Douglas Garland triple murder trial sees 'very graphic' evidence found on hard drive

"Very graphic" evidence, including photos and research on dismemberment, dead bodies and killing methods, was presented to jurors in Douglas Garland's triple murder trial in Calgary on Monday.

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)

"Very graphic" evidence, including photos and research on dismemberment, dead bodies and killing methods, was presented to jurors in Douglas Garland's triple murder trial on Monday.

The 56-year-old is on trial for three counts of first-degree murder, accused of killing Nathan O'Brien, 5, and his grandparents, Alvin Liknes, 66, and Kathy Liknes, 53. They were last seen alive when the boy was having a sleepover at their home in the southwest Calgary neighbourhood of Parkhill on June 29, 2014.

The evidence presented in the Calgary court Monday came from a hard drive that was discovered hidden in joists in the basement of a farmhouse north of city where Garland lived with his parents. It was found five days after investigators began to search the property.

Const. Doug Kraan, an expert in digital forensic examinations, looked at 112 gigabytes of information stored on the hard drive. The last time the drive was accessed was the day after the boy and his grandparents disappeared. 

In her opening statement to jurors after the trial started on Jan. 16, prosecutor Vicki Faulkner said the "meticulous, painstaking research ... led to action," and led "the accused to purchase weapons and tools for killing and dismembering."

A hard drive was found in the basement joists at the Garland home. Prosecutors say it contains 'meticulous' research about killing, torture and the Likneses. (Court exhibit )

Garland's online exploration shows a grudge against Alvin Liknes over a failed business relationship festered over years and evolved to include Kathy Liknes, according to Faulkner and fellow prosecutor Shane Parker.

Photos of Kathy Liknes were discovered on the hard drive, as well as documents and folders relating to Alvin Liknes' businesses and his address.

"He planned to kill them, but first he planned to disable them, and remove them from their home and take them to his remote property, where he could use the knowledge he had gained and the tools he had acquired," said Faulkner earlier in the trial.

Kraan also showed jurors a folder on "adult baby diapering" containing fetish-type photos of people in diapers — some in handcuffs and sexual positions. He was asked to scroll quickly and not linger on the images.

Included in Kraan's findings were an autopsy manual, 18 documents on "killing" or "murder," and a folder called "gore" with 87 photos of dead and dismembered people.

That folder was last accessed the day after Nathan and the Likneses disappeared.

"It was very graphic," said Kraan.

'Techniques of taking another human life'

The first page of a book titled Kill Without Joy: The Complete How to Kill Book was displayed for jurors on screens in the courtroom.

"The object of this study is to instruct the reader in the techniques of taking another human life up close and doing it well," reads the opening passage of the book.

Before Kraan began presenting the graphic evidence, Court of Queen's Bench Justice David Gates warned jurors not to use the evidence to conclude Garland is a "bad character" and therefor infer guilt. Instead, he said they could consider it in the context of three issues: identity, murderous intent, and planning and deliberation.

The hard drive shows no research on Nathan, but the Crown's theory is that he "tragically happened to be at the home that night," and Garland "incorporated him into his already meticulous research plan."

On June 30, 2014, 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.

A user and programming guide for a Schlage BE356 lock was also found on the hard drive.

The same type of lock was found tampered with on the Liknes' side door the morning they were discovered missing. That folder was accessed five days before the boy and his grandparents were last seen.

Garland was charged on July 15, 2014, two weeks after the massive search for Nathan and his grandparents began.

The bodies of the boy and his grandparents have never been found. The Crown's theory is that they were burned in barrels on the Garland farm.

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)

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.

In the ashes retrieved from the Garland farm, investigators found jewelry, a piece of a shackle, bones and 17 fragments believed to be teeth. 

On the farm, police collected more than a dozen pairs of handcuffs and other types of restraints, and what appeared to be two pieces of burnt flesh, as well as half a bottle of chloroform.

DNA from the missing family members was found on a saw and two meat hooks on the farm property, the jury has heard.

Based on emails found on the hard drive to and from the accused, Kraan said main user of computer "would have been Douglas Garland."

Kraan's testimony continues Tuesday. Defence lawyers Kim Ross and Jim Lutz have not had the chance to cross-examine the officer.

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