Calgary

Jewelry and a piece of a shackle found in burn barrel, Douglas Garland's triple murder trial hears

A forensic investigator teared up as he testified about sifting through ashes collected from a burn pit on the farm where prosecutors say Douglas Garland killed and then burned a five-year-old boy and his grandparents.

WARNING: This story contains graphic details that may be disturbing to some readers

Douglas Garland is on trial on three counts of first-degree murder, accused of killing a boy and his grandparents. It is alleged that DNA evidence from the missing family members was found on the farm where Garland lived with his parents. (Court exhibit/Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

A forensic investigator teared up as he testified about sifting through ashes collected from a burn pit on the farm where prosecutors say Douglas Garland killed and then burned a Calgary boy and his grandparents.

Const. Ian Oxton spent 10 months using a "wet sifting" technique at the end of which he'd collected an earring, a bracelet, buttons, a piece of a shackle and more than two kilograms of biological material including bones and 17 fragments believed to be teeth.

  • PHOTOS | See photos of the evidence collected from the Garland farm at the bottom of this story

Nathan O'Brien, 5, Alvin Liknes, 66, and Kathy Liknes, 53, were last seen when the boy was having a sleepover at the grandparents' home on June 30, 2014. Their bodies have never been found.

Garland is being tried in Calgary on three counts of first-degree murder.

In the burn pit ashes, Oxton also found a charred circuit board that was later found to be a keyless car-starter for a Toyota Tundra, the same vehicle parked in the Liknes driveway.

Nathan O'Brien, 5, had been sleeping over at the home of his grandparents — Kathy Liknes, 53, and Alvin Liknes, 66 — in June 2014 when the three disappeared. (Calgary Police Service)

Aside from sifting through the ashes, Oxton was also responsible for the collection of about 1,400 exhibits as part of Operation Amber, the largest number of exhibits ever collected for a court case, according to the Calgary Police Service.

A pair of child-sized metal handcuffs, a bag of adult diapers, a chemical used to destroy DNA, a powder that causes blood to clot, two empty 50-litre canisters of liquid nitrogen, and half a bottle of chloroform​ were among the items collected by Oxton during searches of the outbuildings and small sheds on the property.

On the grass beside a cluster of three small sheds, was a grassy area that was noticeably compressed and discoloured with burn marks.

A photo collage shows bruises on Douglas Garland's head and face, hand and knee, as photographed by Calgary police after his arrest. (Court exhibit)

On Tuesday, jurors heard about dozens of items seized by Oxton including a book about how to dispose of a dead body, more than a dozen pairs of handcuffs and other types of restraints, whips, a straitjacket, anesthetic, daggers and what appeared to be two pieces of burnt flesh.

In their opening statement, prosecutors told jurors DNA from the missing family members was found on a saw and two meat hooks on the farm property where Garland lived with his parents.

The exhibits Oxton collected were sent to labs for further testing. Other witnesses will give evidence about DNA results later in the trial.

Photos of several minor injuries covering four different parts of Garland's body were released by Justice David Gates earlier this week. They show that on July 5, 2014, Garland had cuts on his head and upper lip, an abrasion on his thumb and a large bruise on his leg. 

An aerial photo of the Garland farm. The prosecution told jurors on the first day of trial that DNA from the missing family was found here. (Court exhibit)

Garland was charged with murder on July 15, 2014, after a massive two-week search launched on June 30, when Jennifer O'Brien arrived at her parents' home to pick up her son to find all three family members missing and bloodstains throughout the house.

Garland is connected to the Liknes family through his sister, Patti Garland, who was in a common-law relationship with Alvin Liknes's son, Allen.

Patti Garland, her parents and Allen Liknes all testified earlier in the trial that Garland harboured a grudge against Alvin Liknes after a business relationship soured years earlier.

Const. Ian Oxton collected several barrels of ashes from this dump pit on the Garland property. It took him 10 months to sift through it all. (Court exhibit)

DNA on farm

Inside the Liknes home, bloody footprints matched the shape and size of a pair of shoes missing from Garland's home, an expert testified last week.

On Monday, jurors heard evidence that a Calgary police cadaver dog gave signals he was onto the scent of human remains in several locations on the Garland farm.

When RCMP officers were dispatched to the farm on July 5, after Garland became a person of interest in the investigation, a burn barrel was still smouldering on the property.

Through what prosecutors Vicki Faulkner and Shane Parker have described as "dumb luck," a mapping plane that flew over the Garland property on July 1 and 2, 2014, took photographs that show what the Crown believes to be the bodies of two adults and a child in the grass.

Those photos have not yet been presented as evidence to jurors.

Lawyers Kim Ross and Jim Lutz are representing Garland and will cross-examine Oxton on Thursday.

The trial is scheduled to last five weeks.

In the burn pit ashes, Oxten also found a burnt sock, and a charred circuit board (circled in yellow) that was later found to to be a keyless car-starter for a Toyota Tundra, the same vehicle parked in the Liknes driveway. (Court exhibit)
These bones were found in the ashes from the burn pit and sent away for testing. (Court exhibit)
In the ashes, Oxton found an earring, a small bracelet, buttons, a piece of a shackle and a piece of watch. (Court exhibit)
In total, more than a dozen pairs of handcuffs were found by police in different areas on the Garland property. Officers also seized different types of restraints like leg shackles and the leather ones seen here. (Court exhibit)
Investigators searching the Garland farm found a new looking black duffle bag among older, dirty items in one of the outbuildings. Inside were handcuffs, a large knife and a leather baton. (Court exhibit)
More than 100 pairs of shoes were found on the Garland property. Investigators focused on the size 12 and 13 pairs (both men's and women's) discovered in the house, garage (pictured) and outbuildings. (Court exhibit)
Because so many chemicals were found in the Garlands' garage, it took weeks for investigators from Calgary police, RCMP and HAZMAT to process the space. One of the items they found inside was a nearly-empty bottle of a chemical capable of getting rid of DNA. (Court exhibit)
A straitjacket was among the items collected by police from inside Garland's home. (Court exhibit)

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