jim Lutz (defence)

For two weeks in July 2014 Canadians hoped for the best despite fearing the worst; a five-year-old boy and his grandparents were missing.

Despite an extensive search for the trio, all hope was dashed when police announced murder charges had been laid against Douglas Garland.

Garland's sister was in a common-law relationship with Alvin Liknes's son. He and Alvin Liknes were also involved in a patent dispute and there was bad blood between them because of business dealings that had gone sour. 

Though no bodies were ever found, prosecutor Shane Parker said early on in the court process he was "confident" in the evidence.

The Crown will call about 60 witnesses over the five-week trial.

2) A mother's murder trial

Traezlin Denzel Starlight, 2, died in a Calgary hospital on Sept. 25, 2014, after being admitted to hospital a week earlier with injuries. His mother, Livia Starlight, from the Tsuut'ina First Nation southwest of Calgary, faces a charge of second-degree murder. (Facebook)
  • Accused: Livia Starlight, 30
  • Charges: 2nd-degree murder 
  • Victim: Traezlin Denzel Starlight, 2
  • Trial: Feb. 6, 2017
  • Lawyers: Photini Papadatou (Crown) Alain Hepner (defence)

Traezlin Denzel Starlight, 2, was admitted to hospital with injuries on Sept.18, 2014, and died one week later. He had been in his mother's care when he was injured. 

Livia Starlight was arrested and charged months later. The Tsuut'ina woman was granted bail but re-arrested in December for allegedly breaching her release conditions.

There are several factors currently under publication ban that once made public at trial will speak to a greater systemic failing that may have played a role in Traezlin's victimization.

3) Police on trial

Photos show some of the injuries Clayton Prince sustained when he was arrested by Calgary police officers, who now face criminal charges. (Clayton Prince)
  • Accused: James Othen, Mike Sandalack, Kevin Humfery 
  • Charges: Assault causing bodily harm
  • Victim: Clayton Prince
  • Trial: March 28, 2017
  • Lawyers: Jim Stewart (Edmonton Crown) Alain Hepner, Willie de Wit, Paul Brunnen

It was only after dash-cam video of a violent arrest surfaced that an investigation was launched into the actions of Calgary police officers who had arrested Clayton Prince during a traffic stop.

The video allegedly depicts police officers brutalizing Prince while he was on the ground, in handcuffs.

Prince suffered broken ribs, a bad neck infection from being stabbed with a key and a collapsed lung. 

Const. James Othen, 38, faces four charges including assault causing bodily harm, assault with a weapon and two counts of public mischief. Const. Kevin Humfrey, 33, faces a charge of assault causing bodily harm and two counts of public mischief. Const. Michael Sandalack, 31, faces a charge of assault causing bodily harm.

The mischief charges relate to false statements two officers are alleged to have given that led to Prince being charged with resisting arrest. The charge was later dropped.

Police have not allowed access to the video, but if it is made an exhibit during trial, CBC News will request the judge release it.

4) Hidden body 

Allan Shyback is charged with second-degree murder in the death of his common-law partner and the mother of his children, Lisa Michelle Mitchell. (Meghan Grant/CBC)
  • Accused: Allan Shyback
  • Charges: 2nd-degree murder & committing indignity to a body
  • Victim: Lisa Michelle Mitchell
  • Trial: April 18, 2017
  • Lawyers: Jayme Williams (Crown). Balfour Der (defence)

For two years Lisa Mitchell was missing and for two years her body was hidden in the basement of the home where her children and common-law husband continued to live.

It took that long for police to execute an undercover operation with Allan Shyback as the target.

In Dec. 2014, Shyback was arrested and charged with second-degree murder and committing indignity to a body

Mitchell, 31, was last seen at her home in the southeast community of Ogden on Oct. 29, 2012. 

The trial is expected to take two weeks.

5) Religion, medicine and parental obligation

  • Accused: Jeromie, 36 & Jennifer Clark, 40
  • Charges: Failing to provide the necessaries of life & criminal negligence causing death 
  • Victim: John Clark, 14 months
  • Trial: June 5, 2017
  • Lawyers: Shane Parker & Jennifer Crews (Crown), David Chow & George Sirois (defence)

If this story sounds familiar, it's because there have been several headline-making cases of parents accused of failing to properly care for their children in Alberta. Judges and juries have been tasked with deciding what the standard of care is when it comes to the medical and nutritional needs of children.

The children in southern Alberta's three most high-profile cases died of illnesses that could have been treated by doctors.

Jennifer and Jeromie Clark's 14-month-old, John — who had never been taken to see a doctor — died of a staph infection complicated by malnutrition in Dec. 2014. 

Police believe the couple followed an extreme interpretation of their Seventh-day Adventist religion. 

6) Last chance to get the gangster

Nick Chan is heading to trial again for murder. This time, he is charged with the first-degree murder of Kevin Anaya and conspiracy to murder rival gang member, Kevin Bontogon. (Handout)
  • Accused: Nick Chan
  • Charges: 1st degree murder, instructing a criminal organization
  • Victim: Kevin Anaya
  • Trial: Oct 2, 2017
  • Lawyers: Adam May & Stephen Johnston (Crown) 

Nick Chan is suspected of leading his group, the FOBs, through the most violent gang war ever to take place on Calgary streets. Chan is accused of instructing his underlings to murder rival gangsters and paying for successful hits.

He was a key target of a massive police investigation, Operation Desino, that ended in July 2013 with multiple gangsters facing numerous murder charges stemming from three different homicides. 

But in March 2016, a jury found Chan not guilty of first-degree murder for the 2009 Bolsa Restaurant triple murder. 

This time, Chan is charged with first-degree murder, accused of ordering a hit on rival gangster, Kevin Bontogon, that instead ended with the death of Kevin Anaya in 2008. Chan also faces a charge of conspiracy to commit murder for the alleged plot on Bontogon's life.

This is the police and prosecution's second and final chance to see Chan convicted of murder.


 

About the Author

Meghan Grant

CBC Calgary reporter

Meghan Grant is the courts and crime reporter for CBC Calgary.