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Updated: Mon, 07 Jul 2014 16:20:52 GMT | By CBC News, cbc.ca

Nathan O'Brien Amber Alert: Douglas Garland makes 1st court appearance



Police investigators comb a hay field north of Airdrie, Alta., Saturday, July 5, 2014, looking for clues to the disappearance of three people. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh The Canadian Press/Jeff McIntosh

Police investigators comb a hay field north of Airdrie, Alta., Saturday, July 5, 2014, looking for clues to the disappearance of three people. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh The Canadian Press/Jeff McIntosh

Douglas Garland, questioned by police over the weekend in connection with the disappearance of a Calgary child and his grandparents, made a brief appearance in court today to face a charge of identity theft.

Five-year-old Nathan O'Brien, and Alvin and Kathy Liknes were reported missing a week ago. 

Garland appeared via closed-circuit television, and was expressionless and leaned against a wall as the charge was discussed. He will be back in court on Wednesday. 

A homicide detective and Nathan's father were also in court. The father did not talk to reporters.

Police detained Garland on Friday and spent the weekend talking to him about the disappearance of the three, who vanished from the Liknes family home.

Garland was discovered Friday at an acreage owned by his parents near Airdrie, northeast of Calgary. Police were acting on a tip from the public about a green truck they had been looking for that led them to the site. 

The property near Airdrie and adjacent fields are the focus of an intense search by Calgary police and the RCMP that began over the weekend and continued Monday. A canine unit is also also involved in the search

Police say they have no plans to talk to the media Monday.

"Should there be any significant updates that can be released without compromising the investigation, we will notify the media as soon as possible," officers said in a press release Monday morning.

At a news conference Saturday evening, Duty Insp. Joel Matthews with the Calgary Police Service said investigators had not found Nathan or his grandparents during the search, which is why the Amber Alert — issued a week ago — remains in effect.

Matthews said that during a shoulder-to-shoulder search in a field at the property, a white flag was put in place at one location, but he could not comment on what that means.

'Person of interest' has criminal record

Garland has a criminal history, including drug trafficking and possession of stolen property after he was caught making amphetamines on his parents' Airdrie acreage in 1992.

In the early 1990s, Garland was convicted of stealing the identity of Matthew Kemper Hartley — a 14-year-old Alberta boy killed in a car crash in 1980. The charge laid against him this past weekend relates to another, more recent incident in which Garland allegedly used the boy's identity again. 

CBC News learned Garland was released from questioning specifically in regards to the Nathan O'Brien disappearance, but remained in police custody in relation to the latest charge of identity theft he now faces.

CBC News has also learned that Garland has a connection to the Liknes family through his sister.

His sister lists Nathan O'Brien's parents, Rod and Jennifer, as well as Kathy Liknes as "friends" on Facebook.

She also lists one member of the Liknes family as a niece.

Neighbours tie ribbons of hope to homes

O'Brien and his grandparents were reported missing on Monday morning, June 30,  after Nathan's mother arrived to pick up her son from a sleepover at the Likneses' Parkhill house. The family had been over throughout the weekend helping out with an estate sale the Likneses were holding ahead of a planned move to Edmonton.

The search for Nathan and the Likneses has brought many in the community together in support of all those involvd.

A prayer session is being held Monday at 7:30 p.m. MT at the St. Michael Catholic Community in Calgary and Parkhill residents are now tying ribbons to their homes in a symbol of hope and support for the missing family members.

The Parkhill Stanley Park Community Association says the ribbons are meant to increase awareness and express hope for the safe return of Nathan and the Likneses.

Over the past two days, volunteers have been distributing green ribbons to people in the area to tie to the front of their homes.

Police are still looking to speak with anyone who attended the Likneses' estate sale on June 27, 28 and 29. 

Investigators estimate between 200 and 300 people went through the home over the course of the weekend but they are trying to get an idea of what was purchased and what remains in the home.

They say there was no sign of forced entry into the home but that blood found inside confirms that a violent incident did take place there.

Police could not say who the blood belonged to, only that whoever it was from would have been "in medical distress."

The forensics unit also examined "marks" along the outside of the house but police could not confirm whether those marks are blood.

Police say they have a number of theories so far as to what took place but they aren't making those public.

Anyone with information about the case can call the Calgary Police Service at 403-266-1234 or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 1-800-222-8477.

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