Two men convicted of murdering a Castor-area family will have no chance of parole for 25 years after a judge decided not to extend parole eligibility to 50 or 75 years.
Red Deer Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Eric Macklin handed down the sentences on Wednesday afternoon before a packed courtroom.
Jason Klaus, 42, and Joshua Frank, 32, were found guilty in a Red Deer courtroom on Jan. 10 of three counts each of first-degree murder.
After a six-week trial, Macklin said he was convinced the men plotted the murder of Klaus’ parents, Gordon and Sandra and his sister Monica, and that Frank pulled the trigger on a cold winter night in December 2013 at the Klaus farmhouse near Castor.
Frank also shot the family dog and then poured aviation fuel into the house and set fire to it.
A first-degree murder conviction carries an automatic life sentence with no chance for parole for at least 25 years.
Macklin had to decide whether to make the sentences consecutive, which would mean Klaus and Frank could not apply for parole for 75 years. Macklin could also make two of the convictions consecutive, which would mean 50 years in prison before being eligible for parole.
Klaus and Frank showed no emotion when the judge sentenced them. Frank smiled and winked at supporters in the front row of the courtroom before leaving the prisoner’s dock at the end of sentencing.
Outside court, Marilyn Thomson, who lost her brother, sister-in-law and niece in the killings, thanked the many people who have been involved including the RCMP, which used an undercover Mr. Big operation to get both Klaus and Frank to admit to the murders.
Thomson thanked RCMP major crimes and undercover units for their “amazing dedication and their extreme hard work.”
She also praised Monica Klaus’ boss, Brady Flett for “undeniably risking his life for Monica.” Flett volunteered to become an informant following the fire when he became suspicious of Klaus’ involvement.
In his decision, Macklin said he did not believe that setting parole eligibility beyond 25 years “would provide greater individual deterrence for these offenders.”
While their crimes were “horrendous” the “unique and exceptional circumstances” were not present that prompted other courts to impose consecutive life sentences in triple-murder cases.
Macklin pointed out 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.
Giving prisoners at least the hope of applying for parole after 25 years improves the chance they will try to rehabilitate themselves and they will be less inclined to commit crimes behind bars.
“Hope of eventual release logically encourages an individual to strive for rehabilitation.”
Klaus’ lawyer, Allan Fay, said the “judge imposed a sentence that recognized the egregious nature of the acts he found my client guilty of but yet recognized that everyone is capable of redemption, rehabilitation and left that possibility open.”
Tonii Roulston, who with Andrea Urquart, defended Frank, called it a “fair decision.”
Asked about an appeal, Roulston said Frank’s legal team were still reviewing the trial and transcripts and had not made any decision.