The Disturbing Story Of Daniel LaPlante: The Boy In The Walls & The Murder Of The Gustafson Family

Daniel LaPlante became known as the "boy in the walls" after terrorizing a family for weeks in their own home before going onto brutally murder a pregnant woman and her two children.

Daniel LaPlante brutally murdered Priscilla Gustafson and her two children
Daniel LaPlante brutally murdered Priscilla Gustafson and her two children

In 1987, when he was just 17 years old, Daniel LaPlante brutally murdered a pregnant woman from Townsend, Massachusetts, called Priscilla Gustafson, he also killed both of her children.

A year earlier from the horrific triple murder, another family were terrorized by LaPlante after he had been living within the walls of their home for weeks.

A known thief and burglar, Daniel LaPlante bestowed terror throughout Townsend and other local neighbourhoods.

Eventually, the warped psychopath earned himself three life sentences behind bars for the Gustafson family murders.

The Disturbing Childhood Of Daniel LaPlante

Born on May 15, 1970, in Townsend, Massachusetts, Daniel LaPlante was allegedly an early victim of sexual and psychological abuse at the hands of his father, and then in his teenage years at the hands of his psychiatrist.

LaPlante's home environment was reportedly a mess, and the family home was full of old scrap cars and junk.

He attended St. Bernard's High School in Fitchburg, where staff members and fellow students described him as unfriendly and a loner.

By the 1980s, one of LaPlante's neighbours expressed their concerns of how many times they witnessed him alone in the woods behind his home, they said: "You'd see him walk out there by himself. That's the only place you would see him, the woods."

Daniel LaPlante was diagnosed with hyperactivity disorder by the psychiatrist who he later claimed had sexually abused him.

By the time he was 15, he was known in the neighbourhood as a thief, LaPlante would break into homes in Townsend and steal valuables and cash - he then progressed to psychological terror.

LaPlante started moving things around and leaving items behind in the homes of his victims in an attempt to frighten them. This worrying behaviour turned from strange to deeply disturbing in 1986, when he became obsessed with 15-year-old Tina Bowen.

Bowen and LaPlante went to the same school, and over the Easter holidays LaPlante had taken her on a date. When the girl returned to school, some of her friends told her that LaPlante was facing charges of rape. Frank Bowen, Tina's father, said after she heard this, that was that. Or at least that's what he thought.

How Daniel LaPlante Became The Boy In The Walls

In the late fall of 1986, over the course of several weeks, Daniel LaPlante managed to get inside the Bowen home at 93 Lawrence Street, in Pepperell, near Townsend. Hidden within a small crawl space, LaPlante tormented the family with horrific psychological terror.

LaPlante watched Tina and her sister using a ouija board in an attempt to make contact with their mother who had recently died. This led him to start impersonating a ghost. He would move items around, empty the milk, and change TV channels.

He wrote disturbing messages on the walls saying things like "I'm in your room. Come and find me", and "marry me" in ketchup and mayonnaise. He even stabbed a family photograph into the wall using a knife.

Initially, Frank Bowen was convinced that his daughters were playing tricks on each other, but it soon became apparent that the truth was much more disturbing.

Priscilla Gustafson with her two children, Abigail and William.
Priscilla Gustafson with her two children, Abigail and William.

On December 8, 1986, Tina and her sister came home to notice someone had used their toilet. Their father conducted a search of the property and found Daniel LaPlante hiding in a wardrobe, he was wearing a ninja mask, a Native American-style jacket, with his face painted and was armed with a hatchet.

LaPlante threatened the family with the hatchet and ushered them into a bedroom before disappearing somewhere in the property. Tina Bowen made her escape through a window and contacted the Police Department, who discovered LaPlante two days later hiding in the cellar of the family home.

Authorities found LaPlante hiding in a small triangular space in a corner, surrounded by the concrete foundation on two sides and an inner wall - police said it was obvious that LaPlante had been living there for several weeks.

He was arrested and sent to a juvenile facility where he was held until October 1987 when his mother remortgaged her house and posted his $10,000 bail. Just two months later, Daniel LaPlante committed his most heinous crime.

The Horrific Gustafson Murders Committed By Daniel LaPlante

While out on bail and awaiting trial for his crimes against the Bowen family, Daniel LaPlante moved home and continued his occupation as a local burglar.

On October 14, 1987, LaPlante broke into a neighbours house and stole two .22 Caliber firearms. Then on November 16, he broke into the property of the Gustafson family, home to pregnant nursery school teacher Priscilla Gustafson, her husband Andrew, and their two children, Abigail, 7, and William, 5.

Although it may have been the first time that LaPlante broke into their home, it wouldn't be the last. On December 1, 1987, Daniel LaPlante walked solo through the woods between his house and the Gustafson family home, he was armed with one of the stolen firearms. According to his statements given to police, LaPlante didn't expect Priscilla and her children to come home. What unfolded was a most sickening scenario.

Retired police Lieutenant Thomas Lane from Pepperell said that Daniel LaPlante considered escaping by jumping from a window when Priscilla returned home, but instead he confronted her with the gun and led her and her son into the bedroom. He then put the young boy in the wardrobe and tied Priscilla to the bed and gagged her with one of his socks.

Daniel LaPlante then proceeded to rape Priscilla before shooting her twice in the head. He then forced William into the bathroom and drowned him.

When LaPlante was leaving the property he encountered Abigail Gustafson, who had just got home from school. He took her into another bathroom and drowned the 7-year-old schoolgirl as well.

After the horrific triple murder, Daniel LaPlante simply went home and then attended the birthday party of his niece that evening.

Daniel LaPlante Handed Three Life Sentences

Andrew Gustafson had been attempting to contact his wife all afternoon. When he returned early to a quiet house with no lights on, he thought the worst. Mr Gustafson found the body of his dead wife laying face down on the bed. He fled the property and called the police. He later explained that he couldn't bring himself to search for the children because he "was afraid he would find them dead."

Police quickly had LaPlante as their main suspect with huge forensic evidence showing him to be the killer. Officers discovered the shirt and gloves he wore to drown both of the Gustafson children, they were still wet and had been abandoned in the woods behind the house.

Daniel LaPlante fled and a police manhunt began. Following another burglary spree in Pepperell, officers found LaPlante hiding a dumpster on December 3, 1987.

In October 1988, LaPlante went on trial for the murders of the three Gustafson victims and a jury found him guilty of murder. He was sentenced to three consecutive life sentences.

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