A man accused of killing a teenager over an affair with his teacher wife admitted to the shooting in a jailhouse interview aired Thursday, but said it was an accident.
Eric McLean, charged with first-degree murder in the death of Sean Powell, told NBC's "Today" show that he knew "for a long time" that his wife was having an affair with the young man, but he refused to believe it.
"She was talking on the phone with him all of the time and talked about him a lot," McLean said. "It was like in a friendship way, but it was odd."
He said he also heard about the relationship from his two young sons a few weeks before the shooting: "They said that they went to the park with her and Sean, and that they were holding hands."
Powell, an 18-year-old former West High School student, had met Erin McLean, 29, the previous fall during her teaching internship at the school.
Eric McLean, 31, had been supporting his wife and family as a pizza deliveryman while working to complete his college degree so he could become a school band director. Even though he said he knew his wife was having an affair, he said he did not leave her because he loved her.
"I just wish that none of this had happened. This is a total disaster," he said.
When McLean was asked directly if he shot Powell, he immediately responded "Yes."
Asked if it was an accident, he also quickly said "Yes," though his attorney said he would not address specifics.
General Sessions Judge Bob McGee agreed Wednesday to allow the NBC interview over prosecutors' objections that it could prejudice a jury pool. Defense attorney Bruce Poston argued for the interview, saying it would be the only one he would allow before trial.
McLean surrendered on March 11 to a police officer who approached him walking along railroad tracks 6 miles (10 kilometers) from the high school, according to court affidavits obtained by The Associated Press on Wednesday. McLean identified a rifle near the tracks as the murder weapon.
"McLean stated that he had learned of an adulterous affair between his wife and the victim several weeks prior to the murder," Knoxville police investigator Andrew Boatman wrote.
McLean shot Powell after finding him at his house and telling him to leave, Boatman's affidavit said. McLean called authorities to report an intruder and called back saying to disregard the call "because the intruder was leaving," according to the affidavit.
McLean "stated that he felt a great amount of stress due to his wife's relationship with Powell," the investigator wrote.
Powell died from a shot in the head as he sat in his car outside the McLeans' home.
After the shooting, Erin McLean reportedly went to Nashville with their sons to stay with relatives. Four days after the murder, paramedics rushed her to a hospital after she tried to commit suicide with prescription drugs, according to police spokeswoman Kristin Mumford. She was released the next day, reports AP.
Poston said he would seek emergency custody of the children on behalf of Eric McLean's parents because there are "legitimate concerns regarding their safety."
Eric McLean faces a bond hearing on Tuesday.
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