CALGARY — Triple murderer Douglas Garland will spend the rest of his life in prison for a crime a judge says was carried out with meticulous planning and precision.
Justice David Gates on Friday imposed a sentence on Garland that prevents the 57-year-old from seeking parole for at least 75 years from the time of his arrest. That means he would have to live to the age of 129 before being eligible.
Gates said Garland's degree of moral blameworthiness in the deaths of Alvin and Kathy Liknes and their grandson Nathan O'Brien in June 2014 is very high.
"Mr. Garland, you have done a terrible thing. The horror and the terror you visited on these three innocent people extends almost beyond the boundaries of ordinary human comprehension," Gates told the courtroom.
"It is difficult to conceive a more cunning, cruel and horrific set of circumstances of a assault, abduction, torture and murder. You will have to live with this knowledge for the rest of your life."
Garland simply said "no" when asked if he wanted to address the court.
Gates said he accepted the Crown's theory that the Likneses and five-year-old Nathan were still alive after Garland attacked them at the couple's Calgary home. He then took them in the back of his pickup truck to his farm where he killed and dismembered them and burned their bodies.
"I'm satisfied Alvin and Kathy Liknes were not dead," the judge said. "I'm also satisfied Nathan was injured but not killed in the bloody struggle in the Liknes residence."
The Crown had suggested that Garland's anger built over a dispute about a patent for an oilfield pump he and Alvin Liknes had worked on together. Gates said he agreed that "a petty grudge over many years ... festered and grew over the passage of time."
The judge said the usual automatic life sentence with a minimum of 25 years before parole eligibility needed to be increased because of aggravating factors that included Nathan's young age and Garland not expressing remorse or regret.
The boy had stayed over at his grandparents' house at the last minute after an estate sale they held in anticipation of a move to the Edmonton area. The couple hoped to winter in Mexico.
"Nathan was in so many ways an accidental victim," Gates said.
A jury on Thursday convicted Garland of three counts of first-degree murder after hearing four weeks of testimony that included descriptions of what the judge called "tools of his gruesome and barbarian acts."
Family members sat through that disturbing testimony and on Friday court heard victim impact statements from five of them.
Jennifer O'Brien, Nathan's mother and the daughter of Kathy Liknes, said she still fights "the darkness that threatens to take me down."
"It seems the pain is never-ending, something that I did not ask for resulting in heartache that has not lessened since the murder," she said.
"I still hurt and ache. Sometimes I am angry. Sometimes I just cry all day."
O'Brien directed much of her statement to Garland, who sat impassively in the prisoner's dock.
"I sit in a courtroom reliving the horror and in the same room as the man who killed my family," she said.
"From my point of view, Douglas Garland will never receive the justice he deserves here on Earth. I take comfort in the fact he will be locked away behind bars for life and will never hurt a family like ours again."
Rod O'Brien said his two remaining sons face the "everlasting loss" of their best friend and still ask him why their brother had to die.
The victims' bodies have never been found — only bone fragments, burned flesh and teeth in the ash from a burning barrel on Garland's farm.
"We can't even bury them with the dignity that they deserve," O'Brien said.
Prosecutor Shane Parker told the sentencing hearing that Garland should never be released from prison as there was no hope for his rehabilitation.
"These acts ... display a character of evil. You can't rehabilitate evil," Parker said. "This was a brutal crime of stark horror. You not only have death — you have torture. Inhuman behaviour."
There was loud applause when Gates delivered his ruling.
Defence lawyer Kim Ross said the outcome wasn't unexpected.
"I went down and I spoke with him briefly and I don't think there was anything that wasn't anticipated so I think we're going to take some time and speak to him again some time in the future," said Ross.
He was asked about knowing his client would die in prison.
"It's a tough process on everybody. There's no winners here on either side of this. It's been a long haul."
The end of the trial took an ugly turn when a friend of the O'Brien family punched a photographer who was taking pictures as they left the courthouse and proceeded to threaten others as the photographer was getting up off the ground.
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Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press