Independence, Mo. — Daniel Porter said his family already was falling apart on the day that he took his two children into the woods and shot them to death.
During an emotional hearing Wednesday, the 44-year-old Missouri man admitted again that he killed his children, 7-year-old Sam and 8-year-old Lindsey, in June 2004. Their remains were found in a Kansas City suburb in September - more than three years after a weekend visit with Porter ended with their disappearance. He was sentenced to life in prison.
"The conscience is a powerful thing," Porter said in Jackson County Circuit Court. "I'm surprised I went this long (before confessing)."
Porter pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder in exchange for prosecutors agreeing not to seek the death penalty. But he said his decision to take the plea had nothing to do with fearing a death sentence.
"I didn't care about getting the death penalty," Porter said. "I prayed to have a heart attack many times. ... What bothered me is my crime. I did the worst crime that anybody in the world could do."
He said he tried to kill himself three times in the days after he killed his children.
"Now, I've got to live with this until I can die," Porter said. "I don't care about getting beat to death in prison. ... What I care about is going insane later on because I'm letting this bother me and can't get the devil off my back."
'Everybody got hurt'
Porter already was serving a 38-year prison sentence for kidnapping the children when he was charged with their deaths in November. Before facing the murder charges, he had told authorities and his ex-wife, Tina Porter, varying stories about what happened to their two children, including that he had killed them.
"I believe you probably want to take it back, but you can't," Tina Porter told her ex-husband during the plea hearing. "Everybody got hurt that day."
She held up photos of Sam and Lindsey as she spoke. "Look at 'em. See how beautiful they are," she said, adding that Sam looked so much like his dad.
The last photo she displayed was a grim shot from the day of the memorial for the children.
Daniel Porter said he had felt that his family was falling apart and that it was getting to a point where he might not get to see his kids anymore. He said he initially intended to kill the children and then himself.
He said he picked his son and daughter up from their mother's Independence home on June 4, 2004, and took them to get breakfast at a McDonald's before driving them to a park and eating with them.
He said he wrote his mother a letter while at the park to say he was sorry. After leaving the park, he stopped to mail the letter and then drove Sam and Lindsey to a wooded area in the Kansas City suburb of Sugar Creek.
Porter said he walked the boy and girl into the woods, made them a pallet on the ground and had them cover their eyes with blindfolds. He said he then pulled out two .357-caliber handguns and shot them both in the head at the same time.
According to court documents, the children's remains were found after Porter met with FBI agents and Missouri Department of Corrections officials on Sept. 7 and confessed that he killed his children the day he picked them up for the visit.
After a court hearing in November, Porter admitted to reporters that he had killed his children.
Last month, a state appeals court overturned two of his four kidnapping convictions, leaving just an eight-year sentence on two counts of parental kidnapping.
The Western District of the Missouri Court of Appeals overturned his convictions and sentences on two counts of kidnapping with intent to terrorize his ex-wife, saying Porter couldn't be found guilty of unlawfully removing them from their mother's home because it had been a regularly scheduled visit.
Jackson County prosecutor Jim Kanatzar said his office agreed to the plea deal because Tina Porter and other family members did not want to go through another trial or through a lengthy appeals process.
"I want to commend Tina Porter for the strength and the bravery and the humanity that she has shown through this nightmare," Kanatzar said. "I think it goes without saying that the last three-and-a-half years have been hell for her and her family through this very difficult case."
As she left the courthouse, Tina Porter carried a quilt covered with more photos of her children.
"It's something I'm going to keep with me, lay in my lap, wrap my arms around. It doesn't take the place of Sam and Lindsey, but, you know ..." she said, her words trailing off.