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Mass. High Court Rejects Early Parole Petition For Man Convicted Of Murder In 1987

Daniel LaPlante, center, is seen during a 2017 court hearing. LaPlante was convicted of killing a teacher and her two children in 1987. (John Love/The Lowell Sun via AP, Pool)
Daniel LaPlante, center, is seen during a 2017 court hearing. LaPlante was convicted of killing a teacher and her two children in 1987. (John Love/The Lowell Sun via AP, Pool)

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled on Thursday that a man who murdered a pregnant woman and her children in his youth will not be eligible for early parole.

Justice David Lowy wrote the court decision, saying Daniel LaPlante’s sentence fits the crimes he committed in 1987 at the age of 17. Court documents detail how the then-teenager broke into a Townsend home, shot and killed Priscilla Gustafson, 33, and then drowned her two children, Abigail, 7, and William, 5.

“The defendant's sentence is proportional both to the crimes he committed and to his particular characteristics as an offender,” wrote Lowy.

LaPlante’s attorneys first appealed their client’s case for early parole eligibility in March, citing previous court rulings that say juveniles convicted of murder should be given a meaningful opportunity to re-engage with society.

His attorneys also cited a change in state law that allows juveniles convicted of murder with extreme cruelty and atrocity to ask for parole after they’ve been behind bars for a minimum of 30 years.

However, Lowy said LaPlante’s ability to rehabilitate was already been questioned in 2017 when his sentence was restructured due to a high court ruling that outlawed life  without parole for juveniles.

At that time, a judge gave him the maximum penalty of 45 years after a forensic psychiatrist evaluated LaPlante and found that he was not remorseful for his crimes.

“Ultimately, the resentencing judge concluded that although the defendant has ‘shown signs of improved behavior' in recent years, his prognosis for rehabilitation in the future is 'guarded',” wrote Lowy.

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Jerome Campbell Twitter Reporter
Jerome Campbell was a WBUR Poverty and Justice Fellow whose reporting was supported by the Economic Hardship Reporting Project.

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