Nathan O'Brien Amber Alert: Police search landfill

Douglas Garland, the 'person of interest' in the disappearance of a Calgary family, made his second court appearance Wednesday on an unrelated charge. The search of his parents' acreage continues and police are also searching a municipal landfill.

Crown says 'person of interest' Douglas Garland will be freed if he can confirm where he will live

Police officers probe the Spyhill landfill site for clues, a move officers described as 'standard procedure.' (Stephanie Rousseau/CBC)

Calgary police are searching a landfill near the city, which they say is a routine part of their investigation into a missing boy and his grandparents.

Police say officers are going through the Spyhill Landfill, northwest of the city, looking for evidence in the disappearance of Nathan O'Brien, 5, and his grandparents Alvin and Kathy Liknes.

Meanwhile, Douglas Garland, the "person of interest" in the Calgary-area investigation, has had his bail hearing put over until Friday. 

Garland made his second court appearance Wednesday on a charge of identity theft unrelated to the investigation. In response to Garland's lawyer's request for bail, the Crown said it would consent to release him once he can confirm where he will be living.

A source close to the police investigation told CBC News there is "bad blood" related to money between Garland and the missing grandfather, Alvin Liknes.

Nathan and grandparents have been missing from the couple's family home for more than a week. 

Garland's lawyer, Kim Ross, met with his client briefly this morning and told CBC News Garland  "is doing as best as he can under these circumstances."

Ross said he and the Crown prosecutor have agreed on bail for Garland, which could be granted on Friday.

"At this time, I'm not anticipating any difficulty," he said, "but as I said, that will be ironed out in the next day or two."

Garland faces charges of identity theft and unlawfully possessing a bank card. The charges are unrelated to the missing persons investigation.

Police Chief Rick Hanson said officers are working tirelessly to find the three missing people.

"Investigators are tenacious and they are committed," he said. "They take every investigation they take on — especially a homicide or any other personal assault on an individual — they take it personally."

Police and RCMP are into their fifth day of an intense search at a rural property owned by Garland's parents near Airdrie, just north of Calgary, looking for any evidence or clues. 

Douglas Garland, who was taken in for questioning from a rural Airdrie, Alta., property on Friday, has a criminal history, including drug trafficking and possession of stolen property after he was caught making amphetamines on his parents' acreage in 1992. (Calgary Herald)

Emergency vehicles, including an ambulance and fire trucks, were seen arriving at the rural property Wednesday morning. In a statement, police said the presence of paramedics was part of normal precautions on a hot summer day. The forecast high temperature for the Calgary area on Wednesday is 30 C.

The fire department was called in as a precaution due to the common presence of chemicals on farms.

On Tuesday, Calgary police spokesperson Kevin Brookwell said police seized multiple items from the Airdrie property.

"I won’t go into what those were and where they were found, but they have been seized and sent up to the crime lab," he said. 

"The search will continue until no stone has been left unturned," Brookwell said. "We know there are certainly more questions than answers, and we wish that we had those answers for you."

Investigators are also asking owners in rural areas outside Calgary to check their properties for anything suspicious. They are also asking companies who own rural installations such as well sites to check for "anything out of the ordinary."

Emergency and police vehicles arrive at the Garland acreage near Airdrie Wednesday. (Terry Reith)

Garland was discovered by police on the acreage when he was detained last Friday. Police were acting on a tip from the public — about a green truck they had been seeking — which led them to the site. 

"A truck was seized from this residence on the weekend matching the description of a truck caught on CCTV in the Parkhill area," Brookwell said.

Garland spent the weekend being questioned by police about the disappearance of the three.

Officers searched through three separate fields around the Garland property and brought in a member of the canine unit to assist with police officers' shoulder-to-shoulder searches. 

"Right now, we’re looking at an area that’s several square kilometres," said Garrett Woolsey, the RCMP commander of the special tactical operations team involved in the search. 

"We are currently looking for evidence in relation to a missing persons case. That’s why we’re using so many officers." 

Investigators say the Amber Alert remains active. 

'Person of interest' has criminal record

Garland has a criminal history, including drug trafficking and possession of stolen property and was caught making amphetamines on his parents' Airdrie acreage in 1992.

In the early 1990s, Garland was convicted of stealing the identity of Matthew Kemper Hartley — a 14-year-old Alberta boy killed in a car crash in 1980. The charge laid against him this past weekend relates to another, more recent incident in which Garland allegedly used the boy's identity again. 

Garland was released from questioning specifically in regards to the Nathan O'Brien disappearance but remained in police custody in relation to the latest charge of identity theft he now faces.

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      Garland has a connection to the Liknes family through his sister, who lists Nathan's parents, Rod and Jennifer, as well as Kathy Liknes as "friends" on Facebook. 

      She also lists one member of the Liknes family as a niece.

      Neighbours tie ribbons of hope to homes

      On Monday evening, members of the Calgary church where Nathan was baptized held a special prayer service for him and his grandparents. It was attended by the family of the three.

      Rev. Julian Studden said the church community is deeply affected and concerned.

      "They are feeling hurt that such a tragedy can happen to a boy like Nathan, and they have a heart of compassion and they feel like it's their own little one," he said.

      Douglas Garland during his first court appearance on Monday. (Sketch: Janice Fletcher)

      Studden said the community is holding nine days of special prayers. Known as the novena, the vigils began Friday.

      Nathan and his grandparents were reported missing June 30,  after Nathan's mother arrived to pick up her son from a sleepover at the Liknes's home in Calgary's Parkhill. The family had been helping out with an estate sale the Likneses were holding ahead of a planned move to Edmonton.

      As well as the prayer sessions, Parkhill residents are now tying green ribbons to their homes in a symbol of hope and support that the Parkhill Stanley Park Community Association says is meant to increase awareness and express hope for the safe return of Nathan and his grandparents.

      The O'Brien family attended a prayer service Monday for their missing son, Nathan, and his grandparents. (CBC)

      Police are still looking to speak with anyone who attended the estate sale on June 27, 28 and 29.

      Investigators estimate between 200 and 300 people went to the sale, but they are trying to get an idea of what was purchased and what remains in the home.

      They say there was no sign of forced entry into the home, but that blood found inside confirms that a violent incident did take place.

      Police could not say to whom the blood belonged, only that it signalled someone had been "in medical distress."

      The forensics unit also examined "marks" along the outside of the house, but police could not confirm whether those marks are blood.

      Police have a number of theories as to what took place, but aren't making those public.

      Anyone with information about the case can call the Calgary Police Service at 403-266-1234 or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 1-800-222-8477.

      Airdrie acreage search 

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      • The source of the information that there was 'bad blood' over money between Douglas Garland and Alvin Liknes is someone close to the investigation, but not an official police spokesperson.
        Jul 09, 2014 1:41 PM MT