Jason Klaus took the stand Nov. 21st, giving his version of the events leading to the Castor-area triple homicide of his family the morning of Dec. 8th, 2013.
Klaus testified at the trial in Red Deer Court of Queen’s Bench that he had dropped the co-accused Joshua Frank at the roadway entrance into his family’s farm where his parents and sister were residing in the early morning of Dec. 8th to steal a GMC pick-up truck that Frank had been interested in.
He testified he did not know Frank intended to enter the home and steal the family’s prized white-tail deer head, which was valued as much as $100,000.
Klaus is charged with three counts of first-degree murder and one count of arson in relation to the deaths of his father Gordon Klaus, 61, his mother Sandra Klaus, 62 and his sister Monica Klaus, 40.
Joshua Frank has also been charged with three counts of first-degree murder in relation to the deaths.
The remains of Gordon and Monica Klaus were found in what was left of a burnt-out house in Castor on Dec. 8th, 2013.
The body of Sandra Klaus has never been found and during a press conference in Calgary in 2014, RCMP Insp. Tony Hamori said police believe her remains were consumed by the fire.
Klaus testified that after a night of drinking and consuming cocaine at the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Castor, he and Frank decided to steal the GMC pick-up truck that was owned by the Klaus family. According to Klaus, Frank had previously wanted to purchase the vehicle on a payment but that idea was turned down by Klaus’s father.
Klaus said the idea for the car theft was that Frank would then have a vehicle and his father would receive the insurance money from the theft.
Klaus also testified that he had dropped Frank off at the end of the road and then waited a short distance away in his Chevrolet Suburban. Klaus then explained he became concerned when Frank didn’t return in the expected 10-15 minutes he thought it would take to walk down the entrance road and start the GMC, which had the keys either in the ignition or in the cup-holder.
Frank, according to Klaus, then drove down the roadway fast, exiting the entrance to the Klaus farm. Klaus said he followed him to a nearby ski hill. Klaus said Frank exited the vehicle and that he saw him throw the GMC keys into the ditch.
Klaus said he asked him why Frank had driven to the ski hill and thrown away the keys. Frank’s response, according to Klaus, was that Frank didn’t want to get caught with the keys if the vehicle was reported missing.
He then asked Frank why he took longer than expected. Frank, according to Klaus, said the vehicle didn’t start and that he was startled by the family dog barking so he kept quiet and waited.
“It didn’t make any sense to me,” Klaus said regarding Frank’s explanation.
Klaus then testified that he drove Frank to about a mile away outside Castor as Frank lit up a cigarette. Klaus testified it was a blue lighter similar to the one found in evidence. He said he recognized the lighter from when he saw Frank and another individual smoking inside the Castor Cosmopolitan Hotel bar earlier.
Klaus testified that Frank then asked for another “bump” of cocaine before exiting the vehicle and walking towards Castor. Klaus said he then drove to his residence, and had taken a glance at the family farm house on the way there. He said he went to sleep around 5-5:30 a.m. the morning of Dec. 8th.
Klaus then testified a neighbor called him around 7:15 a.m. asking if he had heard from his parents and that he, “better get over here. The farmhouse is on fire”.
Klaus testified he arrived at his family’s farm and saw “bubbles” of flames coming up from the house. He said he was hysterical and couldn’t believe what he was seeing.
A neighbor, according to Klaus, comforted him in his suburban and told him it looked like a dog was deceased on the property.
Klaus testified he thought at this time that his parents and sister burned in the fire. He said he was eventually taken back to his residence by his neighbor. He said the thought at this time Frank had, “something to do with it”.
Klaus testified one of his aunts and a cousin stayed with him for the next few days. He testified during that time that he spoke with an RCMP staff sergeant from Coronation who asked him about a fuel jerry-can on the property. Klaus said he told the RCMP that there would be no reason a jerry-can would be near the house, as they were usually near the quonset.
Klaus testified Frank stopped by his residence several days after the fire and gave his condolences to Klaus, his aunt and his cousin. Klaus said he then asked Frank for a ride into town. Klaus said the intention of the ride was to confront Frank about what happened.
On the way back to the residence, Klaus testified that Frank had told him that he had decided to steal the deer head while he was walking by himself on the way to the GMC truck. Klaus said Frank had told him that he was taking down the head when Monica’s dog started barking. According to Klaus, Frank said he then saw Monica in the dark and he shot her with a 9 mm pistol; Gordon then came down the stairs and Frank shot him; and then Frank heard Sandra screaming and shot her as well.
Klaus then said Frank told him he went out to the vehicle and the family dog came at him. Klaus said Frank told him he shot the dog and then grabbed a jerry-can and spread it around the house. He then used a lighter to set the house ablaze, according to Klaus.
Klaus said Frank insisted it was an accident and then threatened him, saying he would implicate him in a murder-plan if Klaus went to the police.
Klaus’s testimony continues this week in Red Deer.