Klassen gets life in prison for second-degree murder of father
I’m … hoping that in the period of time in which he will be incarcerated that significant efforts will be made for stabilizing of his life …
Warning: graphic content
SASKATOON In finding Johan Klassen Jr. guilty of second-degree murder for stomping on his 53-year-old father’s head before fatally slashing his throat repeatedly, a Saskatoon judge acknowledged the man has been dealing with mental illness for years.
Justice Gerald Allbright, however, found that based on Klassen Jr.’s voluntary statements to an RCMP officer after his arrest in connection with the November 2016 killing of his father Johan Klassen Sr., the 28-year-old knew what he did was wrong and appreciated the nature and quality of the act. Albright sentenced Klassen Jr. to life in prison with no parole eligibility for 10 years in Saskatoon Court of Queen’s Bench on Friday.
Allbright backdated the beginning of the sentence to the date Klassen Jr. was taken into custody in 2016, which means Klassen Jr. will be eligible to apply for parole in eight years.
Klassen Jr.’s counsel, Erin Little, argued at trial that her client was not criminally responsible due to mental illness. Allbright found that Klassen Jr., based on his statements to an RCMP officer, knew that what he did was wrong and appreciated the nature and quality of the act. The defence did not enter direct medical evidence to support its argument, but Allbright said the issue is a legal question rather than a medical one.
He found that the Crown proved Klassen was culpable for the death of his father.
In October 2016, Klassen Jr., described as transient, was staying with his brother Jake in Alberta. Jake Klaassen testified that he called their father after Klassen Jr. began to act strangely and at some point tried to beat up a car. Klassen Sr. drove to Alberta to take Klassen Jr. back to Kerrobert to stay with him.
In Kerrobert, days before his father’s death, Klassen Jr. was taken to hospital by an RCMP officer after Klassen Sr. called police to report his son was not on his medication for schizophrenia and was “freaking out.” At the hospital, he was prescribed medication and the officer took him back to Klassen Sr.’s home.
On Nov. 2, 2016, Klassen Jr. knocked his father down and stomped on his head in the apartment they shared in Kerrobert, then used a pocket knife to repeatedly slash and stab his father’s throat, later telling an RCMP officer he wanted to take him out of his misery fast. He told the officer he wanted to “stabilize” his father’s nerves and stomped on his father’s head so he wouldn’t feel anything when he attacked him with the knife.
Klassen Jr. stole his father’s Buick and drove to the farm where his father worked and where he himself briefly was employed, to steal a semi.
When police found him later, he had driven the semi into a slough.
Klassen Sr.’s body was found by one of his other sons, David, who worked with him on a farm in the area. David testified that he called his father and got no response after receiving a call from the farmer, who said he had briefly seen Klaassen Jr.
He found their father’s body in a pool of blood between two mattresses on the floor. The province’s forensic pathologist, Dr. Shaun Ladham testified Klassen Sr. died from the wounds to his neck and that his death would have occurred in less than two minutes.
In an interview with an RCMP officer, Klassen Jr. said the incident began with an argument over borrowing Klassen Sr.’s car to buy cigarettes. That interview ended when Klassen Jr. launched into what Allbright described as a “monologue” that could only be attributed to a “disordered mind.”
Allbright strongly recommended that Klaassen Jr. serve his prison term at the Regional Psychiatric Centre in Saskatoon, rather than at a federal penitentiary. He said he is not immune to the concerns expressed by three family members in their victim impact statements — which were not read in court. After his release, Klassen Jr. will be on parole for the balance of his lifetime, and he hopes the conditions placed on him will bring the family some comfort, Allbright said.
Klassen Jr. sat with his head buried between his knees as Allbright delivered his decision. He did not speak when offered the chance to do so after his sentence was announced.
Allbright said he’s certain Klassen Jr. has suffered to different degrees with the reality of mental illness in his life during his two years in custody awaiting trial.
“I’m certainly hoping that in the period of time in which he will be incarcerated that significant efforts will be made for stabilizing of his life in that regard and recognition of what he needs to do so that mental illness doesn’t rule him any more than it has in the past, ” Allbright said.
Johan Klassen Jr.