But for more than a week, he has been at the centre of a Calgary police probe into the mysterious disappearance of Alvin and Kathryn Liknes and their grandson, five-year-old Nathan O'Brien.
Late Monday, he was charged with their murders.
Police have said Garland is connected to the Liknes family — his sister is in a relationship with a relative.
There have also been reports that Garland and Alvin Liknes had a business relationship. The CBC has quoted unnamed sources saying those dealings turned sour after a dispute over a patent for a gas device.
What else is known about Garland has come from court records and parole documents.
They reveal an intelligent person, but someone who struggled with mental problems that led, at least in part, to a rather lengthy criminal record.
His convictions, however, were for non-violent offences. He had faced weapons and assault charges in 1980s and 1990s, but they were dropped.
Court documents show Garland was smart enough to get into medical school, evade police on drug charges for several years, get a job working in a laboratory without proper credentials, and win a tax-court case against the federal government acting as his own lawyer.
One document says that after a year of medical school in Alberta, Garland had a breakdown. It also says he suffers from attention deficit disorder and was traumatized after a horrific car crash caused when he fell asleep at the wheel.
Another document blames mental issues in part for various property offences he was convicted of committing more than 20 years ago.
In 1992, he was arrested for making amphetamines at his parents' farm. But documents from his tax case say he skipped bail and fled to Vancouver, where he assumed the name of a dead teen.
While on the lam, Garland lied about having a science degree and got a job at a laboratory testing pesticides, herbicides and organic compounds, his tax case heard.
He had the right skills, though, and was eventually promoted to supervisor. But after four years, he suffered another breakdown and was fired in 1997.
Two years later, while he was working at the British Columbia Institute of Technology, RCMP caught up with Garland.
He pleaded guilty to his old drug charges — two counts of trafficking — and was sentenced to 39 months in prison. He received an additional one month for possession of stolen property.
The Parole Board of Canada granted him accelerated release after six months.
It noted in its decision that a charge of possession of a prohibited weapon was dismissed in 1988, an assault charge was stayed in 1989 and, in 1999, another weapon charge was withdrawn.
But a psychologist determined Garland had "little violence potential to others." The board ordered a psychologist and psychiatrist to closely monitor him on his release.
The tax court case came after his release.
The Canada Revenue Agency went after Garland for employment insurance benefits it gave him after losing his laboratory job, arguing he had been using a fake name and a fake social insurance number.
Garland took the agency to court and, acting as his own lawyer, won his case in 2005. The judge said Garland had done his job well and deserved the government payments.
The judge described Garland as an intelligent but troubled man who "acknowledged that he made some not very well thought out decisions."
Garland was first questioned in the Liknes case more than a week ago and police held him on charges he continued to use the same stolen identity he had used in Vancouver.
His lawyer on those charges did not return calls Monday after the murder charges were laid.
Garland said nothing to reporters after his arrest.
He is due back in court Wednesday.
— By Chris Purdy in Edmonton