Triple murder trial hears police had hoped Nathan O'Brien was hiding somewhere


Published on January 18, 2017

Douglas Garland is escorted into a Calgary police station in connection with the disappearance of Nathan O'Brien and his grandparents in Calgary, Alta., on July 14, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

CALGARY — Police officers held out hope a five-year-old Calgary boy could still be alive after he and his grandparents were initially reported missing. 

"We were asked that when we first got to the scene ... to search the house to see if we could locate Nathan O'Brien who may be hiding," testified Const. Derek Alexon, the first forensic expert to enter the home of Alvin and Kathy Liknes on June 30, 2014.

"Did you find Nathan O'Brien?," asked Crown prosecutor Shane Parker.

"No we didn't."

Douglas Garland, 56, is on trial on three counts of first-degree murder after the couple and five-year-old Nathan vanished from the couple's Calgary home. Their bodies have not been recovered.

The 11-man, three-woman jury heard from the first responders to the Liknes family home after their disappearance.

"We were told there was what was believed to be blood on three levels. We also had information there could possibly be a kidnapping or robbery," Alexon testified.

Const. Trevor Matthes was one of the first officers to arrive after police received a 911 call from Jennifer O'Brien, Nathan's mother and daughter of Kathy Liknes. He said he immediately noticed a partial bloody footprint when he entered the home.

He also found blood in hallways, in bedrooms and on the wall.

"I did note that there was a lot of blood down that south hallway leading into the bedroom. I noted that blood again as I exited. It appeared to be that there was almost like drag marks through that blood as it went downstairs to the main floor of the house," Matthes testified.

He said the blood trail and drag marks led out the door to the attached garage where it stopped in a pool of blood.

Matthes made another gruesome discovery when he went into the home to try to find the couple's cellphones.

"There was a workbench in front of me. What I noted was there was a dumbbell that was stuffed underneath the workbench but the end of it was just protruding a little bit. I noted there was some blood on that dumbbell," he said.

"As I proceeded back through the hallway to attend to what we call the main floor I noted what I would consider to be a tooth — it was laying in that back hallway where it exited out to the east side of the house."

Matthes said he also checked throughout the house, including in closets and under the beds, to see if anyone might be hiding or injured and unable to call out.

Alexon said DNA evidence of the three victims was gathered immediately. He said police seized a toothbrush belonging to Kathy Liknes, a razor belonging to Alvin Liknes and hockey equipment used by Nathan.

He was asked how a real crime scene was handled compared to forensic crime TV shows.

"In the fictional shows, of course, everything happens within an hour. They have equipment or resources within their offices that can identify people right away or get results," said Alexon.

"In reality, it's not like that. We go to the scene, we collect the exhibit. We will package them and get them out to the lab. That can take days, weeks."

— Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter

Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press