EDMONTON — A judge is questioning the credibility of a man convicted of killing two missing Alberta seniors and dismissed part of a constitutional argument that his rights were violated in custody.
A sentencing hearing continued Tuesday for Travis Vader, who was convicted of manslaughter in the 2010 deaths of Lyle and Marie McCann of St. Albert, Alta.
The Crown is seeking a life sentence for Vader. The defence wants four to six years and, because of alleged mistreatment while in custody, suggests it should be reduced to time served.
Vader testified over several days that his rights were violated with an unlawful strip search, was denied proper access to a lawyer and was assaulted by guards and subjected to other cruel conditions while behind bars.
Justice Denny Thomas dismissed part of the application dealing with the strip search and said written reasons would come later.
But the judge pointed out that Vader claimed he was humiliated as he stood naked for five minutes as people walked by his open cell. A video showed it was actually 30 seconds and no one passed by. The Crown argued the search was appropriate as police needed to seize Vader’s clothing and search for weapons.
“Some of these incidents, of course, are just Mr. Vader’s version — and there’s some credibility issues here,” said Thomas.
He also questioned why it took Vader so long to complain about the strip search.
The McCanns, in their late 70s, vanished after leaving their home northwest of Edmonton on a camping trip to British Columbia on July 3, 2010.
Their burned-out motorhome and a vehicle they had been towing were discovered several days later. Their bodies have not been found.
Vader was arrested and held on other charges as a person of interest in the case, although he wasn’t charged with the killings until 2012.
Following a lengthy, high-profile trial, Thomas determined that Vader was a desperate drug addict who came across the couple in their RV near Peers, Alta., and killed them during a robbery.
The judge initially convicted Vader of second-degree murder but, because he mistakenly used an out-dated section of the Criminal Code, later changed the verdict to manslaughter.
The Crown has said Vader deserves life in prison because he was on bail and on the run on other charges when he killed the vulnerable seniors and disposed of their bodies. He also showed no remorse, using their cellphone to call a girlfriend and their money to buy beer.
Prosecutor Ashley Finlayson told court Tuesday that Vader’s list of abuse accusations are not believable.
Vader testified guards attacked him in 2010 and 2011, but he didn’t file complaints. A video of the earlier allegation only shows Vader on the ground.
“We don’t know how he got there,” added Thomas.
Defence lawyer Nathan Whitling told court that Vader’s rights were also violated when he wasn’t allowed to meet his lawyer in private because Mounties refused to leave the room.
Finlayson said the lawyer was only there to tell Vader that he was no longer representing him.