Two men who killed central Alberta farm family sentenced to life in prison

Two men who killed three family members in central Alberta in 2013 were sentenced to life in prison Wednesday but can apply for parole after 25 years.

"I'm not satisfied that a period of parole eligibility [longer than 25 years] would provide greater deterrence for these offenders," Court of Queen's Bench Justice Eric Macklin told a Red Deer courtroom.

Jason Klaus, 42, and Joshua Frank, 32, watched intently from the prisoners' box as Macklin read his decision. Occasionally, Frank glanced at the gallery where friends and family sat.

The pair were convicted in January of three counts each of first-degree murder in the deaths of Klaus' parents, Gordon and Sandra Klaus, and his sister, Monica Klaus.

Concurrent, not consecutive sentences

Life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years is automatic for first-degree murder.

But Macklin had the option of sentencing the men to life in prison with no chance of parole for 75 years — one 25-year term for each murder — as the Criminal Code allows for sentences for multiple murders to be served consecutively.

During sentencing arguments, prosecutor Doug Taylor said the two men deserve the maximum sentence for what he called a "contract killing of sorts."

But Macklin told court it was "difficult to imagine what a more lengthy sentence would do."

'Crushing sentence' would be 'unduly long'

Macklin said he believes offenders with no hope of ever leaving prison would have less motivation to behave while behind bars.

"[Their] potential release may protect inmates and correctional officers from harm," he said.

Macklin explained that 75 years without chance of parole would be a "crushing sentence" and "unduly long."

Friends and family of the Klaus family, who packed the courtroom, showed disappointment as Macklin read his decision.

The Klaus family was killed in December 2013. Their farmhouse, near Castor, east of Red Deer, was burned.

Sandra Klaus's body has never been found.

Macklin said the only mitigating factor in sentencing Frank and Klaus was that neither had previous criminal records.

During the trial, court heard that Frank fatally shot the three victims and that he was directed by Klaus.

"[Klaus] assisted in the commission of the murders by providing weapons," Macklin read Wednesday.

Klaus was a "full-fledged party to the crimes."

Macklin said he took into account the character of the offenders and nature of the offences. He noted there was limited information either of the men's characters, as both had led anti-social lives.