A suspect has been named in the disappearance of 11-year-old Jacob Wetterling in Minnesota in 1989. Police in the town of Annadale arrested Danny James Heinrich on the night of October 28 after officers said they found child pornography at his home. That search was related to the Wetterling case.
The pre-teen was taken at gunpoint by a man close to Wetterling’s home in St. Joseph, Minnesota, on October 22, 1989. He had been playing with his brother, Trevor, and friend when he vanished, Aaron Larson. The trio were going to rent a video.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Heinrich ‘Deserved Closer Scrutiny’ After First Being Questioned in 1989
In 1989, shortly after Wetterling went missing, Heinrich was questioned by FBI agents but “deserved closer scrutiny,” reports Fox Minneapolis. Advances in DNA technology had led investigators to being looked at Heinrich’s possible role in Wetterling’s disappearance. In addition, there are shoe prints from the scene of Wetterling’s abduction that may match Heinrich’s. The Star-Tribune reports that as recently as July 28, deputies from Stearns County searched Heinrich’s home.
2. Jacob Wetterling’s Case Is Still an ‘Ongoing Investigation’
In the aftermath of the arrest, Wetterling’s parents Patty and Jerry released a statement that read:
The Wetterling family would like to thank all involved in the investigation of Danny Heinrich and his crimes against children. The search for Jacob Wetterling is an ongoing investigation and we will watch and learn with everyone else. Right now we know what is being reported. We know what you all know.
For 26 long years, we have said that somebody knows something. If you know anything about this man, his ties to St. Joseph in 1989 and his victimization of children or since, please call the Stearns County Sheriff’s Department at 320-259-3700 or 320-656-6625.
We also need to point out the obvious. Child pornography is devastating, harmful criminal activity. If you know of anyone who is engaged in looking at, producing or sharing child pornography please call the police or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (1-800-THE-LOST) so that these people do not harm another child.
We are so grateful for the prayers, the support and the Hope shared in our search for Jacob and the search for answers. Who took Jacob? Where is he? What happened?
Today we ask for a little time. We will be available for comment next week but ask for some space at this point in time. We have no further comment.”
Patty and Jerry Wetterling
In a press conference on the day Heinrich was named as a suspect, Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Activity Drew Evans told the media “We will not rest until we bring Jacob home.” Anybody with knowledge of Heinrich’s activities during the 1990s is asked to contact the Stearns County Sheriff or the FBI.
3. Heinrich Is Connected to Multiple Sex Assault Cases From the 1980s
The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports that there is DNA evidence that connects Heinrich to a separate sexual assault case in Cold Spring, Minnesota, also from 1989. The paper adds that investigators are also looking into connections that Heinrich could have with eight other molestation cases in Minnesota during the 1980s.
At the time of writing, Heinrich is charged with receiving and possessing child pornography. According to U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger, Heinrich “has denied any involvement.”
You can read the full documents in the case here:
4. Officers Say They Found 19-Ring Binders of Child Porn at His Home, As Well Recordings of News Segments About Wetterling’s Disappearance
According to the criminal complaint, FBI agents found 19 three-ring binders of pornographic images at Heinrich’s home. Hours of video was also recovered, showing children playing on bicycles and at playgrounds. There were no images of video of Wetterling in the collection. Although the criminal complaint says that recordings of news segments about Wetterling’s disappearance were found.
Documents say that the videos found in Heinrich’s home were apparently shot by the suspect from hidden locations.
5. Jacob Wetterling’s Mother Is Now One of the Foremost Advocates for Exploited Children in the U.S.
Since her son was taken, Patty Wetterling has been an advocate for missing children, eventually becoming a board member with the International Center for Missing & Exploited Children. She’s also entered the political world, running twice on Democratic Farmer Labor party ticket for Minnesota’s 6th District in 2004 and 2006. In the latter year, Patty lost to Michele Bachmann in the heavily Republican district. During her first campaign in ’04, Patty received a $1,000 donation from Barack Obama, then a Senate candidate.
The Minneapolis Star-Tribune refers to Jacob Wetterling’s parents as “national advocates, fighting to protect other children from similar fates.”