Two men’s attempts to overturn their convictions for the cold-blooded killing of a Castor-area family have been dismissed by the Alberta Court of Appeals.
Jason Klaus, 42, and Joshua Frank, 32, were found guilty in a Red Deer courtroom in January 2018 of three counts each of first-degree murder.
After a six-week trial, Red Deer Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Eric Macklin said he was convinced the men plotted the murder of Klaus’s 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 to cover their crimes.
In matching decisions released on Wednesday, the three-justice appeal court panel ruled that the “defendants have not been able to demonstrate any reviewable error in their convictions.
“The proof of their guilt, based on the evidence accepted by the trial judge, was overwhelming.”
The appeals were heard in Calgary on Dec. 3 and a memorandum of judgment was released on Wednesday.
Both men based their appeals on the use of evidence from a “Mr. Big” investigation that drew out admissions to the crime from both men.
The convictions carried an automatic sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years. However, Macklin had the option of making one or both parole eligibilities consecutive, meaning the two men would not be able to apply for parole for 50 or 75 years.
In March 2018, Macklin chose not to change the 25-year parole eligibility, which was appealed by Crown prosecutors.
Those appeals will be heard in a Calgary coutroom on June 16.
Both Klaus and Frank have also appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada, and the matter is also still before the courts.
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.