A Castor man convicted of first-degree murder for arranging the shooting of his family tearfully denied he was a killer in court on Monday.
Jason Klaus said a relative told him a couple of years ago he should kill himself because he had let the family down. He said suicide may have been an option at one time but not now.
“I plan to fight this through because I did not kill my family,” Jason Klaus, 42, told a packed courtroom. “The little involvement I did have I will regret for the rest of my life.
Klaus made his comments during a sentencing hearing in Red Deer Court of Queen’s Bench for him and his accomplice Joshua Frank.
Justice Eric Macklin has reserved his sentencing decision until Feb. 14.
Both men were convicted of three counts of first-degree murder on Jan. 10 for the killing of Gordon, Sandra and Monica Klaus in December 2013.
Following a nearly six-week trial last fall, Macklin said he was convinced that Klaus and Frank plotted the murders, which were carried out by Frank, who shot each of his victims as they lay in bed. Frank then burned down the Klaus farmhouse near Castor to cover up the crime.
Macklin gave Klaus and Frank an opportunity to address the court on Monday.
Klaus pulled a letter he said he wrote when his family was put to rest in May, 2015. It broke his heart to not be able to say goodbye like he wanted to, he said as Klaus family members and friends looked on.
“I miss you guys so very much and I will always feel lost without you in my life,” he said of his family.
“I love my family and you guys know I love my family.
“I’m very sorry,” he ended.
Frank, 32, said he was “truly, truly, deeply sorry” for the loss and pain those affected by the Klauses’ deaths have had to endure and for the pain his own family has endured.
“I love you guys.”
The automatic sentence for first-degree murder is life in prison with no parole for 25 years.
Crown prosecutor Douglas Taylor told the court that three convictions should be served one after the other and the pair deserved at least 75 years in prison with no hope of parole.
Taylor called the men’s crimes a “contract killing of sorts.”
Neither man was under any obligation to talk to police but they chose to and lied repeatedly and tried to steer police towards a group of innocent American hunters who had been in the area before the killings.
It should be considered aggravating in sentencing that the defenceless victims were shot in the beds, a crime that sent ripples through the rural community.
When they took the stand in their own defence, Klaus and Frank each blamed the other for the killings. Their testimony was at odds with confessions they gave undercover police officers during a Mr. Big operation in 2014.
Defence lawyers for Klaus and Frank said a life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years was appropriate.
Klaus’s lawyer Allan Fay said the case was not in the same category as that of Derek Saretzky, who was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole 75 years last August for killing two-year-old Hailey Dunbar-Blanchette, her father Terry Blanchette and senior Hanne Meketech in the Crowsnest Pass in 2015.
Fay said those crimes, which included cannibalism, had a “gruesomeness and stark horror” that was not present in the Castor triple-murders.
Sentencing Klaus to no parole for at least 75 years amounts to a “symbolic sentence” since he clearly would not live long enough to apply.
Fay said the sentence Klaus will receive is life in prison and he will only have the opportunity to apply for parole after 25 years.
“There is no guarantee he will be released.” Even then, he will be in his late 60s, he said.
Frank’s lawyer, Andrea Urquhart said giving Frank the opportunity to apply for parole after 25 years offers a chance at rehabilitation. Frank has already tried to take advantage of the limited programs available in the remand centre.
“In Canada, rehabilitation is what defines us,” she said.