RUTHTON (AP) -- Seventeen years after the murder of two bankers at a southwestern Minnesota farm, the man convicted of killing them finally has admitted shooting them.
It was a case that spurred a nationwide manhunt and drew national attention to the region and the farm crisis of the 1980s.
Steven Jenkins Anderson was barely 18 when he when was convicted in 1984. He had denied during his trial that he shot bankers Rudy Blythe and Deems "Toby" Thulin. His attorneys claimed the killer was his father, James Jenkins, who apparently committed suicide in Texas while on the run.
But in a nationally-televised documentary on the Arts & Entertainment cable network Monday night, Anderson admitted he killed the bankers.
"That's the first time he has ever come out and said that he did it, that I am aware of," Pipestone County Sheriff Lyle Landgren said Tuesday.
Lincoln County Attorney Michael Cable, who was one of the prosecutors in the case, also said it was the first time Anderson had confessed.
"I was as surprised as anyone else when he admitted it," Cable said Tuesday. "I assumed he was going to say that he didn't do it, because that's what he said all along. I was shocked."
Cable said Anderson -- who was shown in tears on film -- should be up for parole next year.
"Showing remorse is probably going to make parole easier for him," Cable said.
Anderson was convicted of first-degree murder in Blythe's death and second-degree murder in Thulin's.
The Jenkinses had once owned the 10-acre Ruthton dairy farm where the bankers were killed, but lost it to foreclosure. Authorities speculated the Jenkinses lured the bankers to the farm in September 1983 on the false premise that they were prospective buyers. When the bankers got out of their car, they were shot.
The killings became symbols of the farm crisis of the 1980s in the eyes of many. The Jenkinses were viewed by some as frustrated farmers who took out their anger on the bankers who took their farm away.
Reporters from across the country camped out in Lincoln County for the length of the trial in Ivanhoe. Books were written about the killings and the people involved. Steven Jenkins was eventually adopted by his defense lawyer, Allen Swen Anderson of Granite Falls.
Landgren, who was one of the first officers at the scene, said he still thinks about the killings.
"You know, don't we still talk about President Lincoln being shot? Don't we always talk about bad accidents in our community? Sure we do," he said Tuesday. "Things like this are always in the news, always in people's minds."
Cable said Jenkins' confession confirms the state's version of events was true. He recalled that when the trial began, getting a conviction wasn't certain.
However, as the case unfolded, more evidence came to light, including testimony from a man who trained Steven Jenkins to shoot.
Prosecutors also contended that James Jenkins had severe eyesight and health problems that would have prevented the 46-year-old from shooting accurately enough to gun the two bankers down. The shooter, Cable said, had to fire one deadly shot, then run 100 yards before firing four more shots to kill the second man.
"This is one of the few cases where it got better as it went," Cable said. "That's not normal, I'll tell you that."
Anderson's confession renewed conversation about the killings Tuesday in Ruthton and in neighboring Pipestone.
"It's the talk of the town today," said Mark Fode, editor of the Pipestone County Star. "(The confession) is pretty amazing."
On film, Jenkins appeared remorseful. He tearfully said his father asked him to kill him, too. The son said he replied that he couldn't, and that he told his father, "you'll have to do that yourself."
Their relationship was often contentious. When they talked in Texas about the shootings and about the father's wish to die, "that was the first time, ever in my life, that my father told me he loved me," the son said.
"He showed some remorse now," Ruthton resident Edna DeWilde said.
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