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Thread: Jacob Wetterling, 11, MN, Abducted 20 Years Ago

  1. #21

    Default Re: Jacob Wetterling, 11, MN, Abducted 20 Years Ago

    'Person of interest' named in 1989 Jacob Wetterling disappearance

    An Annandale, Minn., man first questioned 26 years ago about the disappearance of Jacob Wetterling has re-emerged as a “person of interest” in a chilling abduction that has long stymied investigators and haunted the public, authorities said Thursday.

    Daniel James Heinrich, 52, was arrested at his home Wednesday night on charges of receiving and possessing child pornography. At a news conference Thursday in Minneapolis, authorities said they are also investigating Heinrich’s possible link to the Wetterling case.

    Jacob was 11 when he was kidnapped shortly after 9 p.m. on the night of Oct. 22, 1989, as he and his brother, Trevor, 10, and best friend, Aaron Larson, 11, rode their bikes to a Tom Thumb store not far from the family’s rural St. Joseph, Minn., home to rent a video.

    As they headed home in the warmth of an autumn night, a masked man with a gun appeared on a remote dirt road leading to the Wetterling house, told the boys to lie face down in a nearby ditch and asked each his age. He then ordered Trevor and Aaron to run to the woods and not look back. When the boys did, Jacob and the masked man were gone.

    Stearns County investigators who searched Heinrich’s home in July looking for evidence in both the Wetterling case and a separate kidnapping and sexual assault involving a boy in nearby Cold Spring, Minn., nine months earlier, found nothing to connect Heinrich to Jacob. But they turned up 19 three-ring binders containing 100 images of child pornography. The binders included pictures of some known child victims. Child pornography also was found on Heinrich’s hard drive.

    A search warrant filed in the case also noted that DNA was discovered this year on some clothing that may link Heinrich to the January 1989 sex assault victim.

    Investigators have long cited similarities in the two cases — both in the description of the suspect and how he approached his victims — as reason to believe the same person was responsible for both. The boy in the Cold Spring abduction was released by his assailant after the assault. Jacob has never been found.

    Authorities stressed that they have not charged Heinrich in Jacob’s disappearance and that he has consistently told investigators — both soon after the boy’s abduction and again recently — that he was not involved. In court documents filed Thursday, investigators also made reference to “an assault cluster” in Paynesville, Minn., in the late 1980s involving eight incidents, all within a mile of Heinrich’s home. The perpetrator was described by “various victims” as a “heavy” or “pudgy” white male in his 30s between 5 feet 6 and 5 feet 9. The document describes Heinrich as “a white male ... his physical description in the late 1980s was 5’5”, 160 pounds, with brown hair and brown eyes.”

    Heinrich, who is being held in the Sherburne County jail, is scheduled to appear at 10 a.m. Wednesday in U.S. District Court in St. Paul on the child pornography charges.

    No direct links to Jacob

    Jacob’s abduction, in a relatively small and quiet prairie town about 75 miles northwest of the Twin Cities, shocked Minnesotans like few crimes before it, gripping a region for weeks, making headlines across the country and forever changing the way parents watched over their children.

    In the years since, investigators vetted more than 50,000 leads worldwide hoping for the clue that would lead them to Jacob. In the meantime, the boy became the face of missing children in Minnesota and nationwide, and his parents became national advocates, fighting to protect other children from similar fates.

    At the time of the abduction, Heinrich lived in Paynesville, 30 minutes from St. Joseph.

    Heinrich was interviewed about Jacob shortly after he disappeared and reinterviewed at least twice in 1990. The Paynesville house where he lived with his father, who has since died, also was searched by authorities.

    They found six photos of children, including one depicting a boy wrapped in a towel exiting a shower, and another of a boy in his underwear. No charges were brought at that time.

    In February 1990, Heinrich was arrested on probable cause in the Cold Spring case, which involved a juvenile male identified in documents only as “JNS.” Heinrich said he was innocent and was released without being charged.

    At Thursday’s news conference, FBI Special Agent Richard T. Thornton said authorities decided to take a “fresh” look at the Wetterling case, and out of it came a decision to look at body hair samples that Heinrich had provided the FBI in 1990.

    Dennis Kern, a Stearns County sheriff’s investigator, provided samples to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension for DNA testing. Heinrich’s profile matched hair samples on the boy sexually assaulted in January 1989, Kern wrote in a court document.

    While investigators made a link, Heinrich could not be charged because the statute of limitations had expired.

    An attachment to the criminal complaint said that in January 1990, Heinrich gave the FBI permission to take an impression of the tires on his 1982 Ford EXP. Investigators found that tire marks in a gravel driveway next to the abduction scene had similar marks. In addition, Heinrich’s right shoe corresponded in size and design to a shoe impression from the Wetterling abduction scene.

    However, an FBI special agent, Shane Ball, cautioned in the document that “an exact match” of such impressions would have to be based on unique characteristics of the tire or shoe, such as a scuff, wear mark or divot. “No such unique markings were present,” Ball wrote.

    U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger said Thursday that Heinrich “has denied any involvement” in Jacob’s disappearance. But according to Thornton, he is considered “a person of interest” based on his being “a contributor” to the DNA on the clothing linked to the Cold Spring case.

    Stearns County Sheriff John Sanner said child pornography found in Heinrich’s Annandale home involved prepubescent boys, some known to law enforcement as victims. VHS videotapes, apparently shot by Heinrich from a hidden location, showed boys riding bikes and at playgrounds.

    Few knew suspect well

    Heinrich, called Danny by most who knew him, moved from Paynesville to Annandale in the years after Jacob’s abduction, according to public records, living in his father’s basement for a time. His father, Howard, died in 2002. Public records contain little information about his mother. He has two brothers.

    Annandale neighbors described Heinrich as a mostly quiet man who was meticulous with his yard. His small one-story house has a detached garage.

    After state and federal agents visited the house and took out boxes this summer, Heinrich gave a few neighbors his version of what had happened, they said.

    “He just came right out and told us that things were going to get crazy,” neighbor Megan Champlin said. He told Champlin that authorities had found child porn, but that she didn’t have to worry because none of it involved her children, ages 5 and 1.

    He also said that authorities were trying to connect him to the Wetterling case, she said.

    In the months that followed, Heinrich kept going to work at a factory every day, she said, and she had wondered what became of the raid. Thursday’s news, she said was “unsettling … This neighborhood is full of kids.”

    Across the street, neighbor Rita Kurr described the revelations as “scary.” Kurr said her family didn’t associate with Heinrich because they got a strange vibe from him and heard him curse loudly when talking with others in his yard.

    According to the search warrant, Heinrich worked at various times at Master Mark Plastics in Albany, Minn.; the Fingerhut Corp., and most recently at Buffalo Veneer and Plywood.

    Heinrich served in the Willmar National Guard, court documents say, although the Minnesota National Guard said Thursday that it hasn’t been able to confirm that he was a member.

    Heinrich was convicted of two burglaries in 1984 and filed for bankruptcy twice, most recently in 2011.

    Neither Patty nor Jerry Wetterling returned phone calls Thursday to comment about Heinrich’s arrest. But in a statement, they described the search for Jacob as “an ongoing investigation, and we will watch and learn with everyone else. ... For 26 long years, we have said that somebody knows something. ...Today, we ask for a little time.”

    They’ve been here before.

    In 2010, investigators dug up truckloads of dirt and ash from a farm property near the spot where Jacob was taken. But forensic tests turned up no evidence.

    Last year, investigators announced they were taking a new look into whether the abduction was linked to similar stranger assault cases in Paynesville in 1986 and 1987.

    There were at least five assaults involving teenage boys, including one who was grabbed off his bicycle.

    Nancy Sabin, former executive director of the Jacob Wetterling Foundation, said Jerry and Patty once gave her advice that still echoes today. “You have to pace yourself,” Sabin said, adding that Thursday’s announcement is “just one more lead.”

  2. #22

    replica3 Re: Jacob Wetterling, 11, MN, Abducted 20 Years Ago

    Thank you Jace

    Hopeful for answers to all our questions

  3. #23

    Default Re: Jacob Wetterling, 11, MN, Abducted 20 Years Ago

    Me too Trigger, let's hope his parents find some closure.

    Parents, neighbors haunted by Jacob Wetterling abduction now hoping for answers

    After 26 years of mystery surrounding the abduction of Jacob Wetterling, hope of resolution for his parents and the city of St. Joseph emerged on Thursday.

    The arrest of Annandale’s Daniel Heinrich on child pornography charges became even more significant when a subsequent link to the case of another Stearns County boy who went missing around the same time as Wetterling was revealed.

    Though he has not been charged with Wetterling’s abduction and denies involvement, authorities led by U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger went public with the information, identifying him as a “person of interest” in the cold case.

    Wetterling’s parents Patty and Jerry, who opened a child protection center bearing their son’s name after he went missing, issued a statement that was hopeful, but also asked “for time” as the investigation progresses.

    “The search for Jacob is an ongoing investigation and we will watch and learn with everybody else,” they said, adding: “For 26 years we have said that somebody knows something … we are so grateful for the prayers, the support and hope shared in our search for Jacob and the search for answers.”

    The case that changed parenting

    Governor Mark Dayton summed up during a press conference Thursday the profound impact the 11-year-old’s disappearance in 1989 had on Minnesota and parents’ psyche.

    “Especially in rural parts of the state, you didn’t think twice about letting 11 year old kids go with their friends to rent a movie, leaving your doors unlocked and what not, letting kids go out to play in the neighborhood,” he said.

    “People have seen it [these kind of incidents] as a way of life, and that respect for public life is not 100% assured as we want it to be and as it should be.”

    Mother-of-two Teresa Lhotka, executive director of Missing Children Minnesota, described to FOX 9 the day Jacob Wetterling disappeared as the day “we lost our innocence as a state.”

    “We lost our illusions as a state and they were dangerous illusions,” she said.

    Missing Children Minnesota was running a child protection workshop in Chaska which FOX 9 attended, with parent Chad Petrie saying it changed the way he parented.

    “The thought of the whole situation is always with you with everything. It’s like you know hold hands, pay attention. Look for people you don’t know. Don’t run off with them. Fight. Instill it from an early age.”

    Closure sought in St. Joseph

    In Wetterling’s hometown of St. Joseph, the memory of his abduction by a “masked gunman” as he returned from a convenience store hangs heavy. Residents are now hoping there can be some closure.

    “It’s still talked about all the time,” local Kevin Cox told the Star Tribune. “Nobody’s forgotten about it.”

    “This doesn’t solve it, but it’s a good beginning to, hopefully, an end,” he added.

    “It’s just very moving,” St. Joseph resident Vera Theisan told KSTP. “I hope it goes somewhere, this has been a terrible case for so many years … this is very touching.”

    “My parents made sure I never went too far on my own,” another local, Abbey Haugen, added.

    Heinrich’s arrest and subsequent charging following an FBI investigation also provoked a strong reaction in Annandale.

    Neighbor Deanna Picka spoke to the St. Cloud Times, saying her husband would visit with him whenever he was outside.

    “My kids sold popcorn at his house. We could always tell something was a little off, so we tried to stay on the other side of the street.

    “This really came to our attention this August. The police came and talked to us and said that they had confiscated an entire vanload of materials. And they told us to keep our eyes open and our ears open.”

  4. #24

    Default Re: Jacob Wetterling, 11, MN, Abducted 20 Years Ago

    'Person of interest' in Wetterling disappearance pleads not guilty to child porn charges

    Person of interest in Jacob Wetterling abduction still maintains he is not connected to that case.

    The Annandale, Minn. man identified as a person of interest in the 1989 disappearance of Jacob Wetterling pleaded not guilty Monday to charges that he possessed and received child pornography.

    Danny James Heinrich, 52, entered the plea during an arraignment before Magistrate Judge Leo Brisbois in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis.

    Wearing an orange jumpsuit, Heinrich spoke only briefly, stating his name and birth date in a hearing that lasted less than five minutes.

    A trial date on the child pornography charges is set for July 11. Heinrich's next court appearance — a motions hearing — is scheduled for April 27.

    Heinrich has been in federal custody since late October, after authorities arrested him on charges of receiving and possessing child pornography. He was indicted in December on 25 child pornography charges stemming from a search of his home last summer that turned up print and digital images of children, some under the age of 12.

    A search warrant showed that authorities had been looking for evidence in both Jacob's abduction and a separate kidnapping and sexual assault of a 12-year-old boy in nearby Cold Spring, Minn., nine months before Jacob disappeared.

    Jacob was 11 when he was kidnapped shortly after 9 p.m. on Oct. 22, 1989, as he and his brother, Trevor, 10, and best friend, Aaron Larson, 11, rode their bikes to a Tom Thumb store not far from the family's rural St. Joseph, Minn., home to rent a video.

    As they headed home, a masked man with a gun appeared on the dirt road leading to the Wetterling house, told the boys to lie face down in a nearby ditch and asked each his age. He then ordered Trevor and Aaron to run to the woods and not look back.

    Jacob has yet to be found, and no one has ever been charged in the case.

    Heinrich, who lived in Paynesville, Minn., about 30 miles southwest of St. Joseph, at the time of Jacob's abduction, was questioned by investigators soon after it happened and several times in 1990. He said then that he was not involved, authorities have said.

    But he re-emerged as a "person of interest" last summer, investigators said, because of similarities to the January 1989 kidnapping and sexual assault of the Cold Spring boy.

    DNA evidence later found on the sweatshirt of the boy, Jared Scheierl — who is now 40 and speaking publicly about the assault — matched Heinrich. Authorities said in October that Heinrich could not be charged in Scheierl's case because the statute of limitations had run out.

    Scheierl, who now lives in Paynesville, trekked to Monday's arraignment in Minneapolis, knowing it might be brief. But he felt it was important to be there, he said afterward.

    "I want him to feel my presence in the courtroom when he comes to the stand," Scheierl said. "Just the number of years that this person overshadowed me, in a way.

    "It's a sense of closure."

    Authorities said in October that Heinrich consistently has told them, both soon after Jacob's disappearance and again recently, that he was not involved. They also said that when they searched Heinrich's home last summer, they found nothing to connect him to Jacob.

    At that time, however, they found 19 three-ring binders containing numerous images of child pornography. The binders included pictures of some known child victims. Child pornography also was found on Heinrich's computer hard drive.

    When authorities arrived at Heinrich's house with a search warrant, he described himself as "a dirty old man" but denied creating pornography or sharing it with anyone, according to a federal agent who testified in court.

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