A member of the Calgary family devastated by the disappearance of a five-year-old boy and his grandparents was in court Wednesday to see the man police believe is responsible for their murders.
"It's tough," Alvin Liknes's son Allen said outside court after Douglas Garland made a brief appearance before a judge and a packed public gallery. "That's all I can say."
Garland faces two counts of first-degree murder and one charge of second-degree murder in the deaths of Alvin and Kathy Liknes and their five-year-old grandson Nathan O'Brien.
Garland, 54, wore a blue jail jumpsuit and appeared via closed-circuit TV. The case was adjourned to Aug. 14 to allow time for evidence to be disclosed to the defence.
Allen Liknes told reporters that the family has taken strength from the outpouring of emotion and support from the public.
"It helps," he said. "It's incredibly sad, but it helps."
The interview ended, however, when he was asked how his common-law wife Patti — who is Garland's sister — was doing.
"Not good, thanks guys," he said walking away.
Nathan's father, Rod O'Brien, had been at each of Garland's previous court appearances when Garland was only a person of interest in the case and being held on unrelated charges. But he wasn't there Wednesday.
The bodies of the missing three have not been found, but Calgary's police chief says investigators have evidence they are dead.
Crown prosecutor Shane Parker said that makes the case more difficult, but not impossible.
"It's obviously a little more challenging because bodies provide a whole lot of evidence for a jury. They provide a whole lot of evidence from a forensic standpoint for the police," Parker said.
"Without that we're missing a few bullets, but I've been the adviser for the Crown on this file since the beginning. I'm familiar with the evidence and confident we can make out the elements of the offence beyond a reasonable doubt."
Parker also noted the police investigation may unearth more evidence while the case makes its way through the courts.
"We still have time. We're still hopeful that police are going to continue on with their searches. The investigators are certainly working tirelessly to try and continue the investigation ... not only in finding bodies but other sources of evidence as well."
Garland's lawyer, Kim Ross, said he hasn't had a long conversation with his client and he still hasn't seen any of the evidence.
He said proceeding with a murder trial without bodies is "not uncommon" in Canada. And the fact that the case has garnered intense national attention won't have any bearing on the case, he said.
"It's a case like any other case. We'll see the disclosure and then see how we deal with it," he said.