updated 5/21/2009 3:58:54 PM ET 2009-05-21T19:58:54

A man who shot three teens to death at a popular swimming spot, hoping to ambush police officers coming to their aid, was sentenced Thursday to life in prison without parole.

A judge denied a defense request to give Scott J. Johnson of Kingsford, Mich., a chance for parole.

The 38-year-old Johnson had pleaded no contest in March to 10 felonies stemming from the shootings last July at a gathering spot along the Menominee River, which separates northern Wisconsin and Michigan. He showed no emotion when he heard the sentence.

He killed Tiffany Pohlson, 17, Anthony Spigarelli, 18, and Bryan Mort, 19, all of Michigan. Daniel Gordon, now 21, was hit in the back but survived.

Family members sighed in relief when the sentence was read, and many hugged or dabbed their eyes with tissue. Relatives declined to speak with the media afterward.

Johnson said he had planned to shoot responding police officers after killing the swimmers but couldn't find a clean shot. He told The Associated Press in March he's as indifferent to the homicides as if he had spilled a glass of milk.

"Do you get all upset about it? No, you just clean it up and get another glass of milk," he said.

Johnson went to the river with a military-type rifle July 31 and opened fire on a group of swimmers.

Johnson told investigators he thought about committing a random shooting for four or five years. Investigators said he stashed weapons in the woods for at least a year in preparation.

Johnson also pleaded no contest to sexually assaulting a woman the day before the shootings.

Johnson initially pleaded insanity but dropped that in January. A court-appointed psychologist said he told her his purpose "was to kill. Jesus could have been walking with Moses that day and I would have killed them."

Defense attorney Carrie LaPlant didn't comment specifically on the sentence, but said she asked for Johnson to receive a chance at parole because she does that for every client. She said an appeal was still possible.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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