Jason Klaus and Josh Frank were found guilty of three counts of first-degree murder in Red Deer on Jan. 10th.
Justice Eric Macklin handed down the verdict in front of a packed court room that had over 20 people standing in the entrance waiting to hear a verdict in the trial of the Castor-area triple-homicide of Gordon, Sandra and Monica Klaus.
“Together they planned and carried out the three murders,” said Justice Macklin. “Each one played a crucial role in executing the plan.”
Macklin rejected the trial testimony of both of the accused, who both said the other was responsible for the murders.
Macklin stated during his assessment of the evidence that both Klaus and Frank’s trial testimony was full of “inconsistencies, improbabilities and absurdities”.
Macklin found the evidence collected during a Mr. Big Sting operation, which included confessions from both Frank and Klaus, outlined the true version of what happened in December 2013.
Macklin found that in the early hours of Dec. 8th 2013, Klaus drove Frank to the entrance way of the Klaus family farm where Gordon, Sandra and Monica were residing. Frank then went into the home and murdered the Klaus family with a 9mm pistol.
Following this, Klaus exited the house and grabbed a jerrycan with aviation fuel inside from a nearby shed. He proceeded to spread the fuel throughout the home.
Before he was about to ignite the fuel with a torch lighter, the Klaus family dog Keela came at Frank. Frank proceeded to shoot the dog and then set the house on fire.
Frank then started a white GMC truck owned by Gordon and pulled out of the farm entrance way. Klaus followed Frank to a nearby ski hill. Frank exited the vehicle and threw the keys for the GMC truck into the ditch. Klaus then drove Frank back towards Castor.
The next day, Frank drove to a location near the Battle River and threw the 9mm pistol into the river.
“Based on the evidence, I find that the Crown has established beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Frank intentionally shot to death Gordon, Sandra and Monica Klaus on Dec. 8, 2013, and set the house on fire to conceal the crime,” Justice Macklin said.
“He did this according to his planning and deliberation with Mr. Klaus. Mr. Frank knew exactly what Mr. Klaus expected of him and he carried out the murders in accordance with their plan.”
Furthermore, Macklin outlined that Klaus “counselled, solicited, incited and encouraged Frank to kill the victims”. He did this by providing the 9mm pistol, providing information on the Klaus’ family farm and providing payment for the murders.
Following the trial, Crown Prosecutor Douglas Taylor thanked the family and friends of the Klaus family and expressed that he he hopes they feel justice was served for what was a “despicable” crime.
Klaus was originally 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.
Co-accused Frank had also originally 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 hasn’t been found because police believe her remains were consumed by the fire.
During victim impact statements, Gordon’s sister Marilyn Thomson said that her hatred for Jason Klaus is “immeasurable” and that forgiveness is not something she can give. Her husband Barry Thomson echoed his wife saying “Can I grant forgiveness? No amount of time time would ever allow this”.
Their daughter Nicole Thomson said she’s “drowning in grief and anger” and told Frank and Jason Klaus “Good luck to you and may God have mercy on your disgraced souls.”
Robert Klaus, Gordon’s older brother, said “losing two thirds of my family is unimaginable” and that having to return to the farmsite left him “broken”.
First degree murder in Canada has a minimum sentence of life in prison, with no chance of parole until after 25 years.
The Crown is arguing for consecutive sentences, meaning that both Frank and Klaus would not be eligible for parole for 75 years. Taylor said 75 years, three terms of 25 years, recognizes the importance of each of the individuals who were murdered
Attorneys for both Frank and Klaus were preparing for sentencing.
“It is another chapter of this saga finished. It is not over yet,” Allan Fay, Jason Klaus’ attorney, said. “It is always disheartening when a client is convicted of serious offence like this and faces a significant period of incarceration.”
He added he is hoping to avoid a 75-year sentence.
“At this time, all we are doing is preparing for the sentencing,” Tonii Roulston, Frank’s attorney, said. “We need to read Judge Macklin’s decision, he only gave it in part in court. We will make some decisions from there.”
She added her client is in shock and the verdict is “surreal” to him.
A sentencing hearing for both Klaus and Frank will take place on Jan 22nd.