By Timothy Mclaughlin
CHICAGO (Reuters) - A Minnesota man who had been considered a "person of interest" admitted in court on Tuesday to the 1989 abduction and killing of an 11-year-old boy whose remains he helped lead police to last week, authorities said.
Danny Heinrich, 53, said he kidnapped, sexually assaulted and fatally shot Jacob Wetterling, who was riding his bike on a rural Minnesota road with his brother and friend when he was abducted in October 1989 in a case that shook the U.S. Midwestern state.
Heinrich "is the confessed murderer of Jacob Wetterling, and nearly 27 years after he committed this heinous crime, he has been brought to justice. And Jacob is finally home," Andrew Luger, U.S. attorney for the District of Minnesota, said in a statement.
Last October, authorities named Heinrich a person of interest in the case, given the similarities between Wetterling's abduction and a number of unsolved sexual assaults in central Minnesota dating to the 1980s.
Wetterling's parents, Patty and Jerry Wetterling, became advocates for missing children after his disappearance.
Heinrich, who has been in custody since his arrest last year, detailed the abduction and killing of Wetterling in court on Tuesday.
"I panicked. I pulled the revolver out of my pocket ... I loaded it with two rounds. I told Jacob to turn around," the Minneapolis Star Tribune quoted Heinrich as telling the court.
"I told him I had to go to the bathroom," Heinrich said. "I raised the revolver to his head. I turned my head and it clicked once. I pulled the trigger again and it went off. Looked back, he was still standing."
"I raised the revolver again and shot him again."
Authorities searched Heinrich's home in July 2015, finding child pornography in three-ring binders and on a computer hard drive. They also found dozens of videotapes Heinrich appeared to have filmed of young boys delivering newspapers, playing or riding bicycles, officials said, but Wetterling's picture was not among them.
Heinrich also pleaded guilty to federal child pornography charges on Tuesday, the U.S. Justice Department said.
(Additional reporting by Diane Bartz in Washington; Editing by James Dalgleish and Peter Cooney)