Douglas Garland murder trial hears burnt circuit board found in ashes would have worked on victims' truck
WARNING: This story contains graphic details that may be disturbing to some readers
A burnt piece of a key fob found in a pile of ashes on the farm where triple-murder suspect Douglas Garland lived matches one that would have been used by the two grandparents he is accused of killing, court heard on Thursday.
RCMP forensic hardware engineer Kimberly Warren analyzed the burnt circuit board and determined it matches one used in the key fobs for five different models of Toyota vehicles, including the 2013 Tundra — the same type owned by Alvin and Kathy Liknes.
Nathan O'Brien, 5, Alvin Liknes, 66, and Kathy Liknes, 53, were last seen alive when the boy was having a sleepover at the grandparents' home on June 30, 2014.
Garland is being tried in Calgary on three counts of first-degree murder.
One of his neighbours woke up around 2:00 a.m. on July 2, 2014 and noticed a light on in the Garlands' greenhouse,
Brian Kalmback said he considered that unusual.
Later that day, Kalmback testified that he noticed a fire coming from the Garlands' burn barrel that "seemed to be larger with black smoke."
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Earlier on Thursday, Garland's lawyer Kim Ross cross-examined lead forensic investigator Const. Ian Oxten, who testified that none of the accused's fingerprints or DNA was ever found in the Liknes' home.
Oxton spent Tuesday and Wednesday testifying as a witness for the prosecution. He confirmed to Ross that no DNA from the missing family members was found on any of the contents of a black duffel bag — two sets of handcuffs, a large knife and a leather baton — or child-size handcuffs that were seized from the Garland farm.
It took the officer 10 months to sift through ashes gathered from the Garland property. On Wednesday, he outlined items he found, including 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.
Officers returned to the Garland farm to seize those ashes from the burn pit 10 months after the initial search.
Oxton told Ross nobody guarded the ashes to ensure continuity and in fact, Douglas Garland's father continued to burn garbage and dump the ashes in the pit.
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 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.
Earlier in his testimony, Oxton told jurors about other items seized from the Garland property including 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.
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.
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.
- Bloody footprints 'correspond' with shoes missing from Garland's home, trial hears
When RCMP officers were dispatched to the farm on July 5, after Garland became a person of interest in the investigation, the burn barrel was 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.
The trial will not sit on Friday. On Monday, prosecutors Shane Parker and Vicki Faulkner will call witnesses to give evidence relating to a hard drive seized from the rafters in Garland's basement.
See the latest updates in live tweets from CBC reporters in the courtroom. On mobile? See the live blog.
With files from Bryan Labby