NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — A New Jersey man who fatally stabbed his girlfriend and killed her parents when they tried to defend her has been sentenced to 37 years in prison.

Rakeem Gartrell of Irvington must serve 85 percent of his term before becoming eligible for parole under the sentence imposed Friday. He had pleaded guilty to three counts of first-degree murder last month.

Essex County prosecutors said the 24-year-old had a knife when he burst into the family’s Irvington apartment in February 2008. He first stabbed 22-year-old Latoya Thomas multiple times, stopping when the blade snapped, then used another knife to kill her parents.

He later went to a Newark police precinct and calmly told officers what had happened.

Prosecutors said Thomas and Gartrell had a child together, but she had obtained a restraining order against him.

(Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Watch & Listen LIVE