Man accused of murdering family grilled on witness stand, backtracks on initial story
'I made a very big mistake by confessing that,' says accused murderer Jason Klaus
Accused killer Jason Klaus testified at his triple first-degree murder trial in Red Deer that after his parents and sister were killed, he told a lot of lies to his family, his friends and the police.
Sometimes he lied to protect himself, other times to gain popularity and to "look cool."
Klaus said the biggest lie of all came when he confessed during an RCMP interrogation that he planned the murders and asked co-accused Joshua Frank to kill his family.
During examination by his lawyer, Klaus testified, "I was just so wore out, I was beaten down. I ultimately gave them a false confession."
"I made a mistake," he continued. "I made a very big mistake by confessing that. I didn't know if later in court I was going to be able to clear it up."
On the witness stand, he continued to profess his innocence.
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"I did not participate in the killing of my family," Klaus said.
His lawyer, Allan Fay, asked, "Did you feel you were in danger of being kicked off the farm, being cut out of the will?"
"No. No," Klaus insisted.
Under direct examination
Klaus testified that in the months leading up to the murders, his cocaine use, drinking and gambling were spiralling out of control.
"It seemed like I was running out of money," he said.
He admitted to his lawyer that he forged some cheques on the family's farm account.
"I had wrote approximately three to four cheques under my dad's account and I signed his name and I addressed the cheques to myself."
Klaus said the cheques were written in late July 2013 and totalled about $7,000.
"I did it to keep up with my gambling and my cocaine use," he said.
It has been repeatedly suggested throughout this month-long trial that Klaus's motivation for allegedly planning the murders was due to concerns his father would find out about the forgeries and cut him out of his will.
During examination, Klaus testified he confessed to his family what he had done in late August.
"In September, I knew monthly bank statements would come around," Klaus said on the witness stand.
"I felt that I had very much betrayed my family. So I sat down with my mom and dad and told them I needed to talk to them."
Fighting back tears, Klaus said, "My mom started crying right away. I was her baby boy and she knew something was wrong."
He said he took his mother's hand and began to cry too as he revealed he had written three or four fraudulent cheques on the farm account to use the money for cocaine and gambling.
"And mom couldn't believe it," Klaus said. "She went out of the room. Dad had got mad and said how disappointed he was.
"I took that trust and threw it all away."
Klaus testified he paid back all the money within two weeks and their relationship slowly began to heal.
"They knew I made a mistake and they didn't love me any less," he told his lawyer.
Klaus tried to stick to the same story during cross examination by Joshua Frank's lawyer, Tonii Roulston.
He insisted he had only written three or four fraudulent cheques in July and August of 2013 for "seven or eight thousand dollars." Klaus maintained he confessed all that to his family before the September bank statement arrived.
In a calm, methodical fashion, Roulston confronted Klaus with cheque after cheque after cheque.
Klaus admitted the first forgery was on a cheque for $125 from his father dated Aug. 23, 2013. Klaus added another $2,000 to the amount and cashed it.
"This is one of the cheques that I had to apologize for," he said.
When confronted with more photocopies of cheques, he admitted to three more forgeries in Sept. 2013 worth $5,800.
Early September was supposedly when he confessed everything to his family.
"Obviously my dates were wrong to begin with," Klaus said. "I don't know when it was. It was when I was done writing cheques."
Roulston presented him with photocopies of another three forged cheques written in October, totalling an additional $5,600.
The defence lawyer suggested Klaus had made up the conversation with his parents.
"No, that isn't true," he said.
Klaus insisted the conversation must have taken place with his parents before his birthday on Dec. 1.
Then Roulston showed him a copy of a cheque for $1,000 that Klaus admitted he forged on Nov. 27.
Finally, she presented two cheques written on the farm account to Klaus in December. One, on Dec. 2, was for $1,800.
"I think that is legitimate money," he said. "But it could be a forgery."
The second cheque, for $2,100, was written on Dec. 5, just two days before Gordon, Sandra and Monica Klaus were murdered.
"I don't recall exactly forging that cheque," he said.
In total, there were eight cheques Klaus admitted to forging worth $14,400.
"So when, if ever, did you have this conversation with your parents about coming clean?" Roulston asked.
"I do not recall. I don't have an answer for you," he said.
His cross-examination continues Thursday.