EDMONTON — Bret McCann hopes a verdict Thursday in the trial of a man accused of killing his parents and hiding their bodies will end a six-year-long nightmare for his family.
Travis Vader has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in the July 2010 deaths of Lyle and Marie McCann, a couple in their late-70s, who vanished on a camping trip.
"It has been a marathon of hope and anxiety and ups and downs,'' McCann said Wednesday as he reflected on what the family has gone through since his parents disappeared.
"After seeing all of the evidence the police have and the Crown put forth, I am convinced that he is guilty.''
The portrait of Lyle and Marie McCann sits at their memorial service in 2011. (Photo: CP)
The McCanns were last seen fuelling up their motorhome in their hometown of St. Albert, Alta., just north of Edmonton, before heading to British Columbia for a family visit.
Their burning vehicle was found two days later in a remote area west of the city. Their bodies have not been found.
McCann said he can still recall what went through his mind when he first learned that his mom and dad were missing.
Were they hurt? Were they being held somewhere in the dense woods?
Then came the slow realization that his parents were dead. That was followed by long days watching the twists and turns of the police investigation and legal process.
Travis Vader arrives in court in March 2016. (Photo: Amber Bracken/CP)
The Crown has said Vader, 44, was a desperate drug user living in a makeshift camp when he came across the McCanns and killed them.
The defence has argued that without the bodies or a murder weapon, the Crown's case is based on theories and circumstantial evidence.
"Where's the beef?'' defence lawyer Brian Beresh asked in his closing arguments in June.
"There is an absence of fundamental evidence in this case upon which you could ever convict Mr. Vader.''
McCann said his wife, Mary-Ann, daughter Nicole and son Bret will all be in court for Justice Denny Thomas's verdict. The case was heard without a jury.
Other relatives and friends will also be there to lend support.
"It will be a release just to hear what the verdict is — whichever way it goes.'" —Bret McCann
McCann said family members are fully prepared for either verdict. They just want the emotional roller-coaster they have been on for six years to finally stop.
"It will be a release just to hear what the verdict is — whichever way it goes,'' he said. "It is a milestone and we can close that chapter of our life.''
McCann, 61 and retired, said he and his wife are thinking about moving to Australia to be closer to their daughter and grandchildren.
Despite problems during the initial RCMP investigation, he has nothing but admiration and respect for the RCMP and the Crown, he said.
McCann said whatever happens, he hopes that his family will get an explanation of what happened in July 2010.
"It is very important for us to find my parents' remains. Other than some hunter tripping across them, he is our last hope for finding them.''
Vader's father, Ed Vader, could not be reached for comment.