WOBURN — Triple-murderer Daniel LaPlante will not be granted a reduced sentence, a judge ruled Thursday as the victims’ family members wept and hugged one another in Middlesex Superior Court.
Judge Helene Kazanjian sided with the prosecution in the resentencing hearing, ruling for LaPlante to serve the maximum number of years under the law. Because he committed the Townsend triple-murder as a juvenile in 1987, LaPlante will be eligible for parole after serving 45 years, or in 2032.
“He committed three distinct and brutal murders,” Kazanjian said in her decision Thursday.
Speaking directly to LaPlante, she said, “You left a family and a community devastated. The court finds that the maximum penalty is warranted.”
As the prosecutors left the courtroom, the victims’ family members hugged them and said, “Thank you.”
LaPlante was convicted of first-degree murder in the rape and murder of Priscilla Gustafson, 33, and her two young children, Abigail, 7, and William, 5. Gustafson was also pregnant at the time.
Police found Gustafson in a bedroom with a pillow placed over her head to muffle the sound of the gunshots when LaPlante shot her. Police found Abigail and William drowned in separate bathtubs in the house.
LaPlante was sentenced in the late 1980s to three consecutive life sentences without parole. This week’s resentencing hearing occurred because the state Supreme Judicial Court ruled a few years ago that juveniles cannot be sentenced to life in prison without parole. LaPlante was 17 at the time of the triple-murder.
In a bid for a reduced sentence, a balding LaPlante apologized Wednesday for killing members of the Gustafson family, as Priscilla Gustafson’s sisters, brother, other relatives and friends looked on.
Family members on Wednesday urged the judge to reject a reduced sentence.
LaPlante’s defense attorney requested that LaPlante go free from jail 30 years after the crime was committed, which would be this December. Such a release is possible because the SJC ruled that inmates could ask a judge to consider imposing concurrent life terms.
The prosecution team from the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office argued that LaPlante should continue to serve three consecutive life sentences. This would make him eligible for parole after serving 45 years in jail, or in 2032.
A psychiatrist called by the state Wednesday determined that LaPlante has shown no signs of rehabilitation. Kazanjian on Thursday echoed that belief.
“There’s insufficient evidence that he will likely be able to be rehabilitated,” Kazanjian said.
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