Pursel pleads guilty to 1981 Waterloo murders - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Pursel pleads guilty to 1981 Waterloo murders

Jack Pursel Jack Pursel
Robert and Goldie Huntbach Robert and Goldie Huntbach
Huntbach's home at 311 West 10th Street Huntbach's home at 311 West 10th Street

The 66-year old man who turned himself in to Waterloo police last month for the 1981 murders of Robert and Goldie Huntbach has pleaded guilty to two counts of first degree murder.

Jack Pursel walked into the Waterloo Police Department on May 8 and admitted to the 1981 murders. Investigators say his faith made him travel from California to Iowa to confess to the crime in person.

"He became a Christian," said Dan Trelka, Waterloo Director of Safety Services. "He said he needed to cleanse his soul by confessing."

Pursel pleaded guilty to two counts of murder in the first degree on Thursday afternoon.  He was sentenced to two terms of life in prison which will be served concurrently.

Pursel spoke in court asking for forgiveness, saying he is a born-again Christian and not the same person he was back then.

The Huntbach's grandson and granddaughter spoke in court as well, saying they would not forgive him and telling him to "burn in hell".  The granddaughter said she wished that Iowa had the death penalty.

"May your mind and body rot in prison, and may your soul burn in hell for eternity," the Huntbachs' granddaughter, identified as "Pam" said.

County Attorney Tom Ferguson said the crimes Pursel committed are vicious, brutal, horrific, and without conscience.  He said the couple was tortured in their home before Pursel shot and killed them.

Ferguson noted the family is getting through this tough time together.  Although it's difficult, it's a way for them to move on with their lives.

"Like anything, it's never forgotten.  And these open fresh wounds for the family.  But I think, to some extent, they're able to close this chapter now.  It brings some finality to it for them.  Which is good," said Ferguson.

Life in prison is the maximum sentence a judge can issue in Iowa.  But as Ferguson noted, Pursel has spent the majority of the past three decades living as a free man.  Now, at age 66, it's unlikely he will live another 30 years behind bars.

Pursel has a criminal history on the west coast -- including convictions which resulted in his placement on the California list of sexual predators.

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