UPDATE: Confessed killer appears in court

UPDATE: Confessed killer appears in court

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WATERLOO, Iowa --- Bond for the California man who allegedly confessed this week to a 1981 double slaying has been raised to $2 million.

Jack Wendell Pursel, 66, recently of South Gate, was originally held on $500,000 bond for two counts of first-degree murder in the shooting deaths of 85-year-old Robert Huntbach and his 77-year-old wife, Goldie.

During a Thursday morning initial appearance, Judge Joseph Moothart raised the bond amount to $2 million — $1 million for each count — at the request of Black Hawk County Attorney Thomas Ferguson, who cited the brutal nature of the killings and the fact Pursel has prior convictions in California.

The defense didn’t challenge the bond hike.

Pursel, who was arrested Wednesday after admitting to the decades-old crime, entered the courtroom dressed in a suit and tie.

He spoke little but gave the correct pronunciation of his middle name.

“What is your current address?” Moothart asked.

“The jail, here,” said Pursel, who said he had no other address.

Moothart said there was probable cause to believe Pursel committed the crime and set a preliminary hearing for May 18.

No relatives of Pursel or the Huntbachs were in court for the proceeding.


Earlier story: California man arrested for murder

WATERLOO, Iowa --- After keeping a secret for more than three decades, a California man confessed to killing a Waterloo couple in their home as part of a robbery, police said.

The bodies of Richard and Goldie Huntbach were discovered shot to death Jan. 12, 1981. After the initial investigation, detectives ran out of leads, and the case went unsolved.

Then on Tuesday Jack Wendell Pursel, a 66-year-old former Waterloo resident, showed up at the Waterloo Police Department and said he wanted to talk about the crime.

In the interview that followed, Pursel admitted to the slayings, police said.

“He just came in off the street and wanted to get this off his chest,” said Dan Trelka, director of safety services for the city of Waterloo. “This is a once in a lifetime.”

Pursel was arrested Wednesday on two counts of first-degree murder. He was taken to the Black Hawk County Jail, and his bond was set at $500,000.

Trelka said Pursel knew the Huntbach family and may have dated a relative around the time of the crime.

“At one time, he was one person of several persons of interest,” Trelka said. Pursel had been interviewed but then moved to California where he remained until only recently when he returned to Iowa.

“It’s my understanding he found Christ and felt this was the right thing to do,” Trelka said.

Court records show Pursel served prison time in California, and he is currently listed on that state’s sex offender registry.

Within a year of the Waterloo killings, Pursel was in a California prison for three counts of oral copulation with a minor, a charge he picked up in Los Angeles County, according to the California Department of Corrections. In September 1981, he started serving what was supposed to be a 21-year sentence.

He was paroled in September 1992 and completely discharged from his sentence in September 1995, according to corrections officials.

During his interviews with Waterloo detectives, Pursel provided details that only a person involved in the crime would know, according to court records. Capt. Tim Pillack said investigators worked to verify information.

The Huntbachs have one surviving daughter, Barbara Beck, who said she couldn’t believe authorities had finally made an arrest but declined further comment Wednesday.

A son of the Huntbachs, Arthur Robinson, has also since died.

Another daughter, Carol West, died in 2007. Her husband, William, said she frequently talked about the crime. He said Waterloo detectives contacted him Tuesday seeking any newspaper clippings he had that detailed the slayings, apparently in an attempt to see what information had been publicly available.

Robert Huntbach was 85 and had retired from Rath Packing Co., and his wife was 77.

A friend notified police when they failed to answer the door on Jan, 12, 1981. Inside, officers found the couple bound and gagged and dead from gunshot wounds. The house had been ransacked.

Pursel allegedly told police he planned the to rob and kill the couple.



Earlier story: Police reopen 1981 killings

WATERLOO, Iowa --- Waterloo police are revisiting an unsolved double homicide from 31 years ago.

The bodies of Robert and Goldie Huntbach were found in their home at 311 W. 10th St. on Jan. 12, 1981. The husband was 85 and the wife 77. They were shot to death.

Authorities hit a dead end early in the case, and it has remained cold.

This morning, Capt. Tim Pillack of the Waterloo Police Department confirmed that detectives are talking with a person who has information about the case.

According to Courier archives, a family friend summoned police after getting no response at the couple's two-story home. Officers found the elderly couple bound and gagged. They each had been shot in the head.

The husband was found in the dining room, blindfolded with a dish towel in his mouth. In addition to being shot, he had been hit with a blunt object, possibly indicating a struggle.

The wife was in an upstairs hallway, also blindfolded with a clothespin on her nose.

An electric cattle prod was discovered in the master bedroom, and Robert Huntbach had injuries on his chest and wrists that may have been inflicted by the device.

At the time of the slayings, the Huntbachs were in the process of moving to Independence to be closer to their children.

Their West 10th Street home was in the path of to-be-widened U.S. Highway 218 and was slated to be torn down in 1984, but the couple had asked the Iowa Department of Transportation for an advance on the buyout to start the relocation.

The hunt for the killer included a $5,000 reward. A police detective at the time said authorities believed they were dealing with one killer.


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