A retired U.S. Border Patrol agent's desire to avoid a costly divorce led him to kill his wife and a neighbor couple last summer in the rural Coos County community of Bridge, a prosecutor said Monday.

Circuit Court Judge Richard Barron sentenced Edward Nelson, 65, to three consecutive life sentences without parole for the June 15 slayings of his wife, Kathleen, and neighbors Renae and Lola Cottam.

Nelson pleaded guilty to aggravated murder in November, avoiding a possible death sentence.

Addressing members of the Cottam family, Nelson said he hoped they would take comfort in knowing he would die in prison and "burn in hell" for his crimes, The World newspaper of Coos Bay reported.

"I have no intention to ask for forgiveness for the horrendous acts I have committed," he said.

Nelson gave investigators a detailed account of the murders shortly after his arrest, County District Attorney Paul Frasier said.

Nelson, who received retirement payments from the federal government, decided a divorce would be too costly.

"Apparently, he made that jump that if (they) couldn't get a divorce, the next best thing is to kill her," Frasier said.

The man checked into an Idaho hotel before the killings in an effort to create an alibi, then sneaked back home using back roads.

Nelson tricked his wife into coming downstairs by tripping a circuit breaker, then shot her and set fire to their home, he told investigators.

The prosecutor said Nelson at some point decided to divert attention from himself by killing the Cottams.

Nelson tricked Renae Cottam by asking if he could use the phone, then also shot Lola Cottam, who tried to barricade herself in an upstairs bathroom. He set fire to their home as well.

The plan fell apart when a neighbor saw a truck associated with the Nelsons' home leaving the property after the fire started, and called police.

Nelson had the murder weapons with him in the truck when he was stopped.

The Cottams' son, Michael, made it clear he didn't want the prosecutor to seek the death penalty, Frasier said.

Also, Nelson had no history of violence that would make him a threat to the public. "He had 30 years as a Border Patrol agent - as a law enforcement officer," the prosecutor said.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.


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