Jesse Frost grabbed his shoes, walked outside and waited for police to find the remains of a bloody massacre inside the Riverbank home where he knifed his mother, sister and brother-in-law to death.
Seven-year-old Cole Niemi saw it all that February day. Relatives read aloud a letter written by Cole on Tuesday in Stanislaus County Superior Court.
"Uncle Jesse, why did you kill my mommy, daddy and grandma?" Cole wrote.
"I saw you hitting my dad and it looked like you were killing him and the last thing I can remember my mommy saying was 'Run, run, run,' and we did run to get help."
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Family and friends gave statements to Judge Marie Silveira on Tuesday; Frost, 39, will be formally sentenced today. Under the terms of a plea deal, Frost will get three consecutive life terms in prison without the possibility of parole. In exchange, he was spared the death penalty.
As part of the deal, Frost won't be allowed to ask for a pardon or clemency.
Frost pleaded guilty last month to using a knife to murder Donna Norton, 62; Judy Niemi, 37; and Anthony Niemi, 38.
He also pleaded guilty to attempting to murder Matthew James, his 18-year-old nephew. That charge comes with a sentence of 11 years to life in prison.
Deputies were called to Frost's home, in the 6000 block of Arcaro Drive in Riverbank, for a disturbance Feb. 15. They found Frost in the front yard and took him in for questioning, officials said.
Inside, they found the four stabbing victims.
Before he entered his guilty pleas Sept. 17, Frost read a statement admitting responsibility for the killings.
"I, Jesse Frost, stabbed my mother, Donna Norton, to death after some consideration," Frost began, repeating statements for each of his victims as family members and friends cried in the audience.
"I intended to kill Donna Norton, and I had no legal, ethical or moral excuse for doing so," Frost said.
On Tuesday, Frost looked straight ahead as his relatives called him a monster and begged him: "Jesse, Jesse, look at me."
They called him a coward, which elicited one quick glance from Frost toward the jury box, where the relatives stood and spoke.
Frost is a former high school and college heavyweight wrestling star in Stanislaus County who fell on hard times.
In 2005, he attacked a Modesto man whose family had taken Frost in as a ranch hand and let him live on their Claribel Road property. Frost attacked the man with a shovel, blinding him in one eye, according to authorities and the victim's family.
Trying that case proved difficult because of memory problems the victim suffered from the attack, said sheriff's Detective Mark Copeland.
Frost pleaded guilty in 2007 to a lesser charge of assault with a deadly weapon with the intent to cause great bodily injury and was sentenced to 697 days in jail, the district attorney's office said.
Bee staff writer Merrill Balassone can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2337.