Joshua Frank sat in the front seat of a pickup truck, sporting sunglasses, tattoos, a head bandana and a tank top that read, "When someone is being redneck-ified."
He thought he was meeting with an organized crime boss when he calmly described the night he snuck into a central Alberta farmhouse and shot Gordon, Sandra and Monica Klaus, according to testimony in a Red Deer courtroom this week.
Frank and his friend, Jason Klaus, are each charged with three counts of first-degree murder. RCMP officers involved in the undercover operation, their identities protected by court-ordered publication bans, videotaped the sting they used to get a confession from Frank.
In a tape played in court Friday "Mr. Big" asked, "So would it be safe to say you're a stone cold killer?"
Without missing a beat, Frank smiled and replied, "I guess."
The two men shared a laugh.
The 34-minute conversation was the culmination of a four-month undercover RCMP operation dubbed Project Kontingent
The sting originally targeted Klaus as a suspect in the December 2013 deaths of his parents and sister. But Klaus told Mr. Big he hired Frank to do the job. Mr. Big insisted on meeting with Frank to verify details.
The identity of Mr. Big is protected by a court-ordered publication ban.
Frank sat alone in the front seat of the truck with Mr. Big
Frank said Klaus approached him a couple of weeks before the murders.
"He said that he had been writing some cheques on his dad's account and his dad was about to find out right away and he'd be cut out of everything on the farm," Frank said. "So he proposed we go in and take them out and burn down the farm."
Frank explained he agreed to the plan right away because Klaus told him, if he rejected the idea, his life might be in danger. At the same time, he insisted it "never kept me awake at night."
And he expected a payday of up to $50,000 and maybe a truck too.
"He said he'd take care of it later."
By the time Frank talked to Mr. Big he said he had been paid about $4,000.
Describing the crime
In a calm, conversational tone, Frank told Mr. Big about shooting the three victims while they were sleeping.
Frank said he let himself into the unlocked house and walked directly to Gordon and Sandra Klaus's bedroom. First he turned on the light. He wanted to be sure he didn't miss.
"It had to be quick, right?, Frank said. "I wasn't missing at that distance. I didn't want them to know what hit them."
He quickly told Mr. Big, "I'm not a f***ing animal", adding after a beat with a laugh, "Well, I guess I kind of am."
In the parent's bedroom, Frank said he raised his semi-automatic pistol and fired.
"I shot Gordon first. In the head."
He pointed to the left side of his head when he said he shot Sandra in the temple.
Frank said the gunshots woke Monica up — she was just starting to sit up in bed when he fired at her from the doorway and shot her in the head.
He wanted to be sure they were all dead.
"Then I went and double tapped them."
He said he was "pretty sure" he got them all in the head again. Frank admitted that at the time his heart was racing "pretty hard."
Mr. Big asked Frank, "Do you feel remorseful?"
"A little bit," he quickly replied.
Mr. Big pushed him.
"Do you think they got what they deserved?"
"I know Gordon did. I think Sandi didn't but…".
Frank never mentioned Monica. He told Mr. Big he didn't know her.
Said he never killed anyone before
Two times, Mr. Big asked Frank if this was the first time he had killed anyone.
Both times, Frank insisted those were his first murders.
Mr. Big observed, "I mean whacking three people. Holy shit."
The phoney crime boss praised Frank and Klaus for thinking through all the details in committing the crime.
"I think it all comes down to details," Frank said. "I think that's the only reason we're still walking around."
The final Mr. Big scenario took place on July 19, 2014.
Klaus and Frank were arrested on August 15, 2014 and charged with three counts each of first-degree murder.
Reaction in the courtroom
The courtroom has been packed every day of this month-long trial. During a break after the video of Frank's confession was played, many of the victims' friends and family members were very emotional and openly crying. Some had difficulty even returning to the courtroom.
On Monday, Court of Queen's Bench Justice Eric Macklin will hear legal arguments about the admissibility of the evidence that was entered regarding the Mr. Big sting.
Then the defence begins to present their case.
Both Frank and Klaus are expected to testify next week in their own defence.