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Man gets life sentence for killing family with hammer, knife

Donald Hartung Sr. was convicted of  three counts of first-degree murder.
Donald Hartung Sr. was convicted of three counts of first-degree murder.

PENSACOLA, Fla. – A Florida man was sentenced Friday to life in prison for using a claw hammer, knife and gun to kill his mother and half-brothers.

Escambia County Judge Thomas Dannheisser sentenced Donald Hartung Sr., 63, after the 12 jurors didn't unanimously recommend the death penalty, the Pensacola News Journal reported. Hartung was convicted last week of three counts of premeditated, first-degree murder. Prosecutors had been seeking the death penalty, but Florida law requires a unanimous jury recommendation.

Hartung's mother, Voncile Smith, 77, and two half-brothers, John Smith, 49, and Richard Smith, 47, were found dead in their home July 31, 2015. All were struck multiple times with a claw hammer and their throats were slit. Richard Smith was also shot in his right ear.

Hartung had been written out of his mother's will and believed he would never get the money — nearly $900,000 — unless his family members died, prosecutors said.

A defense attorney said Hartung didn’t know about the will and had nothing to hide from detectives, who never investigated any other suspect.