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.
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.
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.
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
Minnesota National Guard
Tom Hauser, Paul McEnroe & Nate Leding
Updated: September 04, 2016 11:28 AM
Created: September 03, 2016 01:40 AM
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