The dead prostitute in the trunk of the car suddenly opened her eyes and sat up.
That carefully staged moment during an RCMP undercover operation helped officers win the confidence of a man accused of killing his parents and sister.
Details about the Mr. Big sting, dubbed Project Kontingent, emerged Thursday during the first-degree murder trial of Jason Klaus and his friend, Joshua Frank.
Klaus's parents, Gordon and Sandra, and his sister, Monica, were shot to death on Dec. 8, 2013, before their Castor, Alta.-area farmhouse was burned to the ground.
Klaus and Frank are both charged with three counts of first-degree murder.
Within weeks of the killings, RCMP had identified Klaus as a suspect. But investigators didn't have enough evidence to lay a charge, so they started a Mr. Big sting.
The four-month undercover operation included golf games, trips to strip clubs, fancy dinners, and $12,000 in payouts.
More than two dozen scenarios
Project Kontingent ran from April to July 2014 and involved more than two dozen encounters, much like various acts or scenes in a play.
The identities of all the RCMP officers involved in the undercover operation are protected by court-ordered publication bans.
"Cpl. A." took the stand in a Red Deer courtroom Thursday and outlined the operation. He described himself as "both a director and an architect" of Project Kontingent.
He said he never met Klaus face to face, but worked behind the scenes to create a fictional crime family led by Mr. Big. During the elaborate operation, Klaus was rewarded with cash and friendship as officers slowly won him over.
The most elaborate scenario was staged in June 2014 just outside Calgary.
Klaus and "Const. B." were on their way to Lethbridge when they got an urgent call to go to Calgary because, "Cpl A." testified, "something bad had happened."
"Cpl. A." testified another undercover officer posing as a member of the criminal organization told Klaus and "Const. B" he had been with a prostitute the night before and had beaten her to death.
'Why would we leave a loose end?'
"Cpl. A." said a female undercover officer was placed in the man's trunk and made to look badly injured.
While Klaus and "Const. B." looked inside the trunk, the woman suddenly woke up. "Const. B." convinced her not to go to the police, and promised her she wouldn't be hurt any further.
"Cpl. A." testified that Klaus, in his words, later "questioned us as to why we didn't finish her off, didn't kill her. Why would we leave a loose end like that?"
Later that same night, "Cpl. A." said, Klaus confessed he was involved in the murders of his parents and sister.
"He said he didn't do the homicide," the officer said on the stand. "That he paid Josh Frank to do it."
During his testimony, "Cpl. A." described the operation as "smoke and mirrors," designed to convince Klaus to trust his new friends and Mr. Big enough to be truthful with them.
Operation 'carefully scripted'
"We don't actually do anything illegal," he testified. "It's just carefully scripted to make it seem that way."
The sting involved numerous different scenarios, all crafted to convince Klaus he was part of a criminal organization.
"It's one of the shortest I've ever run," the RCMP officer said of Project Kontingent. "The undercover operation progressed very, very quickly. Almost too quickly.
"The first confession we got from him was Scenario 14, which is almost unheard of for something to happen that fast."
The corporal testified Klaus was paid $5,000 for renting his land to the fictional crime group, about $7,000 for helping his new friends carry out supposedly illegal activities, and was given a gift of $300.
In addition to the $12,340 Klaus collected, he also received a watch and a baseball hat.
The operation culminated on July 19, 2014, when Klaus and Frank both met Mr. Big.
"Cpl. A." testified that Frank independently corroborated Klaus's story that he was the one who carried out the killings and got paid for it.
"He also showed us the location of the gun," said "Cpl. A."
"He also told [Mr. Big] he still had the lighter used to start the fire and still had a bullet."
The two accused killers went with the undercover officers to Castor, where Frank and Klaus re-enacted the killings.
The two men were arrested and charged on Aug. 15, 2014.