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Suspect in court: family 'shattered' by disappearance of grandparents and boy

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CALGARY - A friend says relatives of a missing five-year-old boy and his grandparents are "shattered" weeks after the three disappeared and are presumed to have been murdered.

Cherri Hodgins was in court Thursday for a brief appearance by Douglas Garland via closed-circuit TV. Garland, 54, is charged with two counts of first-degree and one of second-degree murder in the deaths of Nathan O'Brien and his grandparents Alvin and Kathy Liknes.

"It's important to know that the family is absolutely shattered," Hodgins said outside court. "While we appreciate all the support we've received across the country, we're still continuing to fundraise and there are some fundraising accounts open.

"They need all of our support across the country and from tragedy we are trying to do something positive."

Garland's case was adjourned until Sept. 17. He stood quietly during the brief appearance.

The couple and child disappeared June 29 after an estate sale at the Liknes home in Calgary. Nathan had been staying with them for a sleepover. When his mother game to pick him up the next morning, all three were gone.

A hard drive with evidence is to be provided to the defence next week.

"There's a fair bit of materials for him to go through. As you can appreciate from the number of resources that were used by the police, when every officer has to generate notes, that generates materials that have to be disclosed," said Crown prosecutor Shane Parker.

"It is voluminous and we're continuing to get the lab results back as well."

The Crown expects a three-week preliminary hearing will be scheduled for between six and eight months from now.

Parker said the Crown will meet with the families in the next few weeks to keep them up to date.

"It's critical just from a human standpoint making sure they understand what's happening. It's a confusing time on so many levels for them and, if we can help explain the court process, then that's helpful."

Hodgins said the trust fund, set up at CIBC, is essential to help the family cope.

"I think it's essential because ... Kathy and Alvin have six children. They had 12 grandchildren and the family is in pieces," she said.

"Nobody is working and nobody can get back to normalcy. It's going to take a long time for us to be able to recover."

Defence lawyer Kim Ross said he has only spoken briefly with his client.

"He's doing as good as can be expected in this situation. He's anxious to see the disclosure also," he said.

"Hopefully when we get that next week we can start moving this forward."

Ross said a decision on whether to seek bail or a psychiatric assessment won't be made until after he's had a chance to review the evidence.

Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter

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