Klaus also professed his innocence after arrest and waiting for trial
“I plan to fight this through because I did not kill my family and the little involvement I did have I will regret the rest of my life,” Jason Klaus told the packed court room Jan. 22 during his, and his co-accused Joshua Frank’s, sentencing hearing.
Jason Klaus, 42, and Joshua Frank, 32, were found guilty Jan. 10 in Red Deer Court of Queen’s Bench on three charges of first-degree murder in connection with the deaths of Gordon Klaus, 61, Sandra Klaus 62, and their daughter Monica Klaus, 40. The family was shot to death in their farmhouse east of Castor, which was then set on fire Dec. 8, 2013.
“I cannot express my sorrow about what has happened to my family, to your family,” Jason Klaus said to his family members sitting in the gallery.
Jason Klaus maintained his innocence throughout the six-week trial, which ran October – November, 2017.
In his testimony Klaus said statements he made to the police during the Mr. Big sting were lies.
He testified that Joshua Frank was interested in buying the Klaus’s white GMC truck belonging to Gordon Klaus and after the two spent an evening and early morning of drinking and doing cocaine, the pair came up with a plan to go to the Klaus’s farm and steal the truck.
Klaus said, however, that Frank took longer than he should have and only days later Frank admitted what had happened.
Klaus said Frank decided to go into the farmhouse to steal a trophy white-tailed deer head but was startled by a dog barking and ended up killing the family.
Jason Klaus, during a phone interview from the Edmonton Remand Centre after his arrest and while awaiting the trial, said he was innocent.
“I’m going to prove this to the end that I’m innocent and fight for this as much as I have to do. It doesn’t matter what people think or say, I know in my heart and my head that I didn’t do this, and I know that my mom, dad and sister know I had nothing to do with this.
“That’s the most important thing that matters to me right now. I know I didn’t have anything to do with that.”
In that phone call from the Edmonton Remand Centre two years ago, Jason Klaus said he didn’t believe Joshua Frank meant to kill his family.
“He went in there to steal an item in the house. I didn’t find this out until later. I can honestly say that I don’t think he meant to hurt anybody. I think things just went wrong. I know my father always had a gun by the bed.”
During that phone call Jason Klaus also denied ever sexually abusing Joshua Frank, which Frank testified in court began when he was 14 years old.
“My co-accused Josh Frank is saying lots of garbage about me and it’s sickening. He’s changed his story I don’t know how many times already and it’s disgusting what he’s saying.
“He’s saying I held him at gun point and made him do everything and that I sexually assaulted him. That’s what he’s saying, that I’ve been sexually assaulting him since the age of 14.”
When Justice Eric Macklin handed down the guilty verdicts on Klaus and Frank on Jan. 10, in his ruling he said even though it was unnecessary for him to determine whether the sexual abuse occurred, he said, “It must be noted that the setting, positions and locations of Mr. Klaus and Mr. Frank in the vehicle on the first alleged occasion, as described by Mr. Frank, clearly raised the question as to whether such an assault could possibly have occurred as described.
The second incident described involved the use of a firearm and Mr. Frank’s testimony appeared exaggerated for effect. It seemed that Mr. Frank was not expecting to be questioned on the details of the alleged assaults and improvised when forced to provide them.”
In addition, Justice Macklin said he didn’t believe that Mr. Frank feared Mr. Klaus.
In the early 2016 phone call from Edmonton Remand Centre, Jason Klaus talked about the last time he saw his family.
“I remember the night I was with my family when I put Christmas lights up with my mom and the Christmas tree with my sister and did chores with my dad and we had supper. To go from having a close loving family every day like that to having nothing, I still haven’t adjusted.
“I did not expect anything like this. Nobody does. This was a freak accident. The truth will hopefully come out.”
During the sentencing hearing on Jan. 22 in Red Deer Court of Queen’s Bench, Joshua Frank apologized to the Barry and Klaus family.
“I am truly, truly, deeply sorry for all the pain you endured and will have to endure and also to my family thank you for all the support and all the pain there and the hardship you’ve had to endure as well.”
Crown Prosecutor Douglas Taylor asked the court to impose three consecutive life sentences, which means no eligibility to apply for parole for 75 years. He said mitigating factors include: the fact that the victims were “without question defenceless,” sleeping in their beds where they should have been safe; the murders occurred in an isolated rural setting; Monica Klaus woke up; the house was burned down; the night in question was -40 with the wind chill and put first responders and firefighters’ lives at risk; the house was completely destroyed by fire, and along with it, any items that the victims’ families could have used to memorialize them; a fire was the Klaus’s family’s worst fears; and the death of the family pets.
Taylor said both offenders lied to the police and actively tried to defeat the course of justice.
“In fact Jason Klaus steered police towards an innocent person, the American hunters.”
He said the murders were a further erosion of the trusting fabric of Canadian society and the rural areas.
Jason Klaus’s lawyer, Allan Fay, asked the court not to see his client as someone without any redeeming qualities. He said Jason Klaus was a member of the Elks Club in Castor and worked as a volunteer.
Fay said maybe Jason Klaus could be rehabilitated in prison.
“Perhaps it would give them (family) a chance to see him as something other than a monster who killed his family.”
Joshua Frank’s lawyer Andrea Urquhart said there were about a dozen family and friends at the sentencing hearing to support Frank.
She argued that their client was getting a life sentence but to motivate him to be rehabilitated he should be allowed to have the ability to apply for parole in 25 years.
Justice Macklin reserved sentencing Klaus and Frank until Feb. 14 in Red Deer Court of Queen’s Bench.