Two family members found dead after a house blaze near Castor, and a third member of the family who has not been located, are victims of homicide, RCMP said on Thursday.
The Mounties also say that they believe the fire was intentionally set, although they’re not revealing how it started.
The remains of Gordon Klaus, 61, and his daughter, Monica Klaus, 40, were found in the farmhouse after the Dec. 8 fire. Sandra Klaus, Gordon’s wife and Monica’s mother, has still not been found but police say their investigation suggests she was also a murder victim.
“Our investigators are most certain that she was a victim of a homicide as well,” RCMP spokeswoman Sgt. Josee Valiquette said at a news conference in Edmonton.
It’s possible that Sandra Klaus’s body could have been destroyed in the fire, she said.
Valiquette said the home was heated by coal and there was a significant amount of the fuel in the home’s basement, which made the fire hot and its damage severe.
“It was very intense and the remains are not necessarily easy to analyze.”
The only other member of the family, Jason Klaus, 38, lives in a separate house on his parents’ farm just east of Castor and was unharmed.
He told media after the fire that his sister lived in Stettler and had been visiting their parents that weekend.
Calls to him have not been returned.
In the update provided to the public, RCMP revealed that the Calgary Medical Examiner’s office had confirmed on Dec. 13 that the family dog, also found dead at the scene of the fire, had suffered a fatal gunshot wound.
Valiquette could not say if the victims were also shot or if they died before the home was set on fire.
She also wouldn’t divulge whether investigators have any suspects, but she did confirm the family members were targeted.
“We don’t believe that this was a random act of violence.”
After an extensive ground search, a white, 2003 GMC Sierra truck associated with the Klaus farm was found on Dec. 11 at the intersection of Hwy 36 and Township Road 400 in Paintearth County. The truck was located 27.2 km north of the Klaus residence, about a 17-minute drive.
RCMP said they believe this vehicle was used by the person or people responsible for the murder to flee the scene. They are asking anyone with more information to call the RCMP Calgary Major Crimes Unit at 403-699-2655 or Crime Stoppers to remain anonymous 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).
Castor is about 140 km east of Red Deer.
A business owner in Castor who asked that her name not be used told the Red Deer Advocate on Thursday that the town has been shaken by the event but no one seems to be afraid that a killer is on the loose.
“It was so sad, just before Christmas when it happened. I just couldn’t imagine how horrible it is for Jason. I didn’t know the family but I heard around town a lot of people saying what a shame it is, how the family was a good family and Jason’s a great guy,” she said.
“There’s been a lot of rumours, some mean things said but not really any fear. … No one really seems to know what’s going on or what really happened. I just pray the police find it all out.”
Castor Mayor Garry DeVloo said he didn’t have anything to say about the tragic event, except: “I’m still absorbing it myself.”
Sandra and Gordon’s niece, Nicole Thomson, also had little to say but noted in an email that she is pleased the updated information is getting out to the public.
“… I know someone out there has to know something but until there is some new information, I don’t have a comment,” Thomson said.
An employee at the Our Lady of Grace Parish in Castor also asked that her name not be used but said the whole thing has been “just devastating” for a number of people who knew the family.
Staff at Vortex Production Services Ltd. in Stettler, where Monica worked, declined to comment on Thursday, as did staff at Our Lady of the Rosary Hospital, where Sandra — known as Sandi to those close to her — worked.
Coronation RCMP were called to the fire around 7:30 a.m. on Dec. 8, where both Castor and Coronation fire departments were working to control the situation. Investigators had to delay their work on the scene due to the fire smouldering for days.
The cause and origins of the fire are still under investigation.