NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - A New Orleans family expressed outrage Friday after the man accused of killing three relatives avoided the death sentence. But the Orleans D.A. said he did the best he could in a case that he said was fraught with problems.
"The D.A.'s system just gave us the shaft," said Patrick Preston, the brother of slain 911 operator Christine George.
George, her son and daughter were all murdered by Shawn Peterson, who won't stand trial.
"The state didn't want to try the case. They felt it would be a waste of taxpayer money," said Shelton Dennis, the father of victim Trisa George.
Peterson was charged with killing his ex-girlfriend and their children, 18-year-old Leonard and 20-year-old Trisa in September of 2013. Two of the victims found in an SUV; the third on the ground.
"I was promised they would work hard on my mama's case. They didn't do their job. Three years later, we aren't getting a trial," said Jaron George, Christine's son.
"I understand the anguish the families are experiencing," said District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro.
Peterson pleaded guilty to manslaughter, and thanks to multiple billing laws, got an 80-year sentence.
"One of the witnesses couldn't make an identification of the people on the video," said Cannizzaro.
In addition, two defendant statements had to be suppressed because of problems with police Miranda warnings.
"My mama, she died in her blue shirt. It can't go down like that," said Jaron.
To make matters worse, some family members said the D.A. never contacted them about the plea deal.
"They sat here at least three times in this office," said Cannizzaro.
Peterson offered no apologies in court.
"He still has a family. My whole world gone," said Preston.
Though the family wanted a death sentence, the D.A. said Peterson will likely never walk free.
"This man is 44 years old. He will be released from prison when he's 124 years old," said Cannizzaro.
Cannizzaro said if Peterson had not entered the guilty plea and accepted the 80-year sentence, he would have brought the case to trial. He also said Peterson will never be eligible for early release, due to his prior crimes of violence.