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
Calgary investigators say there are "still more questions than answers" as the search for a missing five-year-old boy and his grandparents continues.
Police and RCMP are into their fourth day of an intense search at a rural property near Airdrie, just north of Calgary, looking for any evidence or clues.
"Right now we’re looking at an area that’s several square kilometres," said Garrett Woolsey, the RCMP commander of the special tactical operations team involved in the search.
"We are currently looking for evidence in relation to a missing persons case. That’s why we’re using so many officers."
Nathan O'Brien and grandparents Alvin and Kathy Liknes were reported missing more than a week ago.
Throughout Monday afternoon, police searched three new sites near the property from which Douglas Garland, who they call a "person of interest," was brought in for questioning on Friday night. Garland was later released, but has been charged over the alleged recent use of a stolen identity that he had previously used during the 1990s while evading police on drug charges in Vancouver.
Officers searched through three separate fields around the Garland property on Monday and brought in a member of the canine unit to assist with police officers' shoulder-to-shoulder searches.
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Garland back in court Wednesday
Garland appeared in a Calgary court Monday to face the new charge of identity theft 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 and spent the weekend talking to him about the disappearance of the three, who vanished from the home of Nathan's grandparents.
Garland was discovered at an acreage owned by his parents near Airdrie. Police were acting on a tip from the public about a green truck they had been looking for that led them to the site.
'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, who lists Nathan'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
On Monday evening, members of the Calgary church where he was baptized held a special prayer service for Nathan O'Brien and Kathy and Alvin Liknes. It was attended by the family of the three.
Rev. Julian Studden told CBC News the church community is deeply affected and concerned.
"They are feeling hurt that such a tragedy can happen to a boy like Nathan, and they have a heart of compassion and they feel like it's their own little one," he said.
Studden said the community is holding nine days of special prayers. Known as the novena, the vigils began on Friday.
O'Brien and his grandparents were reported missing on June 30, after Nathan's mother arrived to pick up her son from a sleepover at the Likneses's Parkhill house. The family had been helping out with an estate sale the Likneses were holding ahead of a planned move to Edmonton.
As well as the prayer sessions, Parkhill residents are now tying green ribbons to their homes in a symbol of hope and support that the Parkhill Stanley Park Community Association says is meant to increase awareness and express hope for the safe return of Nathan and his grandparents.
Police are still looking to speak with anyone who attended the estate sale on June 27, 28 and 29.
Investigators estimate between 200 and 300 people went to the sale, 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.
Police could not say who the blood belonged to, only that it signalled someone had 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 have a number of theories as to what took place, but 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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