John Dalton Jr. had been paroled after killing his wife in 1998
A Nebraska man who fatally shot his wife 20 years ago pleaded guilty Monday to murdering his parents and niece the day after Christmas in 2017 — and offered no reason for the gun violence, PEOPLE confirms.
John Dalton Jr., 46, received three life sentences plus 197 to 230 years after he pleaded guilty to three counts of first-degree murder and four weapons charges, a Douglas County District Court official tells PEOPLE.
“They’re looking for answers — and they’re asking lots of questions — but sometimes there are none. It’s just pure evil,” Brenda Beadle, chief deputy Douglas County attorney, said at Monday’s court hearing, according to the Omaha World-Herald.
On December 26, 2017, Dalton’s parents, John and Jean Dalton, invited family over to eat Christmas pie. John Jr. showed up and shot through the door and struck his mom before entering the home and firing on his family members, reports the World-Herald.
Jean, 65, was shot four times. John Sr. 70, was shot five times. Niece Leonna Dalton-Phillip, 18, who’d been hiding in a closet was also fatally shot, the World-Herald reports.
A 6-year-old niece who hid under a couch saw her “Uncle JJ” shooting, and she would identify John Dalton Jr. as the shooter, reports the Associated Press.
• Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Click here to get breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases in the True Crime Newsletter.
Dalton fled to Tennessee, where he was arrested the following day, according to the AP.
Dalton had also fled to Tennessee in 1998, after he fatally shot his wife at their Omaha home, police told the AP.
Dalton pleaded guilty to manslaughter and served 11 years in prison before being paroled in 2010. At the time of the 1998 killing, all three of the couple’s daughters were home, according to the Associated Press.
The girls would be raised by Jean and John Dalton Sr., reports the World-Herald.
Beadle, the prosecutor, said Monday that Dalton’s mother, Jean, was his biggest supporter after the 1998 shooting. She had asked the judge for leniency, according to the World-Herald, and after his release from prison tried to include him in family events despite the fact that he exhibited certain sexual behaviors that led family members to ostracize him, Beadle told the outlet.
Dalton’s youngest daughter, Alicia Dalton, told the Associated Press Monday she was devastated by the deaths of her grandparents and cousin.
“In a matter of seconds,” she told the AP, “everything I had was lost.”