The man who kidnapped 13-year-old Jayme Closs and murdered her parents said "Bye, Jayme" as he left court on Wednesday.
Jake Patterson, 21, from Wisconsin sniffled and his voice caught as he pleaded guilty to two counts of intentional homicide and one count of kidnapping.
The move spares Jayme, who was held captive in a remote cabin for three months, from the possible trauma of having to testify at his trial.
Prosecutors dropped a count of armed burglary as part of a plea deal.
Patterson faces up to life in prison when he is sentenced on 24 May.
Wisconsin does not have the death penalty.
Patterson turned back and said "bye" to his kidnap victim despite the fact she wasn't in court.
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He had said he would plead guilty in a letter sent to a Minneapolis TV station this month.
Patterson added that he didn't want the Closs family to "worry about a trial".
He took Jayme and killed her parents James and Denise Closs at the family's home near Barron, around 90 miles northeast of Minneapolis, on 15 October 2018.
Jayme escaped in January after 88 days in Patterson's cabin near the small, isolated town of Gordon around 60 miles from her home.
The plea, coupled with an earlier decision by prosecutors not to bring charges in the county where Jayme was held, increases the chances that the details of her time in captivity will remain private.
Patterson answered "yes" and "yeah" to repeated questions from Barron County Judge James Babler about whether he understood what he was doing.
He could later be heard sniffling as he responded "guilty" to each count.
Patterson paused for several seconds after the judge asked him about the kidnapping charge before stuttering, "guilty".
Defence attorney Richard Jones told Mr Babler that Patterson "wanted to enter a plea from the day we met him" and brushed off strategies presented to him, including trying to suppress his statements to investigators.
Mr Jones said: "He rejected all that and has decided this is what he wants to do."
Members of the Closs family and Patterson's father and sister all left the courthouse without commenting.
Patterson told authorities he decided Jayme "was the girl he was going to take" after he saw her getting on a school bus near her home, according to a criminal complaint.
He told investigators he plotted carefully, including wearing all-black clothing, putting stolen licence plates on his car and taking care to leave no fingerprints on his shotgun.
Jayme told police that the night of the abduction, the family dog's barking awoke her, and she went to wake up her parents as a car came up the driveway.
While her father went to the front door, Jayme and her mother hid in the bathroom, clutching each other in the bathtub, the shower curtain pulled shut.
Patterson shot Jayme's father as he entered the house, then found Jayme and her mother.
He told detectives he wrapped tape around Jayme's mouth and head, taped her hands behind her back and taped her ankles together, then shot her mother in the head.
Patterson told police he dragged Jayme outside, threw her in the boot of his car, and took her to his cabin, the complaint said.
During Jayme's time in captivity, Patterson forced her to hide under a bed when he had friends over and penned her in with tote boxes and weights, warning that if she moved "bad things could happen to her".
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