CALGARY — Douglas Garland, 55, was arrested in 2014 following the disappearance of Alvin and Kathy Liknes and five-year-old Nathan O'Brien.
Garland, who is charged with three counts of first-degree murder, is scheduled to stand trial starting Jan. 16, 2017 after a preliminary inquiry in May found there was enough evidence to go forward.
Crown prosecutor Shane Parker had hoped the trial would begin this fall and is disappointed it will take so long.
"It's extraordinarily hard on the families, and of course we have witnesses who are getting up there in age as well,'' Parker told reporters Friday.
"It is a concern that we're now looking at 2017 for trial dates, but that seems to be the way of our trial scheduling for the Court of Queen's Bench.''
The remains of the three family members have not been found.
Nathan was sleeping overnight at his grandparents' Calgary house last June after they held an estate sale in advance of a move to Edmonton and then Mexico.
When his mother arrived the next morning to pick him up, no one was home and a search began.
Police have said there was evidence of a violent encounter in the house, but they have not disclosed a motive.
Investigators have combed through several properties surrounding the area near Airdrie, north of Calgary, where Garland lived. A search last year went on for weeks and police resumed looking for evidence in the same area in March.
Parker said people are looking for answers.
"We've purposely not told a lot of people a lot of the details because we have to preserve them as witnesses, but at the same time it goes to their ability to be able to understand what happened to their loved ones,'' he said.
Kim Ross, Garland's lawyer, said it would be "`fair'' to say there are a number of people frustrated by the trial's delay.
"For a trial of this length and this complexity it's not unusual,'' Ross said.
Parker said jury selection is scheduled for Jan. 11, 2017 — with a bit of a twist. Because of the publicity the case has received, lawyers will be able to ask questions of the potential jurors the same way it is done in American courts, Parker said.
In the American system, lawyers ask jurors if they have followed the case, try to determine if they have any obvious prejudices, or anything else that might make them unsuitable. Parker said there are no such questions asked of jurors in the vast majority of Canadian jury selections, so this is rare.
"We wanted to schedule that in so there is no potential for surprises,'' said Parker. The trial, before a judge and jury, is scheduled for five weeks. The Crown says it will call between 50 and 60 witnesses.
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