Jason Klaus, Joshua Frank convicted of 1st-degree murder in killings of Alberta farm family
'Together they planned and carried out the 3 murders,' judge finds
Jason Klaus and Joshua Frank have been found guilty of three counts of first-degree murder in the December 2013 deaths of Gordon, Sandra and Monica Klaus.
"Together they planned and carried out the three murders," Court of Queen's Bench Justice Eric Macklin said in his decision, delivered in a packed Red Deer courtroom Wednesday.
"Each one played a crucial role in executing the plan."
Macklin said he was satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that all three victims — the parents and sister of Jason Klaus — were shot to death and their bodies were burned in the Klaus home on a farm near Castor, Alta.
Klaus, 41, and Frank, 32, did not show any reaction when Macklin delivered his decision.
The Crown wants both men to serve life sentences with no chance of parole for 75 years. A sentencing hearing has been set for Jan. 22 in Red Deer.
The court heard victim impact statements Wednesday afternoon.
Robert Klaus said he still finds it unimaginable that he lost his brother, his sister-in-law and his niece.
"Monica was my lovely niece and I was her mentor," Robert Klaus said in his statement. "I anguish that her life was snuffed out at 40. So young. She really had it all together."
He said it took took two years to get the victims' remains for a burial. But because the remains of Sandra Klaus were never located or identified, some of Gordon's and Monica's remains went into her urn.
Jason Klaus's first cousin, Nicole Thomson, also delivered an emotional victim impact statement.
"Neither one of you can tell the truth," Thomson said, staring at the two killers in the prisoner's box.
"You are no longer human. May God have mercy on your disgraced souls."
Thomson vowed she would never forgive the two men for their crimes. "I know my uncle and he would never, ever forgive you," she said.
Judge rejected testimony from accused
Macklin rejected the testimony of both of the accused and accepted evidence from an undercover operation.
Macklin found that in the early morning of Dec. 8, 2013, Klaus dropped Frank off, and Frank went into the home, shot the three victims dead and then poured gasoline in the home before shooting the family dog Keela and setting the house on fire.
Frank drove off in a white GMC truck and the two men met at the location where the truck was left. The next day, Frank threw the handgun used in the killings into the Battle River.
When Frank shot the victims and set the house on fire, Macklin said, "he did this according to this 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."
Macklin found that Klaus encouraged Frank to kill the victims, provided him with a handgun and information and paid him for his participation, promising that further payment would come.
During the six-week trial, both accused took the stand in their own defence and blamed each other. But the most crucial evidence was presented through secret recordings of undercover RCMP officers talking to Klaus and Frank.
The undercover operation
On April 1, 2014, Mounties launched a so-called Mr. Big sting targeting Klaus that was dubbed Project Kontingent.
For four months, Klaus believed he had joined a group of organized criminals that provided him with friendship and easy money.
He repeatedly confessed to his new friends that he had planned the deaths of his parents and sister. He also maintained he had convinced his friend, Joshua Frank, to pull the trigger.
When Frank met "Mr. Big," he corroborated Klaus's story by admitting he shot Gordon, Sandra and Monica Klaus.
On tape, 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."
During closing arguments, prosecutor Douglas Taylor submitted the Crown's theory on motive.
"Simply put, Klaus's motive was his disdain for his family and the way in which he was being treated by his parents and sister," Taylor said.
Regarding the co-accused, Taylor said, "Conversely, Frank's motive was unoriginal, yet pronounced — greed for money, pure and simple. He was an unemployed, destitute drug addict. He saw an opportunity for easy money and he took it."
Klaus and Frank were arrested and charged on Aug. 15, 2014. They have been in custody ever since.
The Red Deer courtroom was packed with the victims' friends and family members for every day of the trial.
They declined comment during the trial, but clearly found much of the graphic evidence and testimony difficult to hear.