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Vader trial witnesses fill in the blanks

As Crown prosecutors get nearer to the end of the evidence they intend call in Travis Vader's murder case, many of the witnesses are covering topics already discussed to fill in some blanks.

As Crown prosecutors get nearer to the end of the evidence they intend call in Travis Vader's murder case, many of the witnesses are covering topics already discussed to fill in some blanks.

Over the course of Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning court heard from a mechanic, a DNA analyst, and two phone-company employees about records they produced.

Vader is charged with murdering St. Albert couple Lyle and Marie McCann on July 3, 2010, as they were headed to B.C. on a road trip.

Kevin Serben, a journeyman mechanic with City Ford, testified he performed a basic mechanical inspection on the partially burned Ford F-350 witnesses have said Vader was driving he day the McCanns disappeared, and in which police say they found keys to the McCanns’ SUV.

He performed the inspection Aug. 18, he said, while the truck was in the vehicle bay at the St. Albert RCMP detachment. He said police asked him to look specifically for “anything that would make the engine quit or not start.”

In his testimony, he noted there was oil in the coolant reservoir, which would seem to indicate an oil leak. He said he was able to start the vehicle, but didn't keep it running to determine if it would quit after a period of running.

Serben also testified it appeared less than four litres of oil had got into the reservoir, and given the engine would have required 13 or 14 litres, the warning light may not have come on, and regardless the oil level was in range when he inspected the vehicle.

He also noted that at five or six litres low, the engine would likely have quit, but adding a few litres could possibly have enabled the vehicle to start again.

The DNA analyst court heard from, Jasmine Robitaille, testified about how she handled specific exhibits relating to the McCann investigation, and the procedures she used in the RCMP forensic laboratory in Edmonton.

Wednesday morning, court heard from Lyne Langois, a Bell Canada employee who explained records the company had provided to RCMP as a result of a court-issued production order in 2010. The number associated with those records was the same number as that which witnesses have testified Vader was using during that time period.

Those records, showing connected calls from July 3 to July 5, include some reference to Telus cell tower identification numbers, as Bell had a roaming agreement with Telus in summer 2010.

Telus employee Bill Nelson testified briefly that he had created a document, included as part of an exhibit of cell phone records relating to the investigation, that identifies the specific geographical location of towers based on their identification numbers. Previous witnesses have testified about the maximum range of these towers.

The location of cell phone towers is significant in this case, as they may indicate where the phone was at a given point in time. Specifically, these tower locations and phone calls could tend to call into question Vader’s statement he was in Edmonton from July 4 to 9, as some of the towers indicated in the records are near Edson.

On Wednesday afternoon, witnesses are expected to include more DNA analysts and RCMP officers involved with the investigation.