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Possible tooth fragments, jewellery found in ash from murder suspect’s farm

Possible tooth fragments found on suspect's farm

CALGARY — The chief forensic investigator in a triple murder trial choked back tears in court describing how he found suspected fragments of teeth and jewelry while sifting through ash from the accused’s farm near Calgary.

Const. Ian Oxton described the 10 painstaking months he spent using a new method involving water to recover tiny fragments obtained from a burning barrel and pit on Douglas Garland’s farm.

Garland is on trial for three counts of first-degree murder in the disappearance of Alvin and Kathy Liknes and their five-year-old grandson Nathan O’Brien in 2014. Their bodies have not been recovered.

Oxton said he spent around 550 hours looking for evidence in hundreds of litres of ash. He said he recovered about four pounds of “possible biological material.”

“Included in that material was 17 fragments that I thought could be teeth. I also found what I thought to be fragments of a crown for a tooth,” he told court.

“We have items of jewelry, I believe an earring, there’s a small bracelet, another small piece of jewelry. We also have buttons from clothing. There’s also a piece of a shackle, what’s believed to be a circuit board from a watch.” 

From a bedroom, Oxton said investigators found a book about poisoning and a Tom Clancy novel, as well as two protective suits similar to those worn by forensic investigators, long rubber gloves, chemical gloves and a yellow rain suit.

In the garage, he said they found a bottle of chloroform, a large amount of chemicals and 83 pairs of size 12 and 13 shoes which were checked against bloody footprints found at the Liknes home.

A search of a trailer in the yard found a mix of men’s and women’s clothing, as well as a bag full of adult diapers which appeared to be from a Calgary hospital.

Another two pairs of handcuffs were found, including a pair similar to those issued to Calgary police and a smaller pair.

“I believe these to be handcuffs that we generally use to restrain children, youths and small adults,” said Oxton.

Oxton said there was another search of a grassy area after police were told the bodies may have been kept there.

He said the grass appeared to have been compressed and had a brown tint as though it had been burned by a chemical.

Police also seized large metal containers that had contained liquid nitrogen, as well as an agent used for destroying DNA, and a bottle of Blood Stopper which is used by veterinarians.

Oxton said a forensic search of the truck Garland was driving also found several indicators of the presence of blood, especially in the box of the vehicle and on the tailgate.

Justice David Gates spoke briefly with the jury before testimony began Wednesday, saying he was responsible for their safety and well-being during the trial.

“I want to gauge how I perceive you’re doing while you listen to evidence that I know is very difficult and troubling,” said Gates. “I know (Tuesday) was difficult. It was difficult for me too. It was difficult for everyone.”

Gates urged jurors to support each other during the five week trial and to let the court know if they needed a break.

— Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter

Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press