Sources: Jacob Wetterling's Remains Have Been Found

September 04, 2016 11:28 AM

Sources tell 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS the remains of Jacob Wetterling have been found after Danny Heinrich, who authorities had named as a person of interest in his 1989 kidnapping, agreed to cooperate and provide information.

The sources say Heinrich led investigators to an undisclosed location in central Minnesota where the remains were found. DNA tests are currently being conducted to determine if they are in fact the boy's remains.

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Saturday morning, Jacob's mother, Patty Wetterling, texted media outlets “Our hearts are broken. We have no words.”

Jacob was 11 years old when he was kidnapped at gunpoint by a man wearing a mask in October 1989 near his home in St. Joseph, Minnesota.

The Jacob Wetterling Resource Center released a statement Saturday saying, in part, "We are in deep grief. We didn't want Jacob's story to end this way. ... Our hearts are heavy, but we are being held up by all of the people who have been a part of making Jacob's Hope a light that will never be extinguished. It shines on in a different way. We are, and we will continue to be, Jacob's Hope."

Over the years there have been many tips and none of them have panned out.

KSTP reporter Tom Hauser and Executive Producer of Investigations Paul McEnroe worked through the night to confirm details with sources. 

According to two sources with direct knowledge of the case, the remains were recovered after Heinrich, who is being held on federal child pornography charges, agreed to cooperate with the FBI and state authorities.

The 52-year-old Heinrich of Annandale, Minnesota, has been held on the child pornography charges for almost a year while awaiting trial scheduled for next month.

On Oct. 22, 1989, Wetterling, his brother and a friend were riding their bikes home from a convenience store where they had gone to rent a movie.

The boys were stopped by a masked gunman who emerged from a gravel road. The man abducted Wetterling and ordered the other boys to run to a nearby wooded area and threatened to shoot them if they looked back.

Jacob was never found despite a massive search.

Heinrich first came to the attention of investigators in 1990. A DNA sample was taken back then, but he was not charged at the time.

Heinrich was named a person of interest in the Wetterling case last October. That’s because his DNA taken back in 1990 matched DNA found on evidence obtained in the abduction of a boy in Cold Spring in 1989.

Heinrich couldn’t be charged in that case because the statute of limitations had lapsed.

But Heinrich was arrested for possession of child pornography and then subsequently named a person of interest in the Wetterling case.

Read the criminal complaint against Danny Heinrich

Read the Wetterling Family Statement Regarding Heinrich

Read the July 2015 Danny Heinrich Search Warrant

VIDEO: Patty and Jerry Wetterling Talk About Heinrich Arrest

VIDEO: Aaron Larson Talks About Danny Heinrich's Arrest

VIDEO: Jared Scheierel Talks About Danny Heinrich's Arrest

VIDEO: Wetterling Foundation Aims at Educating and Assisting Families and Communities

Timeline in the disappearance of Jacob Wetterling

Oct. 22, 1989: 11-year-old Jacob is abducted by a masked gunman about 9:15 p.m. in St. Joseph, Minnesota. A search begins.

Oct. 27, 1989: Officials release an artist’s sketch of the man who tried to abduct a boy earlier in the summer in Stearns County, thinking the incidents could be linked to the same man.

Nov. 30, 1989: A more accurate sketch of the earlier sketch is released.

Dec. 16, 1989: Daniel Heinrich is interviewed by the FBI. He said he couldn’t recall where he was on the day Jacob disappeared.

Jan. 16, 1990: The Wetterlings announce plans to establish the Jacob Wetterling Foundation.

1994: The Jacob Wetterling Act was passed in his honor. It was the first law to institute a state sex-offender registry.

June 30, 2010: A farm in rural St. Joseph is searched. Jacob was last seen at the end of the property’s driveway.

July 1, 2010: Crews dig up the farm, and officials remain tight-lipped on what they are doing.

July 2, 2010: Dan Rassier, a man who lives at the farm, is named a person of interest.

Sept. 28, 2010: The Stearns County Sheriff’s Office reports that lab tests on materials gathered at the farm did not produce evidence.

October 2014: Investigators put up billboards in the St. Joseph area asking people to call investigators to call if they have any information about Wetterling. The billboard features images of Wetterling from 1989 and what he would look like at age 36.

July 28, 2015: Officials execute a search warrant in Annandale at the home of Daniel Heinrich. DNA evidence linked him to a sexual assault of a 12-year-old boy in Cold Spring, 10 months before Jacob went missing. Evidence of pornography was discovered along with news reports of Jacob and other missing children.

Oct. 28, 2015: Daniel Heinrich is arrested.

Oct. 29, 2015: Law enforcement names Daniel Heinrich a “person of interest” in the disappearance. He is charged with child pornography.

Danny Heinrich

Here’s what we know about 52-year-old Danny James Heinrich of Annandale, who was named a person of interest in the disappearance of Jacob Wetterling.

Cold Spring Case

  • Nine months before Wetterling’s abduction, a 12-year-old Cold Spring boy was forced into the backseat of a car and assaulted.
  • Heinrich was identified as a person of interest in that case, but the victim couldn’t definitively identify him in a lineup.
  • Police arrested Heinrich for the Cold Spring attack in February 1990, but he denied having anything to do with it, and he was eventually released without being charged.
  • Investigators now say recently-tested clothes worn by the boy in the 1989 Cold Spring abduction and sexual assault were found to contain Heinrich’s DNA.
  • Heinrich can’t be charged in the Cold Spring case because of the statute of limitations, U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger said.

Wetterling Disappearance

  • Heinrich has denied any involvement in the disappearance of Wetterling.
  • Stearns County Sheriff John Sanner said Heinrich was looked at “very closely” in 1989 and 1990 and that he is “not someone new to us.”
  • Heinrich was questioned for the first time two months after Wetterling was abducted. Law enforcement officers questioned him three more times in the following weeks and months.

Pornography Charges

  • Investigators executed a search warrant at Heinrich’s Annandale home on July 28.
  • Investigators say they found more than 100 pictures of suspected child pornography at the home, including 19 three-ring binders that were full of images of children, including naked, young boys.
  • In the search, investigators also say they found news report clippings about Wetterling’s abduction and other missing children.
  • They also said they found hours of videos, apparently recorded by Heinrich, of neighborhood children delivering newspapers, riding bikes, playing on playgrounds and participating in sports.

Minnesota National Guard

  • Heinrich served in the Minnesota National Guard from February 1982 to November 1991. He left service Nov. 24, 1991, at the rank of Specialist. He was discharged under honorable conditions.

Credits

Tom Hauser, Paul McEnroe & Nate Leding

Copyright 2018 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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