Two men who killed three members of a Castor family have had the length of time they must sit in prison before applying for parole doubled to 50 years.
The Alberta Court of Appeal has ruled that a judge erred by not applying consecutive parole eligibilities for Jason Klaus and Joshua Frank.
In its split decision released on Monday, the court said the sentences for the killings of Gordon and Sandra Klaus should be served concurrently but the murder of Monica should be punished with an additional 25 years of parole ineligiblity.
“The motives, the planning and deliberation and the calculated magnitude of these crimes is such that they stand out and indicate that denunciation in these cases requires what may amount to whole life sentences for both Klaus and Frank,” Justice Jack Watson wrote for the majority in a split decision released Monday.
“The errors of principle found in the sentencing reasons require the Court of Appeal to sentence afresh. We are persuaded that, in the end, the disposition reached was disproportionate and unfit,” said the decision.
Klaus and Frank were convicted of murdering Klaus’s parents: Gordon and Sandra Klaus and sister Monica Klaus as they lay in their beds in the early morning hours of a cold winter night in December 2013. The two men killed the family dog before burning the house down to destroy evidence.
The remains of Monica and Gordon were found in the ashes of the farm home. No trace of Sandra was found but police she was in the home when it was burned down.
Klaus, then-42, and Frank, then-32, were each convicted of first-degree murder in January 2018 following a dramatic six week trial in Red Deer Court of Queen’s Bench the previous fall.
The Crown had asked for life sentences with no chance of parole for 75 years.
But Justice Eric Macklin said in setting parole ineligiblity at 25 years that while the men will be eligible to apply for parole, it is rare that a multiple murderer is granted release.
The judge also suggested there was little to be gained by locking people up forever with no hope of release.
“A sentence that extinguishes any hope of release for an offender is a crushing sentence,” he said.
Family and friends of the Klauses were angered by the decision and released statements critical of the judge.
Justice Frans Slatter cast a dissenting vote, meaning the decision can be appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada.
Slatter said the multiple murders provision in the Criminal Code, which allows for consecutive parole ineligibility periods, “does not apply in cases of convictions for murder entered at the same trial.”
The trial heard Klaus was having problems with his father and offered Frank money to kill the family. Frank told police he killed the family because he was scared Klaus would shoot him if he didn’t follow through.
Klaus also had a cocaine and gambling addiction and forged cheques on his parents’ account.
In a bizarre trial full of twists, the court heard that both men had confessed to their roles in the killings, only to change their stories on the stand, each fingering the other for the murders.
Defence lawyers were left with the job of trying to convince the judge that their clients had repeatedly lied when they confessed, but their testimony on the stand should be believed.
—With files from The Canadian Press