Former Calif. wrestling standout pleads guilty to stabbing to death mother, sister and husband

By Tracie Cone, AP
Friday, September 18, 2009

Former CA wrestling standout admits killing family

MODESTO, Calif. — Mild-mannered heavyweight wrestler Jesse Frost was known in high school as a “gentle giant.” Now he’ll spend the rest of his life in prison after admitting in court he stabbed his mother, his younger sister and her husband.

The murders last February shook the small farm community of Riverbank, where people who had grown up with Frost, now 39, wondered how the popular star high school and college athlete had unraveled and what motivated him to kill.

A plea bargain that spared him the death penalty means that question will remain unanswered. In court he read a statement admitting guilt in the three murders and said, “I had no legal, ethical or moral excuse for doing so.”

After stabbing his mother, Donna Norton, 62, his sister Judy Niemi, 37, and her husband Tony Niemi, 38, he wounded his 18-year-old nephew, Matthew James. He left three children in the home unharmed.

Frost then sat in the front yard of his mother’s home last Feb. 15 and waited for Stanislaus County Sheriff’s deputies to arrive.

They found him sitting on the ground covered with blood, his hands on his head.

“As to why he did it, that’s still not entirely clear,” said Prosecutor John R. Mayne.

Newspaper reports described a man beset by drug problems and unemployment in recent years. After graduating from Riverbank High School, he wrestled at Modesto Jr. College in 1989 and was the No. 1-ranked heavyweight in California. Knee injuries apparently ended his career.

By 1995 he had struggled with methamphetamine addiction and received three years’ probation and 150 days in jail for evading police. In 2005 he served 469 days in prison after hitting his landlord over the head with a shovel, causing him to be blinded in one eye.

On Thursday he told Judge Marie Silveira he was on two types of antidepressants as well as Adderall, a psychostimulant that is supposed to help concentration.

A surviving sister, Kimberly Gonsalves, told reporters she had hoped her brother would get the death penalty.

Mayne instead accepted a plea that would ensure Frost will serve three consecutive life sentences for the murders, an additional 11 years to life for stabbing his nephew, and an agreement he would never ask for a pardon or clemency.

“This plea agreement should ensure that when Mr. Frost leaves prison, he’ll be dead,” Mayne said.

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