A man has confessed to the murders of his girlfriend and her 16-month-old son, seven years after they disappeared.
Thomas Riffenburg, 31, revealed the murders in a June 20 letter to a special agent from the Oregon Department of Justice, according to CNN. The man said he had received a "smack on the head from God" telling him to reveal the truth of what he had done.
Riffenburg's ex-girlfriend and child, 23-year-old Jennifer Anne Walsh and 16-month-old Alexander, were last seen in January 2009. Their disappearances had remained a mystery until a few months ago, when Riffenburg sent a letter to a special agent confessing to their killings and later met with agent to give her hand-drawn maps of where the two were buried.
"I did it," admitted Riffenburg. "They both suffocated to death."
Riffenburg had previously told Walsh's mother, Joanne Fern, that she had been caught with a bag of marijuana, and was fleeing so as not to lose Alexander. Fern filled out a missing persons report for Walsh, and Riffenburg stayed at the mother's home in California with the toddler, Oxygen reports.
When Fern got back, Riffenburg and the baby were gone, along with jewelry and money missing, replaced by a note saying that Riffenburg and Walsh were "leaving for a better life."
Human remains believed to be Walsh's were discovered where Riffenburg's map indicated, but Alexander's remains, which were buried elsewhere, have not yet been recovered.
In a letter to Fern, Riffenburg apologized for the murders of her daughter and grandson.
"Joanne, what do I say to you?" wrote Riffenburg in the letter. "I told the authorities on 6/20/17 that I killed both of them, and I told them where to find the bodies... I don't expect any of you to forgive me, I wouldn't, and don't... When I go to court for this, I will simply tell them that I am guilty, and offer no excuses. I'm sorry, for what I did to them, and what I did [to] you."
Riffenburg is already serving a life sentence for killing his cellmate in prison. He pleaded guilty to aggravated murder for the death of Jason Gould, receiving life without parole, reports The Argus Observer.
According to Malheur County Chief Deputy District Attorney Erin Landis, Riffenburg stomped Gould to death. Gould's cause of death was blunt force trauma to his head.
In a letter responding to Riffenburg, Fern said that she did not want him to receive a death sentence, asking him, "how could you do something so bad?"
"I knew you were troubled," wrote Fern, according to WGHP. "But how troubled I didn't know."
"You will live your life with this burden until the end days when god will see that it is your time to go meet him and he will decide your fate," wrote Fern. "Even you can go to heaven if you repent and atone for the sins you did here on Earth."