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The long road to the verdict

Thursday’s guilty verdict in the Travis Vader murder case came at the end of more than six years of investigation and court proceedings. It all began with the July 2010 disappearance of elderly St.
The large volume of evidence was piled in the jurors’ box during the three-month trial.
The large volume of evidence was piled in the jurors’ box during the three-month trial.

Thursday’s guilty verdict in the Travis Vader murder case came at the end of more than six years of investigation and court proceedings.

It all began with the July 2010 disappearance of elderly St. Albert couple Lyle and Marie McCann, who were last seen July 3 filling up their motorhome and green Hyundai Tucson SUV at the St. Albert Superstore before a road trip to the West Coast.

They never made it to their destination, and when they were reported missing seven days later, RCMP launched an investigation. Police eventually charged Vader with the couple’s murder on or about July 3, 2010.

What follows is a timeline of some of the key events in the case, compiled from media reports and testimony given at trial.

2010

July 2: The McCanns’ son Bret met with them at their home, had dinner and a visit, and helped them load some items into their motorhome.

July 3: The McCanns can be seen on surveillance footage from the St. Albert Superstore buying groceries and filling their vehicles with gas prior to a road trip to Abbotsford, B.C.

July 3: Several of Vader’s associates see him in the morning driving a Ford F-350, penniless. Later in the day they see him driving a green Hyundai Tucson SUV, with money to spend on beer and minutes for his phone.

July 3: Several phone calls are made and two text messages are sent from the McCanns’ cellphone at around 2 p.m. to Vader’s ex-girlfriend Amber Williams. She believed they came from Vader as they reference their relationship. Several more messages in the same vein come to her phone from Vader’s phone later that day.

July 4: Witness Deb Foisy saw an elderly couple that she later identified as the McCanns at the Minnow Lake Campground, southeast of Edson.

July 5: A motorhome is found burning near the Minnow Lake campground southeast of Edson. Const. Liam MacNeil found documents and a licence plate indicating the motorhome belonged to the McCanns. He had the vehicle towed.

July 5: Witness Barb Gray saw a motorhome and SUV matching the description of those belonging to the McCanns at Wolf Lake campground, which is south of Minnow Lake.

July 10: The McCanns’ daughter Trudy Holder reports the couple missing after they fail to show up in Abbotsford as planned.

July 16: Police find the McCanns’ SUV on an unoccupied rural property near Edson. RCMP say fingerprint and DNA evidence place Vader in the vehicle, although defence lawyer Brian Beresh disputed the validity of that DNA evidence. Lyle McCann’s hat was also found in the vehicle, with blood spatter and a bullet hole.

July 19: Vader is arrested on outstanding warrants on unrelated charges.

Aug. 31: Police identify Vader as a “person of interest” in the McCann case.

2011

June 26: Police investigators resume searching for the couple in a wooded area near Lodgepole, Alta. Police don’t say what led them there.

July 20: A judge declares the couple legally dead, despite their bodies not having been recovered.

July 30: A memorial service for the couple is held at the St. Albert Catholic Church, on what would have been the couple’s 59th wedding anniversary.

Dec. 22: Vader is sentenced to 33 months in prison for a string of 2009 arsons and break-ins in Barrhead, Mayerthorpe and Whitecourt.

2012

April 18: Vader is charged with the first-degree murder of Lyle and Marie McCann.

May 1: Vader is convicted of drug trafficking, theft, and weapons charges dating back to Barrhead in June 2010.

Oct. 19: Prior to sentencing on those charges, a judge declares a mistrial citing evidence not properly being disclosed to defence, and orders a new trial.

2014

Feb. 7: Vader files a lawsuit against the RCMP alleging they sought to keep him in jail on false charges until they could charge him in the McCann case.

March 19: Days before he’s set to face trial on the murder charges, Crown prosecutors enter a stay of proceedings after determining police haven’t disclosed all the evidence.

April 22: Vader files a second lawsuit alleging wrongful prosecution and misconduct by police and prosecutors.

Oct. 8: Vader is found not-guilty on the drug trafficking, theft and weapons charges for which he had previously been convicted before a mistrial was declared May 1, 2012, and he’s released from custody.

Dec. 19: Vader is again arrested and charged with the McCanns’ murder. He is released on house arrest.

2015

June 13: Vader is arrested and charged with assaulting his common-law spouse in Barrhead.

Dec. 15: The courts release documents showing evidence against Vader includes forensic evidence, cellphone records, and a bullet hole in Lyle McCann’s hat.

2016

Jan. 26: After a three-day hearing, Justice Denny Thomas denies an application for a judicial stay of proceedings. He said Vader came close to making the case that his trial had been unreasonably delayed, but this case required a trial and should be judged on its merits.

March 8: Vader’s trial begins at the Court of Queen’s Bench in Edmonton. He shows up late on several occasions during the trial, and Thomas ultimately orders a bail review.

April 15: Vader’s release conditions are changed, requiring him to submit to random drug tests once a week.

May 5: According to court documents, Vader tests positive for methamphetamine.

May 10: Vader is arrested for breaching his bail conditions, break and enter, theft, and possession of stolen property under $5,000. Police allege he stole copper wire from a west-Edmonton industrial park.

May 27: Defence lawyer Brian Beresh finishes presenting his evidence to court.

June 22-23: Court hears the final arguments in the case. Thomas reserves his decision until Sept. 15.

July 19: Vader fails in his attempt to get release on the murder charges, and remains behind bars until the justice releases his verdict Sept. 15.

Sept. 15: Justice Denny Thomas finds Vader guilty of second-degree murder charges. A summary of Thomas’ decision is broadcast live on television, radio and streaming online video.