In the first day of a triple murder trial, accused Jason Klaus could be seen getting emotional at times in the prisoner’s box as court watched a 180 minute-long video as he recounted the hours leading up to the fire that took the lives of his mother, father and sister.
Klaus has been charged with three counts of first-degree murder and one count of arson in relation to the deaths of his father Gordon Klaus, 61, his mother Sandra Klaus, 62 and his sister Monica Klaus, 40, in December 2013.
Joshua Frank has also been charged with three counts of first-degree murder in relation to the deaths as well as one count of arson and one count of injuring or endangering an animal in relation to the shooting death of the family dog.
The remains of Gordon and Monica were found in what was left of a burnt-out house in Castor on Dec. 8th, 2013.
The body of Sandra has never been found and during a press conference in Calgary in 2014, RCMP Insp. Tony Hamori said police believe her remains were consumed by the fire.
On Monday, Crown Prosecutor Douglas Taylor entered into a voir dire to determine the voluntariness of Jason. That voir dire, which is held to determine admissibility of evidence, is expected to continue into the middle of next week. The crown indicated they will play 26 interactions between Jason and the police. One of those recordings was a three-hour long video just days after the deaths.
Sgt. Robert Kropp, of the major crimes unit south branch, could be seen interviewing Jason on Dec. 10th, 2013 in the interview room at the Coronation RCMP Detachment.
At the time of this particular interview, Kropp testified that Jason was not a suspect.
On the video, Kropp asked Jason to give details of his day on Dec. 7th, 2013 and the hours leading up to the fire. Jason said he went through his normal routine which included going to his parents, Gordon and Monica’s house, just a few minutes away, at about 7:30 a.m. to help with chores at the farm. He said he spent much of the day at the farm, only leaving for a short time to take care of a frozen water pipe at his house. Jason said he then had dinner at his parents and his sister Monica was also there. He said they put up Christmas decorations before he left to head to a Hutterite colony nearby for baked goods and to have a couple of drinks.
Jason said he left the Hutterite colony about 10 p.m. and made plans to meet up with Frank at a Castor bar. He continued to drink and headed home around 2 a.m. Jason told Kropp on video that when he drove passed his parent’s farm, everything seemed normal.
At 7:30 a.m. the following day, on Dec. 8th, 2013, Jason got a call from the RCMP alerting him to the fire at his parents farm.
“I question if it was foul play or a furnace malfunctioning,” Jason said in the video recording, adding the home had a coal burning furnace in the basement. “There is always a chance that a hot ash could jump out onto a coat. I’m not saying that is what started the fire, but it’s the only thing I can think of.”
Jason also told Kropp that he thought maybe someone broke into the house to steal a prized deer head worth $200,000 - $300,000.
“I lose sleep over what my family went through. They were more than good people and I don’t know why they deserve this - but it could be natural causes, I can live with that,” he said, adding they were a close knit family.
Jason also asked Kropp if the deaths were caused by foul play and there were weapons involved, if evidence could be found.
“If a gun was used could you find shell casings?” he asked.
Kropp added the investigation will be lengthy and, “It is hard to say. Fire is so destructive.”
“I hope they didn’t have a painful death,” Jason added.
The trial is expected to run through to Nov. 24th in Red Deer’s Court of Queen’s Bench.