Edmonton

The legal road for Travis Vader in case of missing Alberta seniors

Travis Vader was sentenced Wednesday to life in prison with no chance at parole for seven years. Vader was found guilty of manslaughter in the deaths of Lyle and Marie McCann, who vanished 6 1/2 years ago while on a camping trip. Their bodies have never been found.

A timeline showing key events in the six-year saga

Travis Vader, 44, was found guilty of manslaughter in deaths of Lyle and Marie McCann. (CBC)

Travis Vader was sentenced Wednesday to life in prison with no chance at parole for seven years. Vader was found guilty of manslaughter in the deaths of Lyle and Marie McCann, who vanished 6 and half years ago while on a camping trip. Their bodies have never been found.

Here is a timeline with some key events in the case:

2010

July 3: Lyle and Marie McCann are last seen fuelling up their motorhome in their hometown of St. Albert, north of Edmonton, for a trip to Abbotsford, B.C.

July 5: The burned-out motorhome is discovered in the bush near Edson, about 200 kilometres west of St. Albert. Mounties phone the couple's home and knock on the door. Officers later explain that they weren't alarmed because vehicles are often found burning in the bush and it's not unusual for people to be away from home during the summer.

July 10: Trudy Holder calls RCMP when her parents fail to show up in Abbotsford. Mounties start searching for the couple.
Lyle and Marie McCann were last seen on July 3, 2010. (CBC News) (Supplied)
July 13: Two people go to the RCMP detachment in Prince George, B.C., and report having spotted a green Hyundai Tucson like the one the McCanns were towing behind their motorhome, but they are rebuffed. Mounties later issue a public plea for the tipsters to return.

July 16: RCMP announce that the SUV the couple was towing has been found off a bush trail near Edson. Officers name Travis Vader as a person of interest in the case and release his photo.

July 19: Vader is arrested on outstanding warrants on unrelated charges. 

2011

July 20: A judge declares the McCanns dead so their wills and estates can be processed.
Bret McCann looks on while his son-in-law Casey Walshe dismantles billboard asking for help to find Lyle and Marie McCann. (Janice Johnston/CBC)
Dec. 22: Vader is sentenced to 33 months in prison for arsons and break-ins in the Whitecourt, Mayerthorpe and Barrhead areas of Alberta in 2009. He gets credit for time served but is kept in custody on other charges.

2012

April 18: Vader is charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of the McCanns.

May 1: Vader is convicted of drug trafficking, theft and weapons offences in the Barrhead area in June 2010.

Oct. 19: Before Vader can be sentenced, a judge declares a mistrial because evidence was not properly disclosed to the defence. Justice June Ross cites the RCMP as "negligent'' and orders a new trial.

2014

Feb. 7: Vader files a lawsuit against the RCMP and justice officials claiming they kept him behind bars on trumped-up charges until he could be charged with murdering the McCanns. He had faced charges related to passing off a forged employment letter in court, but they were dropped.

March 19: Crown prosecutor Michelle Doyle issues a stay on the murder charges, days before the trial is to begin, after discovering Mounties failed to disclose all evidence to lawyers. The RCMP later make changes to the way disclosure is handled in major investigations.
Travis Vader leaves Edson Provincial Court in May 2012 after making his first appearance in the case of missing St. Albert couple, Lyle and Marie McCann. Vader is suing police and the Crown for malicious prosecution. (CBC)
April 22: Vader files another lawsuit alleging misconduct by RCMP, malicious prosecution by the Crown and mistreatment by prison guards.

Oct. 8: Vader is found not guilty of the previous drug, theft and weapons charges after a second trial. He pleads guilty to failing to comply with a 2010 court order and is sentenced to one day of time served. He is released from custody for the first time in four years and tells reporters his treatment by the justice system has been a "witch hunt.''

Dec. 19: RCMP arrest Vader and charge him again with murder in the deaths of the McCanns.

2016

Jan. 26: Justice Denny Thomas denies an application by defence lawyers to drop the murder case over alleged abuse of process and an unreasonable delay in getting to trial.

March 8: Vader's first-degree murder trial begins. He tells the judge: "I am not guilty of that charge.''

May 30: Vader is denied bail on new charges laid during his murder trial. They include break and enter, possession of stolen property and breaching conditions of his release. His bail had previously been reviewed when he showed up late four times during the trial.

June 22: Final arguments begin. The Crown asks the judge to look at the "totality of the evidence.'' The defence suggests there's not enough evidence to prove the couple is dead and that police should have looked at other suspects.
Court of Queen's Bench Justice Denny Thomas sharply criticized the testimony and professionalism of the DNA expert hired by Travis Vader's defence counsel. (CBC News)
 Sept. 13: Thomas rules that cameras will be allowed in the courtroom to broadcast his verdict. He says it will increase the public's confidence in the judicial system. Several media outlets had argued for cameras as being in the public interest, because of the cost of the extensive police investigation and trial.

Sept. 15: Thomas acquits Vader of first-degree murder and finds him guilty of second-degree murder. But in doing so, he uses an outdated section of the Criminal Code. He says Vader was a desperate drug addict who killed the McCanns during a robbery, although there no evidence he intended to kill the couple.

Sept. 22: Defence lawyers file an application for a mistrial.

Oct. 28: Thomas decides not to allow cameras in the courtroom again for a hearing on the mistrial application.

Oct. 31: Thomas vacates the second-degree murder verdict and finds Vader guilty of manslaughter. He says he will issue written reasons later.
Bret McCann has been calling on the federal government to repeal parts of the criminal code which have been deemed unconstitutional. (CBC)

2017

Jan. 25: Thomas sentences Vader to life in prison with no parole eligibility for seven years. He dismisses a defence submission that Vader should get a lesser sentence because his rights were violated in custody. Bret McCann, the dead couple's son, says family members are going to attempt to go on with their lives.

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