Family of murder victims reacts to Thomas Taunton's life sentence

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FANNIN CO., TX - Thomas Taunton, the Fannin County man convicted of the murders of three family members, received his sentence Wednesday. News 12's Daniella Rivera was in the courtroom for the entire trial, and spoke to the victims' families.

The same jury that convicted Thomas Taunton of capital murder and murder Tuesday, gave him the maximum sentence Wednesday. Taunton will spend the rest of his life behind bars.

It's been an emotional seven days in the courtroom for family members of the victims who Taunton shot and killed in January of 2012.

"I have an 11-month-old son who will never ever get to meet my grandpa or my step-grandma," Emily Knochel told News 12 tearfully.

Thomas Taunton is sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, after a Fannin County jury found him guilty of shooting his mother, Sue Harpst, his step-father, Harold Harpst, and his sister, Regina Taunton.

"One man...destroyed so much," said Dick Lange, Harold Harpst's friend of 48 years.

Authorities obtained a phone call recording in which Taunton described the murders in detail. He told a friend he had been plotting the killings.

"How he did this to them...their fear," Sarah Harpst, Harold's daughter, told us it was hard to sit in court and look at Taunton.

Taunton walked into his mother's bathroom on a Sunday morning in January of 2012.

While she was helping Harold, a double amputee, Taunton shot his mother in the back of the head.

"Sue I imagine went very quickly. But my dad? Sitting on the toilet with no legs?" Sarah Harpst discussed the killings in disbelief.

Taunton shot Harold 3 times.

"And then poor Gina," said Sarah Harpst.

Regina Taunton was shot 4 times.

Taunton tried to clean up the crime scene, dumped the bodies in a field in Grayson County, then fled the state.

Taunton never spoke to News 12--but he did take the witness stand Tuesday.

We asked Fannin County District Attorney if he was surprised Taunton testified, "Actually I was," he responded. "And I was certainly surprised at his testimony."

Taunton told the court Harold shot Sue and Regina, and then drowned Harold in the shower.

"It made me want to jump over the railing and beat him," said Sarah Harpst.

But Taunton couldn't explain how Harold was shot 3 times, and said he told police his family was missing, because he "wasn't going to tell them he killed them!"

"Well it's hard when you're fabricating a story, to stay on script.," said Glaser.

"He's a monster. If you have any empathy or human feeling whatsoever, you wouldn't talk about the crime like he did," said Cathy Harpst, Harold's daughter-in-law.

The jury gave Taunton a maximum life sentence.

"And the message was, if you did it in Fannin County, we're going to give you the maximum punishment," said Glaser.

"They are in heaven now and he has his legs, and I know they're happy with what today has brought as well," said Harold's granddaughter, Emily Knochel.

District attorney Richard Glaser tells us every case is different, and they didn't pursue the death penalty in this one for a couple of reasons. One being because they would need to prove Taunton would be a future danger to society, and he didn't have much of a prior record.

We're told there will be an appeal by the defense in this case.