Appeal Court hears Crown wants 75 years without parole in triple murder of Alberta family

A Crown prosecutor has told the Alberta Court of Appeal that a trial judge erred by not applying consecutive parole eligibilities for two men convicted in the slayings of three family members.

Jason Klaus and Joshua Frank were each sentenced to life with no chance of parole for 25 years after being convicted of three counts of first-degree murder.

The bodies of Klaus’s father and sister, Gordon and Monica Klaus, were found in their burned-out farmhouse near Castor, Alta., east of Red Deer, in 2013. His mother, Sandra Klaus, was never found, but police believe she also died in the home.

Court heard that Jason Klaus was having problems with his father and offered Frank money to kill the family. Frank told police he did it because he was scared Klaus would shoot him if he didn’t follow through.

Klaus also had a cocaine and gambling addiction and forged cheques on his parents’ account.

Prosecutor Iwona Kuklicz argued in front of the Appeal Court on Tuesday that Queen’s Bench Justice Eric Macklin should have given the killers life sentences with no parole eligibility for 75 years. He argued the judge failed to address the principles of deterrence and both aggravating and mitigating factors.

Macklin ruled that the factors in the case were not particularly uncommon, compared with other murders, and did not warrant consecutive sentences. He also suggested that the two men would have a better chance of rehabilitation if they were not “bereft of hope.”

“It is difficult to see how the trial judge couldn’t have found this to have been unique in the case of hiring a hit man to eliminate an entire family for money, and then ultimately burning down a house to cover up any evidence,” Kuklicz said.

“These offences were well planned. It is the Crown’s position that the principles of interlinked offences were not taken into account when he imposed a concurrent parole ineligibility rather than consecutive parole ineligibilities.

“It does create a situation where crime does become cheaper by the dozen.”

Lawyer Michael Bates, who represents Klaus, told the Appeal Court that the case isn’t simply about consecutive sentences. It’s about discretion given to a trial judge.

“There’s absolutely nothing that says there has to be a subsequent mandatory additional sentence. I don’t see any possible way this court could interpret adding an additional 25 years of mandatory staying in jail, and having no opportunity to apply for parole, could be seen as anything but a greater punishment,” Bates said.

“There is a life sentence for murder. It is mandatory. It doesn’t matter how many murders you commit, you will not get a consecutive sentence of life number two. You’ve got a life sentence and that’s it. We are talking about adding parole ineligibility.”

Arguments were to continue Tuesday afternoon.

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