Lawyers ask for stay or new trial for Travis Vader in deaths of missing seniors

Travis Vader was sentenced in January 2017 to life in prison for the deaths of Lyle and Marie McCann

Lawyers for a man convicted of killing two missing Alberta seniors have asked the Alberta Court of Appeal to throw out his manslaughter conviction or order a new trial.

Travis Vader was sentenced in January 2017 to life in prison for the deaths of Lyle and Marie McCann, who were in their 70s when they vanished after leaving their Edmonton-area home in July 2010.

Defence lawyers asked the Appeal Court on Friday to order a stay of proceedings or a new trial on the grounds that there were a number of errors in the original one.

“The case took way too long. It should have been stayed,” Brian Beresh said outside court. “That, of course, if successful, would mean no trial.

“Alternatively, a trial simply on manslaughter.”

RELATED: Son of Vader’s victims demands action from Ottawa on Criminal Code ‘zombie laws’

The defence argued in court that the RCMP was negligent in the handling of disclosure in the trial, which added two years of delay to the prosecution.

They also noted the judge mistakenly used an outdated section of the Criminal Code and later substituted manslaughter for the original verdict of second-degree murder.

“The extraordinary errors committed by the police and the trial judge in this case deprived the public and the appellant of any hope of a prosecution conducted in accordance with the fundamental rights protected by the charter,” said a written brief filed by the defence.

“This is one of the rare cases where a stay of proceedings is required.”

Crown prosecutor Jason Russell argued there were exceptional circumstances that justified the time it took to complete the trial.

“In assessing the reasonableness of the delay, the court must consider the exceptionally complicated nature of this case,” he said in a written brief.

Vader was charged with first-degree murder in April 2012, almost two years after the McCanns’s burned-out motorhome and a vehicle they had been towing were discovered in the days after they disappeared. Their bodies have never been found.

The charges against Vader were stayed in March 2014 before being reinstated in December 2014.

During the trial in 2016, Vader was described as a desperate drug addict who came across the McCanns and killed them during a robbery.

The Crown had asked for a life sentence. Prosecutors argued Vader showed no remorse after the killings, used the McCanns’s cellphone the same day to call an ex-girlfriend and took their money to buy beer and a phone card.

The defence suggested Vader should receive four to six years, but get at least six years of credit for pre-trial custody.

Vader, who’s in custody, has maintained his innocence.

Should a new trial be ordered, it should only be on Vader’s manslaughter convictions. the defence suggested Friday.

“The law is pretty clear,” explained Beresh. “If you are acquitted of murder, you can’t be retried on that. Your exposure is limited to the conviction, which we say in this case was manslaughter only.”

The Court of Appeal — made up of Justice Peter Martin, Justice Marina Paperny and Justice Jack Watson — challenged the defence on a number of its legal arguments.

Beresh said he expected tough questions from the bench.

“This is a serious issue,” he said. “As everyone knows, this is not the last station on the railway track. This case could go to the Supreme Court of Canada.”

The Court of Appeal reserved its decision.

Colette Derworiz, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Pat McKenna, Habitat VIN's executive director and Alli Epp, Comox Valley Community engagement manager in front of Design Therapy, one of almost 200 businesses contributing to Bid to Build. Karen McKinnon Photo.
‘#BidToBuild’ auction launching to support affordable housing

Auction builds on last year’s successful effort, with new twists

Hope Rocks at the Campbell River Art Gallery highlighting local linguistic diversity.
Paint a rock to celebrate diversity

Hope Rocks highlighting linguistic diversity in Campbell River

Reflective number or design on hoodie. Police are seeking help in identifying three youth involved in an incident on Soderholm Road early June 12. Photo courtesy Campbell River RCMP
Do you know where your kids were at 1:24 a.m.?

Campbell River RCMP seeking help identifying three youths

John Hart Dam near Campbell River, B.C. BC Hydro photo
Campbell River watershed forecasts improve with rainfall

BC Hydro projects slightly higher resevoir levels and river flows after rainy May and June

North Island MLA Michele Babchuk. Photo contributed
COMMENTARY: MLA Michele Babchuk talks the future of forestry

‘These forests are important to every single one of us, myself included’

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

FILE – Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials watching U.K.’s Delta variant struggles, ‘may need to slow’ restart plan

Studies show that one dose of vaccine is only 33 per cent effective in preventing B.1.617.2 spread

RCMP Const. Shelby Patton is shown in this undated handout photo. RCMP say that Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over on Saturday morning in Wolseley, east of Regina. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP
Pair charged in Saskatchewan Mountie’s death make first court appearance

Const. Shelby Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over Saturday morning

David and Collet Stephan leave for a break during an appeal hearing in Calgary on Thursday, March 9, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Appeal Court rejects stay for Alberta couple facing third trial in son’s death

Pair accused in their earlier trials of not seeking medical attention for their son sooner

Highway notices like this come down effective June 14. Public health restrictions on non-essential travel and commercial operation have hit local businesses in every corner of B.C. (B.C. government)
Province-wide travel back on in B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan

Gathering changes include up to 50 people for outdoor events

Calgary Stampeders’ Jerome Messam leaps over a tackle during second half CFL western semifinal football action in Calgary, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
CFL football will be played this summer in Canada

Governors vote unanimously in favour to start the ‘21 campaign on Aug. 5

Citizenship Minister Marco Mendicino holds a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020. The federal government is announcing that Indigenous people can now apply to reclaim their names on passports and other government documents. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous people can now reclaim traditional names on their passports and other ID

Announcement applies to all individuals of First Nations, Inuit and Métis background

Harvesting hay in the Fraser Valley. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)
COVID-19: B.C. waives farm income requirement for a second year

Property owners don’t need minimum income for 2022 taxes

A view of the outside of St. Andrews Roman Catholic Cathedral on Victoria’s Blanshard Street. (Don Denton/News staff)
Vancouver Island bishop apologizes for church’s role in residential schools

Bishop Gary Gordon of the Diocese of Victoria voices commitment to healing and reconciliation

Most Read