An Alberta judge was critical of a section of the Criminal Code that allows for consecutive parole ineligibilities Wednesday as he ruled two men found guilty of murdering three family members will not have to spend additional time in prison before they can apply for parole.
Jason Klaus, 42, and Joshua Frank, 32, were instead sentenced to life with no chance of parole for 25 years – which is automatic for first-degree murder.
"I do not view (section) 745.1 as a particularly effective means of addressing Parliament's concerns, especially with respect to those offenders who are convicted of first-degree murders where the only options before the Court involve increments of 25 years," Justice Eric Macklin said.
"Indeed, the imposition of consecutive parole ineligibility periods under (section) 745.1 may necessarily conflict with some of the principles and objectives of sentencing."
The Crown had argued that the two men deserved the maximum of 75 years without hope of parole for what the prosecution called a "contract killing of sorts."
Macklin told court that 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."
Klaus and Frank, sitting in the prisoner's dock, did not change their expressions as Macklin spoke.
The defence said the murders weren't as gruesome as other cases that resulted in consecutive sentences.
The bodies of Klaus's father and sister were found in their burned-out farmhouse near Castor in December 2013. His mother's body was never found but police believe she also died in the house.
There are provisions in the Criminal Code to have sentences served one after the other for multiple murders. But Macklin said that although their crimes were horrific, delaying parole for Klaus and Frank would be "a decision out of the ordinary."
Macklin said there's a misconception that multiple murderers automatically get out of prison after 25 years. He said chances of that are slim, because the Parole Board of Canada won't release anyone who is at a risk to reoffend.
During the trial court heard that Klaus was having problems with his father and offered Frank money to kill the family. Klaus had a cocaine and gambling addiction and forged cheques on his parents account, promising to pay them back.
Frank told police after his arrest that he killed the family because he was scared that Klaus would shoot him if he didn't.
Marilyn Thomson lost her brother Gordon, sister-in-law Sandy and niece Monica in the attack. She thanked police, the Crown and Justice Macklin outside court.
"Although this does not bring Monica and Sandy and Gordon back we are very grateful that justice has been served and that we now have the opportunity to move on with our lives," she said.
Crown prosecutor Doug Taylor said Justice Macklin gave a well-thought out decision and he was not disappointed with the outcome.
"Sentencing is the province of the trial judge. He heard what we had to say and he ruled as he did. I accept that," Taylor said.
Allan Fay, who represented Klaus, was satisfied with Macklin's decision. He said it wouldn't have mattered what the sentence was – the families involved were not going to be happy.
"How can they be? These people have lost family members, they've lost friends," said Fay.
Consecutive periods of parole ineligibility have been imposed in Alberta in three other triple-murder cases.
Derek Saretzky was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 75 years in the first-degree murders of two-year-old Hailey Dunbar-Blanchette, her father Terry Blanchette and senior Hanne Meketech in 2015.
Douglas Garland was sentenced to life in prison without parole for 75 years for killing Alvin and Kathy Liknes of Calgary and their five-year-old grandson, Nathan O'Brien, in 2014.
Armoured-car guard Travis Baumgartner was sentenced to life with no chance at parole for 40 years for killing three of his colleagues during a robbery in a mall at the University of Alberta in June 2012.