WOBURN, Mass. (AP) - A man who fatally stabbed, slashed and hit his wife, mother-in-law and two young children at their home in Massachusetts after an argument over a bounced check has been sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Thomas Mortimer IV pleaded guilty in Woburn Superior Court to first-degree murder by deliberate meditation and extreme atrocity and cruelty in the deaths of his mother-in-law, Ellen Stone; his wife, Laura Stone Mortimer; and their two children, 2-year-old Charlotte and 4-year-old Thomas Mortimer V, nicknamed Finn.
Court documents indicate that the 4-year-old witnessed the brutal killings of his mother, grandmother and sister before he died between June 14 and June 15, 2010.
"I did these horrible things," Thomas Mortimer wrote in one of two confessions that prosecutors found in the house. "What I have done is extremely selfish and cowardly."
In the note, Mortimer said he flew into a rage after he and his wife argued over a bounced check he sent to the Internal Revenue Service.
Prosecutors say Mortimer killed the victims shortly after his parents left their home after babysitting his two children for the day. They described in court a gruesome attack that left Laura with dozens of stab wounds as well as a broken nose from a frying pan.
"I am especially sorry to Finn that he had to witness these horrid acts. It was not supposed to be this way. I disgust myself," Mortimer said in the note.
Prosecutors said emergency responders found the victims' bodies in pools of blood after Mortimer's sister-in-law, Deborah Stone Sochat, reported that her mother and sister had not answered repeated phone calls. The children's throats were slashed. Mortimer's mother-in-law was killed near the doorway, apparently as she tried to flee the home, Assistant District Attorney Adrienne Lynch said in court.
Mortimer, who grew up in Avon, Conn., was caught the next day in northwestern Massachusetts.
He indicated in the written confession he left behind that he was in turmoil after the killings.
"I can't think of much else. Actually I can think of a lot ... Ashamed, frightened, relieved, surprised that I murdered my family. Disgusted with myself," he said in the note.
Stone Sochat gave a tearful statement Wednesday, calling her mother and sister her best friends.
"Two years ago my family suffered an enormous tragedy. The losses of our loved ones can hardly be expressed through words," she said. "It is difficult to find joy when the sadness is so overwhelming."
She described Finn as a sensitive boy interested in everything, with a great sense of humor. "Charlotte had gigantic blue eyes which made you melt," she said.
Mortimer's attorney also read a statement from his parents, who spoke of their lost grandchildren and said their son was plagued by depression.
"We know that our son Thomas has done something horrible, but he has been the nicest, most compassionate person we have ever known," they said in the statement. "No one who's ever known him can imagine him doing what he's done."
"We didn't think ... until the events that he was so depressed," they said. "We wish we could have done more for him and his family."
Mortimer did not make a statement in court, where he remained handcuffed and shackled throughout. He simply confirmed to the judge that he discussed with his attorney the consequences of changing his plea and he was willingly taking responsibility for his actions.
But he did try to explain himself in the message he left for his family and friends at the crime scene before he tried to end his life before fleeing the home.
Mortimer said he should have written about living with Laura and her family all these years, instead of "bottling up my anger, frustration, resentment and hatred, and let it fester until one murderous night," prosecutors said in court on Wednesday.
"Ultimately, I did these horrible things because I could not cope with the responsibilities I took upon myself. I was too cavalier with life, especially others' lives," he said. "I do have remorse with what I have done. I wonder what life would be like if I did not chicken out."
He seemingly tried to justify killing his young son and daughter, suggesting they were better off without him and their mother.
"I think of the future and think of Finn or Charlotte being teased or bullied and my heart breaks. I cannot think of a more positive situation. What have I done? I hate myself more than ever," he said.