Travis Vader's 2nd-degree murder conviction a 'huge relief': victims' son
Published Thursday, September 15, 2016 6:12AM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, September 15, 2016 8:11PM EDT
The son of an Alberta couple who disappeared more than six years ago, says the second-degree murder conviction of Travis Vader in the high-profile case is a “huge relief to our family.”
- Scroll down or click here to read the live blog of the verdict
Bret McCann told reporters outside court Thursday that justice has been served, but it is “so, so sad” that his parents didn’t live to fully enjoy their “golden years.”
“They, and us, were robbed of this happiness,” he said.
Vader, 44, was convicted of second-degree murder in the deaths of seniors Lyle and Marie McCann, who went missing in July 2010 while on a road trip to visit family in British Columbia.
A second-degree murder conviction carries an automatic life sentence with no eligibility for parole for at least 10 years.
The McCanns’ burned-out motorhome was found in the bush near Edson, Alta., only 200 kilometres west of their home in St. Albert, shortly after they set out on their trip.
A search was launched five days later, when their daughter, Trudy Holder, contacted RCMP to report that her parents had failed to arrive in Abbotsford, B.C.
When an SUV the couple had been towing was found in the bush near Edson, RCMP identified Vader as a person of interest in the case. He was arrested on unrelated charges.
Two years later, Vader was charged with first-degree murder in the McCanns’ case, although their bodies were never found. He pleaded not guilty.
In his ruling, Justice Dennis Thomassaid he concluded that Vader was both a drug dealer and a drug user who was stealing the McCanns’ property when he encountered them. He also concluded that blood was shed and that Vader did harm to the McCanns.
He did not buy the defence’s suggestion that the McCanns are still alive today. During the trial, the court heard that Vader’s DNA was found in the McMann’s SUV.
In reviewing his decision, Thomas said he concluded, “beyond a reasonable doubt,” that Vader “committed murder,” however, he noted there was no evidence to support a conviction of murder in the first degree.
“It is entirely possible that the McCanns were both restrained during a robbery, then executed sometime afterward,” Thomas said in his ruling.
“Perhaps the Crown’s theory is correct,” Thomas added. “The problem is, there is no evidence on which to prefer any of these alternatives.”
Bret McCann said his family will likely never know what happened on the day his parents died.
“I'm sorry, mom and dad, I can do no more. I hope that some day, somehow you will be found,” he said.
Vader's lawyer, Brian Beresh, said his client will appeal the verdict.
"We want to review the decision," Beresh told reporters. "There will be an appeal based upon what we think are errors in the judgment."
Some legal experts say the judge may have made a “serious error” in his verdict by citing a section of the Criminal Code that was declared unconstitutional.
Bret McCann said that he isn’t concerned about a possible appeal.
“Listening to Justice Thomas’s explanation, to me that made a lot of sense and I think it’s probably appeal-proof. So whatever his lawyer is doing is probably just false bravado in my opinion,” he told CTV News Channel on Thursday.
McCann added that the judge’s ruling means his family will be able to “move on to the next chapter” of their lives, and that some relatives are optimistic that the couple’s remains could be found one day.
“We think that at some point, this could be years from now, we’re hopeful that my parents remains are found, and that will bring closure to a lot people in my family,” he said.
With files from The Canadian Press
Following along on mobile? Tap here