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Travis Vader back in custody on multiple charges

Accused murderer Travis Vader was back in police custody Thursday after being charged with several offences this week.
Travis Vader
Travis Vader

Accused murderer Travis Vader was back in police custody Thursday after being charged with several offences this week. Further to the two charges of breaching his recognizance for which RCMP laid May 10, Edmonton police filed four additional charges May 12.

It was also the first day of the defence's case in which a campground witness testified she saw a woman she believes to be Marie McCann on July 4 and 5, 2010.

Vader is accused of murdering St. Albert couple Lyle and Marie McCann July 3, 2010. They were last seen filling their motorhome and SUV with gas at a St. Albert store that morning. Their motorhome was found burned at the Minnow Lake campground two days later, and their SUV was found abandoned two weeks later.

Vader is now facing new charges of breaking and entering a west-Edmonton business on Tuesday and stealing less than $5,000 worth of property. He's also accused of being in possession of a stolen vehicle valued at less than $5,000 that same day. In relation to those charges, he's also charged with breach of probation and breach of a recognizance.

RCMP laid charges May 10 for two breaches of recognizance: one for testing positive for methamphetamines and another for contacting Crown witness Don Bulmer before he testified at the trial earlier this month.

He had a bail hearing Wednesday morning, which was put over to May 18.

With Vader in police custody, the excitement began even before court started Thursday morning. After he was led into the prisoner box, he was heard to exchange words with someone in the public gallery. The sheriff cautioned him not to say anything else, and he was removed from the courtroom after he kept talking.

At the start of court, Justice Denny Thomas granted him permission to sit at the defence table despite his in-custody status and Vader, who was dressed in a suit rather than the typical orange jumpsuit given to those in remand, smirked as the sheriff let him out of the prisoner box.

Crown's case concludes

Thomas issued several oral decisions relating to outstanding applications by the Crown, and a written decision about the admissibility of Bobbi Jo Vader's statements to police. While her statements about Vader's drug use won't be admitted as evidence, her statements about the presence of guns in Vader's vehicle will.

This prompted Beresh to further cross-examine Bobbi Jo Vader, clarifying what she had said about the guns. Beresh noted her first statement to police made no mention of guns, and suggested her sister-in-law had put the idea of guns in her head prior to subsequent police investigations.

She also noted she had been heavily using cocaine and was suffering bouts of insomnia during that time, so her statements to police should not be relied upon.

Thomas issued an oral decision about the admissibility of cellphone records, ruling that all the records could be made full exhibits and noting he would evaluate the weight of that evidence at the conclusion of the trial.

Thomas dismissed a Crown application to admit statements made by Vader's ex-girlfriend Andrea Saddleback-Sexsmith. Prosecutors said Beresh implied her statements had been fabrications, and they sought to have her prior consistent statements to police admitted. Thomas ruled Beresh had made no such implication and the statements to RCMP will not be allowed.

Pending decisions on the admissibility of hearsay statements attributed to Marie McCann and a charter challenge on the admissibility of text messages that may tend to breach Vader's Charter right to privacy, the Crown's case is concluded.

Defence calls evidence

Beresh called the first defence witness, a long-time resident of the Wildwood and Niton Junction areas east of Edson, who testified to what she saw at the Minnow Lake Campground July 4 and 5.

Debbie Foisy testified she and roughly a dozen family members had been gathered at the campground for an anniversary party July 4, and had seen a “very large motorhome” with a “silvery” SUV in tow drive into the small 12-unit campground very quickly around 3:30 p.m.

She noted she was surprised the motorhome had driven down the road to the campground, describing it as rough and like a washboard.

A woman “in her mid-'60s” got out of the motorhome and detached the SUV, then the motorhome parked at a site. Beresh showed her a photo that has previously been identified as Marie McCann, and she said there was no doubt in her mind that was the woman she saw.

When shown a photo of Lyle McCann, Foisy said she had not got as good a look at the man, but said “It's very possible this was the man in the campground with her.”

She noted when she first saw photos of the couple in the media in mid July, she thought that was the couple she had seen.

The next day was rainy, she said, and the family had packed up and left around noon on July 5. The motorhome was still at the campground at the time, and she said she noticed it was crooked because it had not been leveled off as one would typically do when parking a motorhome or camper.

Under cross-examination, Ashley Finlayson asked Foisy about a statement she had made to police July 15, in which she said she did not get a close look at the faces of the couple.

“I did not recognize her face, but I believed it to be her,” Foisy said. “I did not see her up close.”

As for the man, she said she had not got a close look at him; every time she looked he was under the shade of the motorhome's awning, and she didn't get a close look at him either.

A fire alarm at the courthouse around 12:30 p.m. cut short Finlayson's cross-examination. It is expected to continue at 2 p.m. after the lunch break.