A teenager accused of holding a man and his...

Dec. 3, 1987

TOWNSEND, Mass. -- A teenager accused of holding a man and his three daughters hostage with a hatchet last year was charged Thursday with slaying a nursery school teacher and her two young children this week, police said.

An arrest warrant was issued for Daniel LaPlante, 17, of West Townsend, charged with the slayings Tuesday of Priscilla Gustafson, 33, and her two children, Abigail, 7, and William, 5, police said.

The three victims were found inside their secluded home in the small town near the New Hampshire border by Andrew Gustafson, 34, the husband and father. The woman died of multiple gunshot wounds, and the two children were either strangled or drowned in bathrooms, police said.

Police said they charged LaPlante with the slayings early Thursday after searching the house where he lived and finding evidence that linked him to the killings. Police declined to elaborate.

Authorities believe LaPlante, whose they described as having a 'pockmarked face,' fled the town and was considered armed and dangerous.

Police did not disclose what relationship LaPlante may have had to the family or what possible motive he may have had in the murders.

Mrs. Gustafson was a nursery school teacher at the Townsend Congregational Church, where the two children sang in the choir.

LaPlante was previously charged with the kidnapping and armed assault of four members of a family in the neighboring town of Pepperell who were held hostage with a hatchet on Dec. 8, 1986, police said.

'He was hiding in the closet when they came home and he chased them into their bedroom with a hatchet,' said Pepperell Police Department secretary Cathy Plummer. 'The guy was swinging a hatchet and he had his face all painted up.'

The three girls and their father all escaped through a bedroom window, and LaPlante was found two days later hiding between two walls at the home, which the family vacated after the incident, Plummer said.

LaPlante was sent to a Department of Youth Services detention center until Oct. 9, when his case was transferred from the juvenile court to Ayer District Court and his mother posted $10,000 cash bail, Plummer said. He was due back in court Dec. 11.

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