An Ohio man pleaded guilty Thursday and was sentenced to life in prison without parole in the slayings of his girlfriend's adult daughter and an elderly couple, whose bodies were found in three states.
Samuel K. Littleton II pleaded guilty in western Ohio's Logan County to three counts of aggravated murder and three counts of gross abuse of a corpse in the February slayings of Tiffany Brown and Richard and Gladis Russell.
Littleton, 37, pleaded guilty in a deal with prosecutors to avoid the death penalty.
Prosecutors have said relatives of the victims agreed to the deal to get "closure" and healing and to avoid the lengthy court proceedings associated with death penalty cases. Chief Assistant Prosecutor Eric Stewart said Littleton told detectives repeatedly that he didn't know why he killed Brown and the Russells.
Littleton kept his head down much of the time, responding in a soft, clear voice to a series of yes or no questions from the judge. His hands were shaking at times. He declined to make any statement, although one of his attorneys apologized in court to the victims' families, many of whom wept throughout most of the hearing. Shouts of "coward!" came from the crowd as he was led away.
Some of the victims' family members addressed Littleton in court, talking of the pain and grief Littleton caused.
"Our lives have been forever changed by Sam Littleton's senseless act of violence," said Brown's father, Larry Brown. "We ask ourselves every day why, but we will never have an answer."
Richard Russell's nephew, Jim Hall, told Littleton that he hopes "every time the door slams behind you in that prison, you are reminded of the three lives you took."
Littleton was convicted in the Feb. 11 stabbing death of Brown, 26. Her body was found in the basement of the Bellefontaine home that Littleton bought from Richard and Gladis Russell in western Ohio. She had been stabbed several times, authorities said.
Littleton also was convicted in the deaths of the Russells on Feb. 16 at their rural Lewiston home. Richard Russell, 84, had been beaten in the head and stabbed once in the chest, and his wife died of a head injury, authorities said.
Stewart said that Littleton told authorities that he strangled the Russells and stabbed Richard Russell.
Authorities said Littleton stowed the bodies in the trunk of the Russells' car and drove south, dumping Richard Russell's body in Tennessee. The body of Russell's 85-year-old wife was found in Georgia. Their car was found in Princeton, W.Va., where Littleton has relatives.
Littleton was arrested after authorities found him hiding in the woods behind a discount store with the key to the Russells' car in his pocket. He was returned to Ohio from West Virginia on Wednesday after waiving extradition.