VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — A man who fatally shot a Virginia Beach woman, her 7-year-old son, and their family dog in a 2004 murder-for-hire plot was sentenced to four life sentences on Monday.

At the sentencing, Virginia Beach Circuit Court Judge Steven C. Frucci said 48-year-old Richard Stoner’s confession “read like a horror story” and that the maximum he was able to hand down even felt insufficient.

Stoner’s full list of charges included aggravated murder and first-degree murder after prosecutors say he fatally shot then 29-year-old Lois Schmidt and her 7-year-old son Jonathan Vetrano, torture/mutilate a dog for the killing of the dog, and aggravated malicious wounding for shooting Schmidt’s brother Morgan Bloise.

This happened after prosecutors allege that Christopher Schmidt, who was still married to Lois Schmidt but estranged from her at the time, paid $10,000 to Stoner to kill her. He even allegedly gave Stoner an instructional manual to do so.

The case sat cold until 2018, when members of the Virginia Beach Police Department “Cold Case” traveled to Indiana to interview Stoner again, per the stipulation of facts from the commonwealth. With them was a proffer letter from Commonwealth Attorney Colin Stolle, who said he wouldn’t seek the death penalty against Stoner if he cooperated and testified against Schmidt.

Stoner eventually confessed to he and Schmidt’s involvement and entered an initial guilty plea in 2019. However after Virginia abolished the death penalty, Stoner would withdraw that first guilty plea and refused to cooperate with prosecutors against Schmidt. That led to charges against Schmidt being nolle prossed in 2021.

“His testimony is essential in a prosecution against Schmidt, and without it, the evidence in Schmidt’s case is insufficient to proceed at this time,” a statement from the commonwealth’s attorney’s office read at in September 2021. “Without a ruling on whether Stoner’s previous testimony can be offered as evidence in Schmidt’s trial, the Commonwealth cannot proceed to trial. It would be unfair to the victims’ family to proceed with a trial and risk double jeopardy.”

Stoner ultimately pleaded guilty to 12 charges, including aggravated murder, in February. The charges against Schmidt still could be brought back at a later date.