updated 10/26/2010 1:28:40 PM ET 2010-10-26T17:28:40

A serial killer already serving life in prison for murdering four women in the 1990s admitted Tuesday he also killed three others, including one whose body was discovered by her 11-year-old son.

Alfred Gaynor, 43, pleaded guilty in Hampden Superior Court and received additional life sentences for the 1997 rapes and murders of Yvette Torres, Jill Ermellini and Robin Atkins, all of Springfield.

He also was arraigned on a murder charge in the 1995 killing of Vera Hallums, a crime to which he pleaded not guilty Tuesday.

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Prosecutors say he also has admitted killing Springfield resident Amy L. Smith in 1996 and leaving her 22-month-old daughter to die alone in their locked apartment, and charges are possible in that case once the others are resolved.

Relatives cried Tuesday in court as they heard details about how Gaynor raped and strangled Torres, Ermellini and Atkins, sometimes using the promise of cocaine to get his victims alone and overpower them.

In Torres' case, he was welcomed into her home as a longtime friend, then raped and killed her and was trying to sell her VCR for drug money around the time Octavio Torres awoke to find his mother's body in their bathroom.

Octavio Torres and his brother, who was 6 when their mother died, are now adults. Yvette Torres never got to see her two grandchildren, including a toddler named for her.

"We live with her death every day. The pain is still there and at some times, it's unbearable," said Jose Torres, Yvette Torres' brother. He attended Gaynor's 2000 trial on the first four murder cases, saying he always believed Gaynor killed his sister.

Janice and Ray Ermellini, of Windsor, Conn., whose daughter Jill was 34 when Gaynor raped and strangled her in an abandoned truck, said the pain of losing her was amplified by the fact that they did not know the circumstances of her death.

Like Torres, Ermellini was a mother; she had a 12-year-old daughter at the time of her death.

"We take some comfort knowing the murder has been solved and now we can move on to a new chapter in our lives," Janice Ermellini said. "Jill was a good person and was loved a great deal."

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Gaynor was indicted on the four new counts of murder as part of a plea deal involving his nephew, Paul Fickling.

Fickling had been convicted and was serving a life sentence in the deaths of Smith, his ex-girlfriend; and her 22-month-old daughter, Destiny, who died of starvation and dehydration when she was left in the sweltering apartment for days with her mother's body.

Fickling recently won a new trial based in large part on Gaynor's claim that he killed Smith. Then, Fickling agreed to plead guilty to manslaughter in return for a 19-year sentence, which allows him to leave prison in 2015, based on the years he has already served.

As part of the plea, Gaynor agreed to confess to the four unsolved murders, in which he was a longtime suspect.

District Attorney William Bennett and defense attorney Peter Ettenberg said the not-guilty plea in Hallums' killing comes because the case wasn't ready to be handled Tuesday.

Gaynor returns to court Nov. 23. He was sentenced to life after being convicted of raping and strangling four women in Springfield in the late 1990s.

Asked if his client planned to plead guilty eventually in Hallums' killing, Ettenberg said, "I think that's where we're heading, but there's additional work to be done on it."

Bennett agreed, saying there are "things that need to be resolved" in the Hallums case and that prosecutors will be "taking further action" — without specifying exactly what — on the case of Smith and her toddler.

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