Douglas Garland Trial: Defence Pokes Holes In Forensic Evidence

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CALGARY — A defence lawyer spent Thursday questioning the significance of many items seized by police investigating the killing of a Calgary couple and their five-year-old grandson.

Douglas Garland, 56, faces three counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Alvin and Kathy Liknes and their grandson Nathan O'Brien, who disappeared from a Calgary home in 2014.

Garland's lawyer Kim Ross cross-examined the chief forensic investigator in the triple-murder case.

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Alvin Liknes (left), Nathan O'Brien (centre) and Kathy Liknes (right.) (Photo: Calgary Police Service)

Ross had explanations for many of the items found in Garland's home and on his property, including a variety of knives, restraining devices and more than a dozen pairs of handcuffs.

"Would it be fair to say that you found a variety of cuffs — big cuffs, small cuffs, older cuffs, newer cuffs? There was a whole slew of cuffs?'' Ross asked.

"Yes, there was a wide range of handcuffs,'' replied Const. Ian Oxton.

"Like someone was a collector?'' Ross asked.

"Possibly, yes.''

Ross also pointed to a hacksaw, which was found to contain the DNA of Alvin Liknes and Nathan O'Brien. Oxton said it had been sent for DNA analysis, but not for fingerprinting.

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Calgary police search an acreage near Airdrie in July 2014. (Photo: The Canadian Press)

"Once the DNA process is complete we can't fingerprint after the fact. Swabbing the surface would destroy the fingerprints,'' said Oxton.

"So no testing was done on that hacksaw to determine in fact that Mr. Garland, Douglas Garland, had ever handled that item?'' Ross asked. "When you find these items you don't know how long they've been there. You don't know who put them there. You don't know who owns them.''

"No,'' said Oxton.

Many items still in original packaging

Ross said many of the items seized by police were still in their original packaging. He said police chose two books out of an office that had many others, including ones on organic chemistry and teaching.

One identified by police was the "Handbook of Poisoning.''

"Look at page three of that book please,'' Ross asked the officer. "It reads the 'Handbook of Poisoning: Diagnosis and Treatment.

"You agree with me that this book, it's a medical text on the diagnosis and treatment of poisoning. It contains nothing about the manufacturing or administering of poison ... simply treatment.''

"When you find these items you don't know how long they've been there. You don't know who put them there. You don't know who owns them."

Oxton, who also collected evidence at the Liknes home, said there were a number of usable fingerprints found at the residence, but none of them was a match for any suspects, including Garland.

"You didn't find any match to Douglas Garland for fingerprints in the Liknes residence, did you?'' Ross asked.

"No, we did not,'' said Oxton.

"There was no other DNA matching Mr. Douglas Garland found in the Liknes residence was there? No blood, no hair, no fingerprints, no footwear samples, nothing?'' Ross continued.

douglas garland
Douglas Garland is escorted into a Calgary police station in connection with the disappearance on July 14, 2014. (Photo: Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

"That is correct.''

Kimberly Warren, an RCMP forensic hardware engineer, was asked to match a burned key fob found in ashes at the Garland farm with a 2013 Toyota Tundra found in the Liknes driveway.

"I noticed immediately there were similarities in size, shape and features,'' said Warren.

She was able to confirm that the fob was for a Toyota vehicle, but there were five possible models built between 2004 and 2016.

One of those was the 2013 Toyota Tundra.

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