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Jennifer Kohut and her son Axton, three, place flowers and a toy at an impromptu memorial for Nathan O'Brien and his grandparents, Alvin and Kathryn Liknes, at the Liknes home in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, July 15, 2014. (Jeff McIntosh/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Jennifer Kohut and her son Axton, three, place flowers and a toy at an impromptu memorial for Nathan O'Brien and his grandparents, Alvin and Kathryn Liknes, at the Liknes home in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, July 15, 2014. (Jeff McIntosh/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Suspect appears in court as search for Calgary family continues Add to ...

Douglas Garland, the man accused of killing three Calgarians who went missing over two weeks ago, is now scheduled to appear in court next month.

Mr. Garland on Wednesday appeared before a judge via closed-circuit television form the Calgary Remand Centre. The brief appearance was to schedule further court dates. 

He is now expected to appear Aug. 14. This can be pushed back, too. 

Police on Tuesday charged Mr. Garland with two counts of first degree murder for allegedly killing Alvin and Kathryn Liknes; and one count of second degree murder for allegedly killing their grandson, Nathan O'Brien. The child was five years old. Police have not found the three bodies.

Mourners have placed flowers, notes and teddy bears at an impromptu memorial for Nathan O'Brien and his grandparents, Alvin and Kathryn Liknes, at the Liknes home in Calgary on July 15, 2014. JEFF McINTOSH/THE CANADIAN PRESS

THE MOURNERS AND THE MYSTERY

There are green ribbons tied to trees and railings, street light posts and mailboxes, all of them a show of support. The memorial on the lawn outside the Liknes’ home in southwest Calgary continues to grow with letters, flowers and stuffed animals – the kind a five-year-old boy would like.

Earlier this month, they were offerings of hope that Nathan and his grandparents were okay, that some day soon the three missing people would be found alive and their assailant caught and punished.

Only half that hope was answered this week when Mr. Garland, 54, was arrested and charged Tuesday – even without the police finding the bodies of Alvin, Kathryn and Nathan.

Now the offerings on the Liknes lawn are a show of mourning. After more than two weeks, the three are still missing in a case that has demoralized a city that wants to know why. Why did this happen?

Veteran police officers and investigators have asked themselves that question. Some have said publicly they have never seen this sort of case, with 200 people having gone through the Liknes’ house as part of their estate sale the day they disappeared. There were 900 tips called in to police. Mr. Garland’s sister is in a common-law relationship with Allen Liknes, Alvin’s son. Hundreds of officers searched the Airdrie, Alta., property where Mr. Garland lived with his parents.

THE SEARCH

The police spent Tuesday door-knocking to alert landowners to the search near Airdrie, a bedroom community on the northern outskirts of Calgary. While they weren’t looking in city landfills, police are likely to return to the city to sift through the refuse at the Spyhill site in the northwest.

“They’re not ruling anything out at this point,” said a Calgary Police spokeswoman. “They’re looking everywhere.”

What has been a formidable effort and weeks-long hunt by hundreds of officers is now morphing into what could be a longer-term search by both police and a wider cast of farmers, rural business owners and oil and gas companies operating in the area. Calgary Police Chief Rick Hanson has asked that everyone stay vigilant for signs of anything suspicious as they search for the bodies.

Patrick Roy, operations manager for Foran Equipment Ltd., said he will be asking his staff to keep an eye out as they dig holes for water and sewer upgrades on a road site not far from the Garland acreage. “It’s something that’s on everyone’s mind,” Mr. Roy said.

Mr. Garland is set to appear in court on the murder charges on Wednesday.

Police are still seeking the whereabouts of Alvin Liknes and Kathryn Faye Liknes. HANDOUTS

THE GRANDPARENTS

Alvin and Kathryn Liknes had lived in their split-level house for nearly two decades and appeared to be the last people their neighbours thought would be involved in a mysterious crime that has captured the attention of the country.

On the day before their disappearance, Mr. and Mrs. Liknes – aged 66 and 53 – held an estate sale in their Parkhill neighbourhood home. They had sold the property a year earlier and were leasing it back, but were planning to move to Edmonton and take an extended vacation in Mexico.

Hundreds visited the blue and white house during the sale. Their grandson Nathan and his mother, Jennifer, the couples’ daughter, were there to help. The boy reminded his grandmother repeatedly to say “thank you” to people who bought her household items.

Christie Simmons, who lives two doors down, told the Calgary Herald she saw the pair go through the life stages of having teenage children and a driveway full of cars, and then later enjoying their days as grandparents with toddlers in the playground behind their home. “Whenever it came to the Christmas gatherings, Kathy was always there with the turkey,” Ms. Simmons said. “They’re just standard, down-to-earth people.”

HANDOUT

NATHAN O'BRIEN

Nathan O’Brien’s parents have described him as the “glue” of the family – a kind and outgoing child who loved butterflies and superhero characters.

Since Nathan’s disappearance alongside his grandparents under mysterious and violent circumstances on June 29, people from across Canada have come to hope for the return of the five-year-old with wavy blond hair, brown eyes and a smiling cherub face. Standing just three feet tall, Nathan was last seen wearing peach-coloured shorts and a striped blue hoodie.

The search for their bodies continues. “Your whole family loves you to every star and back,” said Nathan’s father, Rod O’Brien, who spoke at a news conference earlier this month, when he and his wife Jennifer asked Nathan to be brave. They also made an imploring call for the return of their son.

In an e-mail to The Canadian Press, Teena Prevost, a sister-in-law of Kathryn Liknes, said her family is praying police are wrong. “Until the police can show us the bodies of our loved ones, we will not believe they are deceased,” she wrote.

Douglas Garland is escorted into a Calgary police station on July 14, 2014. JEFF McINTOSH/THE CANADIAN PRESS

THE SUSPECT

The first live footage of Mr. Garland showed a trim middle-aged man clad in jeans and a navy T-shirt, hunched away from the cameras and wearing a slightly pained expression as police led him on a “perp walk” through the nighttime streets of Calgary.

The intelligent but troubled man was taken into custody Monday and is charged with the deaths of Alvin Cecil Liknes, Mr. Liknes’s wife, Kathryn Faye Liknes, and their five-year-old grandson Nathan O’Brien. Mr. Garland has a criminal past, and according to a court document written by a judge in 2005, suffers from attention deficit disorder and has had multiple breakdowns.

“Mr. Garland attended medical school in Alberta for one year until he suffered a breakdown. He also seems to have been traumatized by causing what he described as a horrific accident due to falling asleep at the wheel,” Justice Campbell J. Miller wrote in a tax-court decision nine years ago.

Asked this week to explain the details of the “horrific accident,” Justice Miller, via a spokesperson, declined comment.

Mr. Garland was producing his own amphetamines at his parents’ Alberta farm in 1992 when RCMP raided and Mr. Garland was charged. He was released on bail and then skipped the province, Justice Miller wrote. Mr. Garland moved to Vancouver and assumed the identity of a dead teenager.

Under the alias, he worked in B.C. until 1999, when he was rearrested and sent to prison for a time. Mr. Garland had been living on his parents’ acreage near Airdrie, Alta., when he was named as a person of interest in the case on July 4. Neighbours said he spent most of his time at home and they assumed he was unemployed.

A green F150 pickup truck is shown in an image released by the Calgary Police Service on July 4, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS

THE BUSINESS CONNECTION

Calgary Police drew a bead on Doug Garland as a person of interest when they located his green truck – CCTV caught it being driven near the murder scene – and when they learned his sister Patti was in a common-law relationship with a Liknes family member.

Then there was the relationship between Doug Garland and Alvin Liknes, the father. Not only did the two men know each other; they were investors in a business plan that tanked and lost money. The point of contention was a patent on a pump system to be used in pre-existing gas wells.

The situation worsened in late June when Mr. Liknes’ hopes for Winter Petroleum, a junior company that was sinking in debt, were crushed under the weight of $800,000 in property taxes and late penalties. Even before Winter Petroleum collapsed into bankruptcy, the company was in a significant mess.

“We were a two-man operation,” said former Winter Petroleum COO Marek Kozera. “It was just him and me.”

Mr. Kozera added that when the company collapsed, not everyone – staff or investors – got paid.

For Mr. Liknes, it wasn’t the first time a deal had gone bad. In 1994, he declared bankruptcy; his wife, Kathryn, did the same two years ago. In 2008, Bluesky Oil and Gas, with Mr. Liknes as its CEO and president, registered in Nevada. Bluesky was to merge with a Florida company, Whitemark Homes. Mr. Liknes described the arrangement as “a significant step in the growth of our company.” Two years later, Bluesky lost its business licence in Nevada and was gone.

Calgary Police are still looking into the business connections but have stated there was “bad blood” between Mr. Liknes and Mr. Garland.

“I can tell you there are some business issues that we’re looking into,” Calgary Police spokesperson Kevin Brookwell said earlier this week. “I can’t get into specifics, as to what those are and who’s involved. We’re dedicating a number of folks who are looking into that.”

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