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Firefighter was dad to 3 of 5 kids killed in day care blaze

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ERIE, Pa. — Three of five kids killed in a fire at a home child care centre in Pennsylvania were the children of a volunteer firefighter who was responding to another call, an official said Monday.

Luther Jones’ two daughters and a son were trapped in a blaze in the lakeside city of Erie while he was responding to another call for what turned out to be a malfunctioning alarm, said Lawrence Park Township Volunteer Fire Chief Joe Crotty.

The children haven’t been formally identified, but the Erie Fire Department says the dead range in age from 8 months to 7 years. The owner was hospitalized after the fire Sunday. Erie fire officials say the children were staying overnight at a house that had been turned into a day care centre.

The fire, reported at about 1:15 a.m. Sunday, was funneling out of every first-floor window when firefighters arrived, Erie Chief Fire Inspector John Widomski told the Erie Times-News. He said the blaze appeared to have started in the living room area on the first floor.

The department’s two fire inspectors and three Erie police detectives trained in fire investigations are working to determine the cause.

Valerie Lockett-Slupski, standing across the street from the fire-damaged house, told the newspaper she was the grandmother of four of the children — two boys and two girls — and that they were staying at the home because their parents were working overnight.

“So, we are all at a loss, trying to figure out how this happened,” Lockett-Slupski said.

Erie police detectives told the newspaper that the owner was listed in stable condition after being flown to UPMC Mercy. Chief Guy Santone of the Erie Fire Department said a neighbour was also injured.

The Erie Regional Chamber and Growth Partnership lists the Harris Family Daycare as “a 24 hour, 7 days a week childcare service including holidays.”

The Associated Press

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Appeal denied: Man who killed couple, their grandson wanted conviction quashed

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CALGARY — Alberta’s top court has upheld the conviction of a man who killed a couple and their grandson, dismissing objections to the warrantless search of his farm, disturbing photographs shown at trial and comments the judge made to jurors.

Douglas Garland was convicted in 2017 of first-degree murder in the deaths of Alvin and Kathy Liknes and Nathan O’Brien more than five years ago.

He is also appealing his life sentence with no chance of parole for 75 years.

The couple and the boy vanished after an estate sale at the Liknes home in Calgary. Five-year-old Nathan was there for a sleepover.

The victims’ bodies were never recovered, but bone fragments, burned flesh and teeth were found in ash from a burning barrel on Garland’s property.

“On arriving at the farm on July 4, 2014, the police had a decision to make: to enter without a search warrant with the hope that the victims may still be alive but in need of medical assistance, or wait to enter until a search warrant authorizing a search of the property could be obtained,” the panel of three Appeal Court judges wrote in its decision released Friday.  

“They chose the former.”

The officer in charge told his colleagues to only search buildings and receptacles that were large enough to hide a body.

“Significantly, it was not alleged the police had an ulterior motive for entering into the appellant’s property and searching it, other than to find the victims, hopefully still alive,” the judges wrote.

“We see no basis to interfere.”

The judges also took no issue with the information provided for the search warrant that was later issued.

“All told, (it) was a thorough document that went into great detail in summarizing the evidence known to the (Calgary Police Service) at the time,” they wrote.

“It provided a detailed account of witness interviews, crime scene photographs and analysis, expert opinions, CCTV video analysis and an extensive summary of the findings at the Garland farm during the warrantless search.

“We can see no error or reason to interfere with these conclusions.”

The Appeal Court also dismissed an argument that the trial judge erred when he allowed jurors to see gruesome photographs found on a hard drive in Garland’s basement, including ones depicting dismembered, diapered and restrained women.

The judges wrote that decisions on evidence that is clearly prejudicial but also affords proof of something are difficult.

“They are best left to the trial judge, who has a full appreciation of the nuances of the case, to decide. Absent a palpable or overriding error, such decisions are entitled to deference.”

Comments the trial judge made to jurors acknowledging the disturbing nature of the evidence they heard did not show bias, they added.

“With respect, viewed in the context of this difficult trial, we find nothing inappropriate about these comments.”

This report by the Canadian Press was first published Dec. 6, 2019.

Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press


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Feds vow to ban guns similar to one used in Ecole Polytechnique shooting

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OTTAWA — Public Safety Minister Bill Blair says the federal government will be ready soon to produce a list of semi-automatic weapons that will be banned in Canada.

His comments come the same day Canadians are marking the 30th anniversary of one of the worst mass shootings in Canadian history.

But Blair says until the list is approved by cabinet he won’t name any specific guns under consideration, including the one used in the Ecole Polytechnique shooting on Dec. 6, 1989.

He says he doesn’t want to create a run on gun purchases ahead of the ban.

The Ruger Mini-14 was used in the shooting where a gunman entered the Montreal school, killed 14 women and injured 14 people before killing himself.

Blair says the government will be clear about how certain weapons were selected when the list is made public.

While there is no firm date for its release, Blair said it will be done as soon as possible before noting it was only the second day of the new Parliament.

The Liberals promised during the federal election campaign to ban military-style assault rifles and give municipalities the ability to put limitations or bans on handguns within their own borders.

The party also said owners of legally purchased firearms that fall under the ban would receive fair-market compensations for their weapons as part of a buyback program. Blair said during the campaign about 250,000 semi-automatic assault rifles are owned legally in Canada.

The Liberals have been pressured by survivors of the Montreal Massacre to do more to restrict guns in Canada and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau used his House of Commons speech marking the massacre Friday to say the government will be moving on its campaign promises.

“We will strengthen gun laws and ban the type of weapons used at Ecole Polytechnique,” he said.

“These weapons, designed to kill the largest number of people in the shortest amount of time, have no place in our communities, in our streets, in our country.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 6, 2019.

The Canadian Press

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