RED DEER, Alta. — An Alberta man convicted along with a friend of killing his mother, father and sister denied he was a killer Monday, but expressed remorse for the "little involvement" he had in their deaths.
Jason Klaus, 42, and Joshua Frank, 32, were found guilty earlier this month on three charges of first-degree murder.
The bodies of Klaus's father and sister were found in their burned-out farmhouse near Castor, Alta., in December 2013 — his mother's body was never found but police believe she also died in the house.
"I did not kill my family and the little involvement that I did have I will regret for the rest of my life," said Klaus, who choked back tears in a rambling apology during sentencing arguments before Justice Eric Macklin and a packed courtroom.
"I cannot express my sorrow about what has happened to my family, to your family. It will always be with me for the rest of my life.
"I won't ever be able to say how sorry. I made a mistake that night. I loved my family."
Klaus and Frank each blamed the other for the killings of Gordon Klaus, his wife Sandra Klaus and their daughter Monica Klaus. Both had confessed to an undercover RCMP officer.
Court heard Klaus was having problems with his father and offered Frank money to kill the family. Klaus had a cocaine and gambling addiction and forged cheques on his parents account, promising to pay them back.
Frank told police after his arrest that he did it because he was scared that Klaus would shoot him if he didn't.
Frank gave a brief apology to members of both the Klaus family and his own.
"I'm truly, truly, truly sorry for your loss and all of the pain you've all had to endure and will have to endure and also to my family thank you for all the support and all the pain there and the hardship you've had to endure as well," Frank said.
"I love you guys."
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 told the court the two men should spend the rest of their lives — 75 years — in prison without a chance of parole for involvement for what he called "a contract killing of sorts."
He said the victims were living in a rural area where the way of life is different than in a larger community.
"It's one more reason why we have to lock our doors and get security systems."
But the judge questioned why two men should spend more than 25 years in prison before being eligible for parole.
"Why are we taking this out of the hands of the parole board?" Macklin asked. "They're the gatekeepers.
"It's to a large effect somewhat symbolic. I've never seen symbolism to be one of the principles of sentencing."
Klaus's lawyer, Allan Fay, said the court should not view his client as a man "without redeeming qualities."
He said the details of the crime, although grievous, have the "absence of gruesomeness, of stark horror, of barbaric acts" of other notorious triple murder cases. Sentencing Klaus to 75 years in jail without parole would "amount to a death penalty."
"He will die in jail," said Fay. "Jail is a harsh environment. It is not conducive to longevity."
Frank's lawyer, Andrea Urquhart, told Macklin setting parole after 75 years in jail doesn't mesh with the concept of rehabilitation.
"In Canada, rehabilitation is what defines us," she said.
Even with a life sentence with no parole for 25 years, Urquhart said her client "will serve the rest of his life in jail unless someone says he does not pose a danger."
Consecutive periods of parole ineligibility have been imposed in Alberta in three different triple-murder cases.
Derek Saretzky was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 75 years last August after being convicted of first-degree murder for killing two-year-old Hailey Dunbar-Blanchette, her father Terry Blanchette and senior Hanne Meketech in the Crowsnest Pass in 2015.
Douglas Garland was sentenced last February to life in prison without parole for 75 years for killing Alvin and Kathy Liknes and their five-year-old grandson, Nathan O'Brien, in 2014.
And armoured-car guard Travis Baumgartner was sentenced in September 2013 to life in prison with no chance at parole for 40 years for killing three of his colleagues during a robbery in a mall at the University of Alberta in June 2012.
Macklin said he will render a decision Feb. 14.
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Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press