EDMONTON – Charges have been stayed against a man accused in the deaths of an Alberta couple who disappeared almost four years ago.
Alberta Justice confirms that it is not going ahead with two counts of first-degree murder against Travis Vader.
Lyle and Marie McCann of St. Albert, a bedroom community north of Edmonton, were reported missing in July 2010.
A stay means the Crown has the option of reactivating the charges in the next year if new evidence comes up.
Vader still faces other charges unrelated to the McCann case.
The McCanns, who were in their 70s, were last seen alive fuelling up their motorhome for a trip to British Columbia to vacation with their family.
The burned-out vehicle was found west of Edmonton two days later. A week later, the SUV they’d been towing was also discovered.
The couple’s bodies have never been found.
The RCMP always believed the McCanns had met with foul play and in 2012 police charged Vader, who was already in custody on other charges.
The mystery surrounding the disappearance of the McCanns gripped Alberta and the rest of Canada for much of the summer of 2010.
After the burned-out motorhome was found and documents inside linked it to the McCanns, Mounties phoned the couple and knocked on the door of their house.
But police didn’t begin searching for them until five days later after their daughter reported her parents hadn’t shown up in Abbotsford, B.C., for a camping trip.
RCMP explained at the time that the case didn’t set off alarm bells immediately because vehicles are often found burning in the bush and it’s not unusual for people to be away from home during the summer.
Police also faced embarrassment when they revealed tipsters had come into an RCMP detachment in Prince George, B.C., saying that they had spotted the SUV the couple had been towing behind their motorhome. Mounties admitted that they hadn’t taken down the tipsters’ contact information.
Police spent several days searching the area around the burned-out motorhome. They combed 260 square kilometres on the ground and by air with no success.
The family publicly urged tipsters to come forward with any information. Son Bret McCann started a Facebook group dedicated to finding his missing parents. It quickly logged hundreds of members.
Vader was named as a person of interest in the case in the weeks following the couple’s disappearance.
He wasn’t immediately charged with murder, but he was already wanted on a long list of outstanding warrants and he was arrested at a rural home in the same area where the vehicles were found.
Over the weeks and months, the search for the McCanns went cold.
Volunteers explored more areas of northern bush. A reward was announced for anyone providing information leading investigators to the bodies. A large billboard with a picture of the couple was erected along a busy highway.
Still, nothing has been found.
A year later, an Edmonton court granted an order that declared the McCanns dead so their family could start processing their wills.