Verdict expected for two suspects in slaying of Castor-area family

A judge in Central Alberta is expected to deliver a verdict today for two men accused of killing three family members of one of the suspects.

Joshua Frank, 32, and Jason Klaus, 45, are each charged with three counts of first-degree murder in the shooting deaths of Klaus’s parents and sister in their rural home near Castor, Alta., in December 2013.

The Crown contends that Klaus planned the murders and supplied a ride and a 9-mm handgun to Frank, who pulled the trigger before the house was set on fire to destroy the evidence.

Gordon Klaus and his daughter, Monica, were found in the burned-out home. Sandra Klaus was never found, although police believe her body was also in the house.

During the trial, court in Red Deer, Alta., heard that both men told the same story about what happened to undercover RCMP in 2014. But they gave vastly different accounts on the witness stand — each blaming the other for the murders.

Klaus said he and Frank had planned to steal a truck from the farm, but Frank strayed from the plan by going into the house to steal a trophy deer head. That’s when he shot the three victims, Klaus said.

He testified he didn’t tell anyone because Frank threatened to kill him if he did.

Frank testified that it was Klaus who planned and carried out the murders and ordered him to say he did it. He told an undercover officer he killed all three victims.

Frank testified he only told the officers, who were posing as crime bosses, because he was trying to be a “tough guy” for Klaus.

The night of the murders, Frank said, he was sitting in a vehicle when he saw Klaus raise his arm. Frank said a muzzle flashed and he then heard a gunshot before Klaus walked towards his parents’ house with a jerry can.

In his closing arguments, Crown prosecutor Douglas Taylor said Klaus had eyes on the family farm and wanted his parents and sister dead over fear they would discover that he had forged cheques from the family’s account.

The Crown described Frank as a destitute drug addict who saw an opportunity to enrich himself and took it.

“Frank’s motive was greed for money, pure and simple,” Taylor said.

The Crown argued that regardless of who pulled the trigger, both men should be found guilty of the “planned and deliberate” murders.

Klaus’s lawyer, Allan Fay, said his client had nothing to do with the murders and said Frank’s testimony was nothing but a tapestry of lies.

Tonii Roulston, Frank’s lawyer, said Klaus shared details of the murders that only the killer himself would know.

Justice Eric Macklin asked Roulston why she thought Klaus’s story constantly changed.

She said it was because Klaus was constantly manipulating people.

“He fancies himself as a mastermind,” she said. “But he’s just not a very smart one.”

Macklin, who heard the trial without a jury, had to consider six weeks worth of trial evidence.

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