A seven-week triple murder trial that was supposed to commence on Tuesday in Red Deer has been delayed.
Jason Gordon Klaus and Joshua Frank are on trial for the murder of Klaus’ family in 2013.
The defence for the two men charged with murdering the Castor-area family asked for an adjournment on the opening day of trial yesterday, arguing the crown missed a deadline to file paperwork indicating whether or not they would include an undercover operation, known as ‘Mr. Big’, as part of their evidence.
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.
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.
Both accused pleaded not guilty to all charges on Tuesday in front of a packed courtroom.
The remains of Gordon and Monica were found in what was left of a burnt-out house in Castor on Dec. 8, 2013.
The body of Sandra has never been found and during a press conference in Calgary in 2014, RCMP Insp. Tony Hamori, operations officer for the Calgary RCMP Major Crimes Unit, said police believe her remains were consumed by the fire.
Hamori added Jason was arrested in August 2014 at Monica’s residence in Stettler while Frank was arrested at his brother’s residence in Castor.
He said the arrests were made after a “Key piece of evidence” was found by an RCMP dive team from British Columbia in Big Knife Provincial Park during a dive on July 26th and July 27th, 2014. He said that evidence played a major role in laying the charges against the two suspects.
On Tuesday, defense lawyer for Frank, Andrea Urquhart, said Justice Kirk Sisson, who retired earlier this year, laid out a number of deadlines for both defense and the crown in the case to submit certain materials.
Urquhart said the crown failed to meet those deadlines and it was only 12 days ago that they found out the crown would lead with the Mr. Big operation.
“Whether or not they lead with Mr. Big drastically changes the strategy for the defense,” she said. “It is a significant piece of evidence.”
Tonii Roulston, defense lawyer for Frank, added, “How did you not know if you are leading with it or not?”, calling it very ‘willy nilly’ with how the crown has proceeded.
Crown Prosecutor Doug Taylor said he had recently taken over the case in late August.
“I wish I could go back in time and do things differently. Regrettably I can’t.”
Justice Eric Macklin granted the defenses’ request and the trial is now expected to get underway Oct. 23rd.
Meanwhile, an application regarding a delay of proceedings in the case, also known as the Jordan decision, was filed in August, and was later denied in September.
The application, handed down by the Supreme Court of Canada, set out new guidelines for what constitutes a reasonable delay, with a ceiling of 18 months set for provincial court and 30 months in the Court of Queen’s Bench to go to trial after charges are laid.