Jack Wendell Pursel, 66, walked into the Waterloo, Iowa police station requesting the audience of a police officer on Wednesday. When he sat down with a detective, Pursel explained how he viciously murdered and elderly couple nearly three decades ago.
Pursel was in court on Thursday for an initial appearance where Judge Joseph Moothart issued a $2 million bail for his involvement in the shooting deaths of Richard Huntback, 85, and his wife, Goldie, 77, reported ABC. This was at the request of the Black Hawk County Attorney Thomas Ferguson who cited the brutal nature of the killings and that he has a previous criminal record.
Pursel, who lived in South Calif., told Waterloo police the grisly details of the crime. Capt. Tim Pillack of the Waterloo Police Department said that Pursel knew information that only the killer could know.
He just wanted to get it off his mind, Pillack told ABCNews.com. He knew of the family. He said his intention was to go in and rob them and kill them.
On Jan. 12, 1981, a friend alerted police officers that the Huntbacks did not answer the door. When police arrived on the scene, they found the couple tied up, gagged and shot to death. Their home had been robbed, reported ABC.
Police officials at the time interviewed many suspects, including Pursel. He was listed as a person of interested, but there was never enough evidence to make an arrest.
At one time, he was one person of several persons of interest, Dan Trelka, director of safety services for the city of Waterloo, said, according to the Waterloo Cedar-Fall Courier.
While it is extremely rare that a criminal will confess to a crime 31 years later, Trelka said it appeared that Pursel wanted to find redemption for his crimes.
It's my understanding he found Christ and felt this was the right thing to do.
Within a year of the Waterloo killings, Pursel moved to California. He was arrested and sent to prison for three counts of oral copulation with a minor, reported the Courier. In September of 1981, he began serving a 21-year sentence. He was paroled in 1992.
Neither relatives of Huntback nor Pursel were in court during the proceeding. However, as relatives began to hear the news, they expressed their surprise about the developments.
I don't believe this is happening. I heard it from my hair dresser [Wednesday], not police, a daughter of the Huntbacks' who lies in Manchester, reported Eastern Iowa News Now.
George Huntback, a nephew of the murdered couple, was also shocked.
I'm amazed after all this time he came forward, he said, reported Eastern Iowa News Now.
After three decades of searching for the killer, Pillack is glad there is some closure to the cold case.
We were able to put someone in jail and close the case. It's a great day, he said.
Trelka expressed similar sentiments.
This is a once in a lifetime.