Long-time suspect confesses to abducting and killing boy in 1989

by Jared Lewis September 9, 2016, 2:37
Long-time suspect confesses to abducting and killing boy in 1989

These were just some key factors as authorities worked to solve the October 22, 1989, abduction of Jacob Wetterling, an 11-year-old boy who was kidnapped from a rural road near his home in St. Joseph, about 80 miles northwest of Minneapolis.

Danny Heinrich, 53, provided details in court Tuesday on what took place on October 22, 1989, the day Wetterling went missing.

Now the Wetterlings must heal from the very bad truth they had resisted for so many years. He confronted the boys, and told two of them - Jacob's younger brother, Trevor, and best friend, Aaron Larson - to run, and took Jacob into his vehicle, handcuffing him in the front passenger seat.

Heinrich said at some point a patrol vehicle with sirens and lights passing nearby caused him to panic. When they passed him, he put on a mask, exited his vehicle, and forced them to lie in a ditch at gunpoint. He then took the boy to Paynesville, where he stopped next to a grove of trees, he told the court.

It was there, Heinrich said, that he removed the handcuffs and Jacob's clothes, and molested him.

Heinrich said he drove Jacob to a gravel pit near Paynesville and assaulted him.

"I wish we had a different result but the people standing with me today delivered what we could, the truth", said United States Attorney Andrew Luger.

Shortly thereafter, a passing police auto sent Heinrich into a panic. "I raised the revolver and shot him again".

Plea deals are the norm when it comes to criminal cases.

There could be no satisfactory resolution to the Jacob Wetterling case.

"I said, 'don't cry, '" Heinrich said. "Found a spot and dug a hole with a trenching tool about two feet deep. and put the bones in that hole and the jacket on top", he told the court. In a Minneapolis courtroom, Heinrich also said he kidnapped and sexually assaulted another boy.

In the beginning, the case seemed to have a lot going for it: The abduction took place on a dead-end road with limited escape routes, there were two witnesses who reported it right away, the Stearns County Sheriff's Office responded nearly immediately.

A Fargo defense lawyer says the plea deal that will send Danny Heinrich to prison for 20 years was the best and only option to resolve the kidnapping and murder of Jacob Wetterling. Investigators got a search warrant for Heinrich's house and while they didn't locate evidence for the Wetterling case, they did find a huge stash of child pornography, which County Attorney Janelle Kendall realized might be the leverage that could crack the Wetterling case, because child pornography carries a potential 20-year sentence per count. It required all states to maintain a registry of convicted sexual offenders. Patty Wetterling becomes a national advocate for missing children.

Allen Garber, the Federal Bureau of Investigation supervisor on the case at the time, said Heinrich came to authorities' attention early on, and they put him under surveillance for several weeks. "Say a prayer. Light a candle".

A Twin Cities woman and some friends started what they are calling the Create Joy Movement.


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