RED DEER — Relatives of three members of a central Alberta family who were murdered and their bodies burned lashed out at the two men convicted of first-degree murder in their deaths Wednesday.
Jason Klaus and Joshua Frank were found guilty on all three charges by Justice Eric Macklin.
The bodies of Gordon Klaus and his daughter, Monica, were found in their burned-out farmhouse near Castor, Alta., in December 2013. Sandra Klaus was never found, although police believe her body was also in the house.
The victims were Jason Klaus' father, mother and sister.
His aunt, Marilyn Thomson, said she was sickened when she watched the two men confess to an undercover RCMP officer during the trial.
"Jason is also dead to me. The whole family is gone," Thomson said outside court.
"My hatred is immeasurable. I was absolutely devastated to hear and watch the arrogance, the bragging, the conceit — the cockiness and the sheer happiness of Jason and Josh who are obviously buddies and proud of what they had done."
Nicole Thomson said her Uncle Gordon and Aunt Sandra were almost second parents to her.
"Part of me will always live in a state of devastation because of what you've done," she said to her cousin Jason, choking back tears.
"You are not worthy of the Klaus name. May God have mercy on you two depraved souls. To forgive you would be to sully their worth and I will never forgive this."
During the trial, Klaus and Frank each blamed the other for the murders and gave different versions of what happened.
Macklin said he was satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt of their guilt.
"Together they planned and carried out the three murders," he said. "Each one played a crucial role in executing the plan."
Macklin said if the Klaus family dog hadn't been shot, police may never have known the victims had been murdered. Fire crews arrived at the farm and found the brown Labrador retriever dead.
RCMP found two shell casings outside the burning home and two bodies inside. Macklin said police later found the handgun in the Battle River — it belonged to Klaus and matched the bullets found in the family dog.
During the trial court heard that Klaus was having problems with his father and offered Frank money to kill the family.
Klaus had a cocaine and gambling addiction. He forged cheques on his parents account, promising to pay them back.
Macklin said the men's confessions "fit together like a puzzle and together they form the big picture."
"Mr. Frank intentionally shot Gordon, Sandra and Monica Klaus on Dec. 8, 2013, and set the house on fire to conceal the crime. Mr. Frank knew exactly what Mr. Klaus expected of him and he carried out the murders in accordance with their plan," Macklin said.
"Mr. Klaus did not actually shoot the Klaus family members. However, the Crown has established beyond a reasonable doubt that he planned and deliberated the murders."
Macklin wanted to move immediately to sentencing arguments, but the defence requested more time because the Crown is seeking no chance of parole for 75 years.
Life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years is automatic for first-degree murder, but there are provisions in the Criminal Code to have sentences served one after the other for multiple murders.
Crown prosecutor Doug Taylor said he hopes the family and friends of the dead can find some peace once the case is over.
"I struggle with this because it's not my role as a Crown prosecutor to characterize the offence. That's the role of the court," Taylor said.
"With that said, the word that comes to mind to me and it always has since I learned of the case and got involved is this is a despicable crime."
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