EDITORIAL: Emphatic ‘no’ to releasing triple murderer LaPlante


In theory, yes, but in practice, an unequivocal no. That’s the only verdict the judge presiding over the resentencing hearing for triple-murderer Daniel LaPlante can deliver.

LaPlante, of Townsend, was just 17 in 1987 when he committed one of the most heinous acts ever recorded in this state by fatally shooting Priscilla Gustafson and drowning her two young children in their Townsend home. At the time LaPlante was known as a sort of misfit who enjoyed pulling pranks on town residents.

No one could have ever imagined he was capable of such savagery. Even 30 years removed, the sheer depravity of these murders — plus the unspeakable torment he put this family through before violently ending their lives — stands out for a level of cruelty that’s painful even now to contemplate.

Even a hardened jurist as now-retired Supreme Court Judge Robert Barton, who heard the case, can’t forget the chilling effect it had on him. “He may have been 17 at the time, but out of the 150 murders I tried in my 22 years in Superior Court, it was the very worst … most horrible case I ever sat on,” Barton recently told The Sun.

At the conclusion of his trial in Lowell Superior Court a year later, LaPlante was found guilty on three counts of first-degree murder and sentenced to three consecutive life terms without parole.

But now, as unthinkable as it may seem, LaPlante, presently incarcerated at the Massachusetts Treatment Center in Bridgewater, may be given the opportunity to walk out of prison, courtesy of the state Supreme Judicial Court. That’s because that body ruled in 2013 that juveniles cannot be sentenced to life in prison without parole, citing research that indicated their brains had not yet fully developed, thus apparently making it impossible to declare they’re beyond rehabilitation.

In fact, the SJC stated scientific research shows that lifelong imprisonment for youths amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. How ironic they’d choose the words that perfectly describe the hell LaPlante put Priscilla Gustafson and her two children through.

That ruling included all current and past cases involving juveniles, so now Laplante, just 17 when he committed these murders, will receive a resentencing hearing on March 22 in Middlesex Superior Court.

In an interview with The Sun in 2007, Andrew Gustafson, the husband and father who walked into that gruesome scene 20 years earlier, mentioned that it was his profound faith in God, also shared by his wife, that allowed him to carry on. He died in 2014, and now hopefully is reunited with his loved ones.

Gustafson said he found strength in the Bible passage contained in John 1:1-5:

“The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” It appears on his family’s headstone.

Don’t let the darkness of his depraved acts ever again let Daniel LaPlante see the light of day among civilized society.

Keep him behind bars for the rest of his unnatural life.