Just days before he was set to stand trial, a convicted sex offender pleaded guilty Thursday to the 1985 murder of 15-year-old Kristy Wesselman near Glen Ellyn.
Michael Jones, 64, of Champaign has been held in the DuPage County jail without bail since Sept. 21, 2015.
Prosecutors are seeking an 80-year prison sentence, expected to be formally handed down during a Jan. 23 sentencing hearing.
Jones was charged with multiple counts each of first-degree murder and aggravated criminal sexual assault. He was linked to the slaying in September 2015 through a DNA sample he was required to give after pleading guilty that summer to aggravated domestic battery in Champaign County.
His DNA matched samples from the 1985 murder scene that had been filed in a national database in 2000.
Prosecutors say Jones stabbed Kristy eight times and sexually assaulted her on July 21, 1985, in broad daylight, on a path near Butterfield Road and Route 53 that led to her home in the Valley View subdivision near Glen Ellyn.
Kristy's body was found in a pile of leaves near a half-eaten candy bar and a soda bottle by a sheriff's deputy about 11 a.m. the following day.
An extensive investigation into her murder yielded no results and the case eventually went cold.
On Sept. 10, 2015, the DuPage County Crime Laboratory informed detectives from the sheriff's office that there was a DNA match through the Combined DNA Index System that identified a specific person as the contributor of the DNA profile obtained from the sexual assault kit performed during Kristy's autopsy.
Further investigation by the sheriff's Cold Case Unit with assistance from the state's attorney's office led to Jones.
On Sept. 18, 2015, authorities traveled to Champaign, took Jones into custody and returned him to DuPage County to face the charges.
DuPage County State's Attorney Robert Berlin said Jones' desire to plead guilty came "out of the blue" even though he's been in custody for more than two years. He said there had never been any negotiation in the case until Tuesday.
"Kristy Wesselman had her whole life ahead of her," Berlin said in a statement. "She was a beautiful young girl, full of life and loved by all.
"More than three decades have passed since Michael Jones sexually assaulted and brutally murdered Kristy, forever changing the lives of her surviving family and friends. I'm sure that in that time, not a day has passed that Kristy's family hasn't thought about today, the day of reckoning for the man who sexually assaulted and murdered Kristy. Her family and friends have waited a long time for justice and today justice was delivered."
Kristy's mother, Sandy, and brother William, were in court for the pleading and were flanked by several friends and family. They declined to comment, saying they'll break their silence after Tuesday's sentencing hearing.
Jones had a sexually violent history predating Kristy's murder.
On Aug. 9, 1976, Jones attacked an 18-year-old woman walking home along Irving Park Road in Chicago. Berlin said Jones grabbed her, put a gun to her side and tied her up before taking her to his home, where he sexually assaulted her.
On Aug. 9, 1977, Jones attacked a 27-year-old riding her bike home from work near Ashland Avenue and Irving Park Road in Chicago.
Prosecutors said Jones used his Buick Skylark, the same car he used to abduct the woman a year earlier, to knock the woman off her bike. He then hit her in the head with a gun and forced her into the car before taking her to his parents' home in Schiller Park, where he strangled and sexually assaulted her.
Jones was convicted and served nearly six years in prison. He was released June 17, 1983, two years before Kristy's murder.