RED DEER, Alta. — Two men have been found guilty of first-degree murder for shooting one of the men's parents and sister on a central Alberta farm.
Jason Klaus and Joshua Frank sat silently with no expression as the verdicts were read.
Justice Eric Macklin told court in Red Deer, Alta., that both men repeatedly lied about what happened to Klaus's family and their stories were full of inconsistencies.
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.
During their trial, Klaus and Frank each blamed the other for the murders and gave different versions of what happened.
"I am satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt of the guilt of Jason Klaus and the guilt of Joshua Frank on all of the respective charges against them of first-degree murder," Macklin said.
"Together they planned and carried out the three murders. 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 cattle ranch 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.
The Crown argued the account Frank and Klaus gave to undercover RCMP officers must be believed — 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 two 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."
Despite his denials, Macklin said Klaus knew all that was going on.
"Klaus was aware that his family had been deliberately shot, the house burned and the dog killed."
Klaus gave Frank a gun and drove him to the farm then told him "do what you've got to do," Macklin said.
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.