Almost from the start of the Wettering case, Danny Heinrich was one of the suspects.
Al Garber, lead FBI investigator in 1989, told KARE 11’s Caroline Lowe that detectives watched Heinrich - around the clock - for weeks.
“We were hoping he would go someplace or do something that would lead us to evidence or to Jacob. And he didn't," Garber said.
Heinrich was already a suspect in a series of sexual assaults in the Paynesville area, including the kidnapping and sexual assault of another 12-year-old boy from Cold Spring just months earlier.Authorities arrested – and questioned -- Danny Heinrich, but didn’t have enough evidence to formally charge him.
“He wouldn't admit it and ultimately asked for a lawyer,” Garber recalled.Without a confession, Garber says there wasn’t enough evidence to hold Heinrich. So, investigators moved on to other leads.
But years later, Jared Scheierl - the Cold Spring boy who’d been kidnapped, assaulted, but released, came forward to describe his abduction for the first time publicly to KARE 11.“He stepped out of the vehicle, approached me from behind, grabbed me by the shoulders and put me in the car,” he said in an interview broadcast in 2004.
There was renewed speculation at the time that whoever assaulted Jared also may have taken Jacob.“The similarities are there,“ Stearns County Sheriff John Sanner told KARE 11 at the time.
Back in 1989 authorities kept some of Jared’s clothing. They hoped the kidnapper may have left trace evidence during the assault on Jared.Last summer that clothing provided a key break in the case.
Court documents say new DNA testing on Jared clothes – unavailable two decades ago – detected a match to Danny Heinrich.
Authorities used that new information to help get a search warrant for Heinrich’s Annandale home.
They didn’t find evidence connecting him to Jacob. But court record show they seized 19 three-ring binders containing images of child pornography.
At a news conference last October, U.S. Attorney Andy Luger announced that Danny Heinrich was being charged in federal court on multiple counts of possession of child pornography.
Because the statute of limitations had expired, he wasn’t charged Jared’s sex assault.
But authorities took the unusual step of naming him as a “person of interest” in the Wetterling case.
Ever since then, Heinrich has been held in jail awaiting trial as authorities used the child pornography charges to try to pressure him into revealing something about Jacob’ s abduction.
Now, with his federal trial just one month away, it appears Danny Heinrich finally talked.