Two firefighters who responded to the fire at the Klaus family farmhouse near Castor on Dec. 8, 2013 took the stand in Red Deer Court of Queen’s Bench on Wednesday.
They were the first two witnesses called by the Crown at the triple murder trial for Jason Klaus, 41, and Joshua Frank, 32. The pair are charged with three counts of first degree murder in the deaths of Gordon, Sandra and Monica Klaus, Jason’s parents and sister.
Lee Bagshaw, Deputy Chief for the Castor Fire Department, told court they received a call at 7:20 a.m. about a structure fire outside of town.
Upon arrival at the scene, Bagshaw says the house was already fully-engulfed in flames and was unsalvageable. Firefighters instead turned their efforts to protecting other nearby buildings, along with a propane tank next to the house.
It wasn’t long before Bagshaw noticed a dog laying off to the side of the house, a chocolate-coloured Labrador. He could tell it was deceased and had an injury to his head, later confirmed to be a gunshot wound.
Bagshaw also told court he noticed a jerry can sitting about six feet from the entrance to the house, saying that’s when things started to look suspicious. RCMP arrived on scene shortly thereafter and took command.
Bagshaw said the jerry can appeared to be about two-thirds full.
Defence lawyer Allan Fay asked Bagshaw whether the nozzle for the jerry can was out, as if ready to pour liquid, or if it was tucked away. Bagshaw noted that it was tucked away.
Travis Ryan, also a member of the Castor Fire Department, testified that he came across what appeared to be charred remains inside the home after he had approached it to shut off the propane tank.
He said the fact that the residents of the home were nowhere to be seen also led firefighters to think something wasn’t right.
Firefighters were on scene for about 13 hours that day.
The Crown will be calling more witnesses to testify Thursday morning.
Earlier on Wednesday, the final video recordings of Jason Frank's interviews with police in Aug. 2014 were played in court as part of the voir dire (trial within a trial) to determine the admissibility of Frank's statements as evidence.
Frank told investigators that in the month following the murders of Gordon, Sandra and Monica, Jason paid him between $3500 and $4000. Frank said he was paid in $500 cash installments.
The money, Fank claimed, was in exchange for carrying out the murders and for keeping his mouth shut about it.
Justice Eric Macklin is taking time to review the facts before issuing his ruling regarding the admissibility of Frank's statements to police.
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