Triple murderer Douglas Garland will not get new trial: Court of Appeal of Alberta

The man who murdered a Calgary boy and his grandparents will not get a new trial after Alberta's top court rejected his appeal Friday.

Airdrie man sentenced to life in prison with no parole for at least 75 years

Douglas Garland asked a panel of Alberta judges to overturn his three convictions for first-degree murder. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

The man who murdered a Calgary boy and his grandparents will not get a new trial after Alberta's top court rejected his appeal Friday.

The Court of Appeal of Alberta unanimously quashed Douglas Garland's bid to have his convictions overturned on three counts of first-degree murder after the panel of three judges heard arguments from prosecutors and defence lawyers in May.

On June 29, 2014, Garland left a gruesome, bloody scene at Alvin and Kathy Liknes's southwest Calgary home, where he attacked the three family members, including Nathan O'Brien, 5.

He then took the boy and the grandparents to his parents' farm near Airdrie, transporting them in the back of his pickup truck.

Garland was convicted in February 2017 and sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 75 years.

The bodies of Kathy and Alvin Liknes and their grandson Nathan O'Brien have never been found, but DNA from all three was discovered at a farm just north of Calgary where Douglas Garland lived with his parents. (

Defence lawyers Alias Sanders and Kim Ross argued the trial judge erred when he allowed evidence gathered from the farm to be presented to jurors.

Once Garland became a suspect, police searched the farm without a warrant, believing the family members could still be alive. 

While the law allows for searches under "exigent circumstances," Sanders argued the police did not have strong enough evidence linking Garland and the farm to the missing family and that the search was a violation of the killer's constitutional rights.

But that search was supposed to be only in areas where Nathan and the Likneses could be hidden. Police were not to look in smaller spaces until a warrant had been drafted.

Sanders also argued the trial judge overemphasized the graphic nature of the evidence, which she said was prejudicial to the defence's case and undermined the presumption of innocence, but the court of appeal rejected that argument.

"With respect, viewed in the context of this difficult trial, we find nothing inappropriate about these comments," wrote the panel. "Nor do we find that they betrayed any bias on the part of the trial judge."

The evidence

One officer looked in a duffel bag and found handcuffs, a large knife and a billy club — which the Crown would later refer to as Garland's "capture kit."

But the appeal judges found Court of Queen's Bench Justice David Gates made no errors in allowing the evidence to be presented to jurors and "saw no basis to interfere" with his decision.

Jurors heard that when officers arrived at the farm, a burn barrel was still smouldering.

DNA from all three victims was eventually discovered on several items, including a hacksaw and meat hook. 

Aerial photos of the Garland property taken by chance on July 1, 2014, by a digital mapping company showed what appeared to be three bodies — two larger and one smaller — laid out on the farm near some outbuildings.

Pieces of teeth and bone were found in a burn pile on the property.

The only motive prosecutors put to jurors was that Garland held a grudge over a business relationship with Alvin Liknes that had soured years before.

Now that his conviction appeal has been rejected, a date for his sentence appeal will be set.

About the Author

Meghan Grant

CBC Calgary reporter

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


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