Klassen gets life in prison for sec­ond-de­gree mur­der of fa­ther

Saskatoon StarPhoenix - - CITY + REGION - THIA JAMES

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

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 …

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.

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