PAYNESVILLE, Minn. – If ever a community needed a Friday night football game, it was the city of Paynesville on Friday night.
And the city capitalized on the community gathering by honoring the victims of sexual assaults in the 1980s – men who say they believe law enforcement failed to respond quickly enough to their attacks.
“I wish they would’ve heard us back then,” said Troy Cole, who was one of several Paynesville boys attacked by an assailant he believes was 53-year-old Danny Heinrich.
“As far as forgiving them, I don’t think I could ever do it. Knowing the pain that they put us through,” Cole added.
But Cole and the others believed it was also important to show their community is moving forward. And for one of the victims, it was also a chance to honor those who hadn’t yet been heard.
“I also wanted to recognize the other victims who helped me put the pieces together,” said Jared Scheierl.
This week, Scheierl has been called a hero for his role in bringing answers to the question, “Where is Jacob?” Nearly one year after prosecutors charged Heinrich with receiving child pornography, Heinrich led investigators to Wetterling’s remains and also confessed to kidnapping, assaulting and murdering the 11-year-old St. Joseph boy on Oct. 22, 1989.
On Friday night, Scheierl coordinated the football game effort to acknowledge the Paynesville men who started talking about what happened to them nearly 30 years ago. He also sought to honor Jacob. The men wore number “11” t-shirts, players wore number “11” on their helmets and the announcer announced “11 For Jacob” – 11 simple traits, from being kind to being honest – that all of us can follow to honor Jacob’s legacy.
“Very grateful that at least Jacob was found,” said Danny Garvick, a man who helped convict another Paynesville man of sexual assault in 1990.
Garvick and the others say they now want to reassure the community – and especially the children within – that they can always come forward and report when something’s wrong.
“It’s ok to step up and say, ‘hey, this person has done something wrong to me,’” Garvick said.
“Nobody really talks about it. But you know, we opened the door to that,” Brad Froelich said, adding, “We’re here to protect our children, that’s our duty.”