'I did not kill my family,' says triple murderer at Alberta sentencing hearing

Lawyers for two men convicted of a triple murder by a judge in Red Deer have argued consecutive parole ineligibilities would amount to a "death sentence." Court of Queen's Bench Justice Eric Macklin has reserved his decision until Feb. 14.

Court of Queen's Bench Justice Eric Macklin has reserved his decision until Feb. 14.

Jason Klaus and Joshua Frank told identical stories about the murders of Gordon, Sandra and Monica Klaus during an undercover RCMP operation. (RCMP)

Triple murderer Jason Klaus has delivered a lengthy, rambling apology letter written to his family members titled "To Know Them is to Love Them," during which he denied killing his parents and sister.

"I did not kill my family and the little involvement that I did have I will regret for the rest of my life," said Klaus during his sentencing hearing in Red Deer on Monday.

Court of Queen's Bench Justice Eric Macklin has reserved his sentencing decision until Feb. 14. 

Klaus, 42, and Joshua Frank, 32, were convicted earlier this month of three charges of first-degree murder in the deaths of Klaus's parents and sister, who were shot to death in their beds in December 2013 before the home was burned down in an effort to conceal evidence. 

The bodies of Gordon Klaus and his daughter, Monica, were found in their burned-out farmhouse near Castor, Alta. Sandra Klaus's remains were never recovered. 

Frank and Klaus's recorded confessions to undercover police officers were key evidence for the prosecution.

Sandra, Gordon and Monica Klaus were murdered December 8, 2013. (Facebook)

The two will automatically receive life sentences but what is up for debate is whether the 25-year parole ineligibilities will be served consecutively or concurrently. 

Prosecutor Doug Taylor has argued the pair should not be allowed to apply for parole for 75 years. Lawyers for the two men have argued consecutive parole ineligibilities would amount to a "death sentence."

Frank was also given the chance to make a statement, during which he addressed his victims' family members, many of whom filled the courtroom: "I am truly, truly, deeply sorry."

Gordon, Sandra and Monica Klaus were killed at the family farmhouse near Castor, Alta. in December 2013. The family dog was also killed. (RCMP)

Klaus's lawyer, Allan Fay, says other Alberta triple murders netted 75-year parole ineligibilities for the killers — Derek Saretzky and Douglas Garland — but had elements of a "gruesomeness, barbaric acts and stark horror" not present in the shooting deaths of the Klaus family.

Saretzky killed two-year-old Hailey Dunbar-Blanchette, her father Terry Blanchette and senior Hanne Meketech in the Crowsnest Pass in 2015 and committed acts of cannibalism during the killing of the girl. 

Garland was sentenced last February to life in prison without parole for 75 years for killing Alvin and Kathy Liknes and their five-year-old grandson, Nathan O'Brien, in 2014.

Fay said if 50- or 75-year parole ineligibilities are imposed, his client would almost certainly die in jail.

"Jail is a harsh environment, it is not conducive to longevity," said Fay.

Frank's lawyers, Tonii Roulston and Andrea Urquhart, pointed out that no matter what, their client is getting a life sentence, but in order for him to be motivated to rehabilitate, he should be allowed to apply for parole in 25 years. 

"In Canada, rehabilitation is what defines us," said Urquhart in her submissions. "He will serve the rest of his life in jail unless someone feels he is not a danger."

Prosecutor Doug Taylor has argued the legislation was enacted to recognize the value of each individual life in a case just like this one.

"[This] was a contract killing of sorts," said Taylor, who pointed out the murders were planned days, if not weeks, before. 

"We feel it's appropriate to be asking the court to impose consecutive penalties on counts two and three totalling what would be effectively life, no chance of parole, for 75 years."

Macklin said symbolic sentences "have no part in our sentencing regime in our country."

"Why are we taking this out of the hands of the parole board?" he asked Taylor. "They're the gatekeepers."

Both killers pointed the finger at each other and each offered a confession to police during an undercover investigation.

Klaus had cocaine and gambling addictions and had been forging cheques from his parents' account. He offered Frank money to kill the family.

After his arrest, Frank told police he shot the family because he was scared Klaus would kill him if he didn't.

About the Author

Meghan Grant

CBC Calgary reporter

Meghan Grant is the courts and crime reporter for CBC Calgary.