Calgary triple-murder trial hears DNA from three victims found at suspect’s farm

Expert says DNA from dead found at suspect's farm

CALGARY — DNA evidence was found on a hacksaw, meat hooks, rubber boots and in a piece of biological material recovered from the property of a suspect on trial in the deaths of a couple and their grandson, court heard Tuesday.

Douglas Garland, 57, is charged with first-degree murder related to the disappearance of Alvin and Kathy Liknes and five-year-old Nathan O’Brien from their Calgary home in June 2014.

The child’s mother testified earlier in the trial that she found pools of blood when she came to pick up her son after a sleepover with his grandparents following their estate sale. But the Likneses and Nathan were gone.

RCMP forensic expert Vivian Mohrbutter testified Tuesday that there was DNA evidence from all three in the home. Swabs of blood were taken throughout the home, from a 45-pound dumbbell found in the garage as well as from outside on a sidewalk.

Mohrbutter said that was also the case at the Garland farm near Airdrie, north of Calgary, where DNA from the adults and the child was found on a pair of rubber boots.

“The profile obtained was determined to be of mixed origin consistent with having originated from at least two individuals. The profile of the major component I determined matched the … known sample from Nathan O’Brien,” said Mohrbutter.

She said there was also DNA found from Alvin and Kathy Liknes on the outside of the boots, while Garland’s was found inside. A pair of rubber gloves at the scene were also matched to him.

Mohrbutter said a large hacksaw stored in one of the buildings contained DNA from two of the victims.

“It matched that of a … sample from Nathan O’Brien. The estimated probability of selecting another individual at random from the Canadian Caucasian population with the same profile is one in 130 billion.”

She said evidence found on another part of the hacksaw as well as on two blades matched Alvin Liknes. The probability of a random match was one in 160 billion.

The bodies of the three have not been recovered — only blood, teeth and bone.

The only DNA evidence on two meat hooks belonged to Kathy Liknes, said Mohrbutter. Microscopic human remains, described as “biological material” on a piece of cloth found in the grass near a burning barrel, were also a match. 

DNA profiles were obtained from a toothbrush belonging to Kathy Liknes, a razor belonging to Alvin Liknes and Nathan’s hockey mask.

Mohrbutter said a DNA sample from Garland matched DNA on a number of items found at the farm including handcuffs, a leather baton and a hunting knife.

The forensic expert said DNA can be affected by heat and chemicals, which can break down the bonds and fragment the DNA into smaller and smaller pieces.

“If those types of chemicals are present, they can inhibit our ability to obtain DNA from an exhibit.”

Mohrbutter said the evidence from the Garland investigation was sent in with an urgent status.

“The goal was to get the results out as quickly as we could. In this one, there was an urgency to provide the results.”

— Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter


Bill Graveland , The Canadian Press

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