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RCMP say divers recovered 'significant' evidence in Alberta family slaying case

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CALGARY - Mounties say their investigation into the discovery of a dead family in a burned-out Alberta farmhouse took an important step when divers recovered evidence last month near a provincial park.

Insp. Tony Hamori wouldn't say what that discovery was when he announced first-degree murder charges against a member of the victims' family and another man, but he called the development "very significant."

Gordon Klaus, 61, and his daughter Monica Klaus, 40, were found in the rubble of a burned-out farmhouse in Castor last December.

Gordon's wife Sandra Klaus, 62, wasn't found but Hamori says investigators believe she also died in the blaze.

"The fire was quite intense at the time that it happened. There was a quantity of coal in the basement of the house and we believe that her remains were consumed by the fire," Hamori told reporters at a news conference in Calgary on Saturday.

Jason Klaus, 38, and Joshua Gregory Frank, 29, each face three counts of first-degree murder and one count of arson.

RCMP say Klaus is the son of Gordon and Sandra Klaus and the brother of Monica Klaus.

Police say autopsies of Gordon and Monica Klaus were unable to determine a cause of death, but that a dead dog found near the farmhouse had been shot.

Frank, who police describe as "an associate" of Klaus, faces a further charge of causing cruelty to animals.

Hamori wouldn't speak about what they believe may have been a motive in the case.

"We feel very strongly that there was an element of planning and premeditation in this particular case," Hamori said.

"Unfortunately, I can't disclose the details on the manner of their deaths. It will come out in the courts."

Three days after the fire, police found the family's white GMC Sierra truck abandoned about 30 kilometres away, and police said they believed it was used by whoever committed the murders to leave the property.

Jason Klaus lived in a home across from his parents but was unharmed. He told media that his sister had been visiting.

The police divers worked on July 26th and 27th near Big Knife Provincial Park, which is approximately 40 kilometres northwest of Castor.

"They were deployed in the recovery of a key piece of evidence in the investigation," Hamori said. "I would say it's very significant. I can't give much more detail than that, unfortunately. But it was a key piece of evidence in the crime."

Witnesses had said that at least one man was arrested Friday morning after an explosion was heard at a home in Stettler that belonged to Monica Klaus, but Hamori wouldn't comment on that.

Police say both Klaus and Frank were arrested Friday without incident. They will appear in provincial court in Red Deer on August 18.

Police say they aren't seeking any other suspects in the case.

History

Updated on Monday, August 18, 2014 at 8:58 AM CDT: Corrects reference to "sister" to "brother"

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