WOBURN, Mass. (AP) — A Massachusetts man who stabbed and beat his wife and mother-in-law to death in their home and then turned on his two young children has begun serving a sentence of life in prison without parole.
Thomas Mortimer IV was scheduled to go on trial next week on four counts of first-degree murder. He abruptly changed the plea of not guilty he entered more than two years ago as Thursday approached. That day marks his ninth wedding anniversary to Laura Stone Mortimer.
He was immediately sentenced to life in prison without parole for slaying his mother-in-law, Ellen Stone; his wife; and their two children, 2-year-old Charlotte and 4-year-old Thomas Mortimer V, nicknamed Finn.
Prosecutors say Mortimer killed the victims between late June 14 and early June 15, 2010 — shortly after his parents left their home after babysitting his two children. They described in court a gruesome attack that left his wife with dozens of stab wounds as well as a broken nose from a frying pan. Authorities say Finn watched as the killings took place.
"If redemption is even possible for you in the face of these atrocities, you have taken the first step in that direction by accepting responsibility and pleading guilty and admitting these horrendous crimes," Woburn Superior Court Judge S. Jane Haggerty said while sentencing Mortimer on Wednesday.
Defense attorney Denise Regan said Mortimer chose to plead guilty and accept the maximum sentence under Massachusetts laws because he accepts responsibility for his actions and wanted to spare others the trauma of a trial.
Mortimer was pushed to plead guilty because there's overwhelming evidence against him, including notes he left at the scene and admissions he made to his parents over the telephone shortly after he was arrested, District Attorney Gerry Leone said.
Still, the judge said the plea has spared the family and friends of the victims, Mortimer's parents, and those who responded to the crime scene "from re-telling and reliving the unimaginable and gruesome details of the massacre of your family."
In a 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.