Danny Heinrich Victim Testifies in Civil Trial

October 19, 2018 07:11 PM

In January, 1989, a boy in Cold Spring was abducted and sexually assaulted by a man the world now knows was Danny Heinrich.

For decades, Jared Scheierl searched for his abductor who had left a lasting mark on his past, present and future.


Scheierl was 12 when Danny Heinrich assaulted him in Minnesota, nine months before 11-year-old Jacob was kidnapped in October 1989.

"It's a lot of reflection," said Scheierl as he testified for the first time ever on Friday in a Stearns County courtroom. "I'm isolated. I have social anxiety, having the stigma of being associated as the victim of an assault."

Heinrich was never criminally charged with Scheierl's kidnapping or assault because the statute of limitations had run out.

Scheierl is now suing Heinrich, saying its his only remaining option for justice in this case.

"This lawsuit is the only vehicle he has to punish Danny Heinrich," said Scheierl's attorney Doug Kelley in court on Friday.

More from KSTP:

KSTP's Wetterling Files Coverage 

RAW: Sexual Assault Survivor Reflects on Jacob Wetterling's Disappearance 

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This civil case is the first and only time Scheierl has been able to take the stand and tell his story for the record in a court of law.

"It's a win in that sense," he said. "That people start to talk about these cases more."

Scheierl is asking for millions in damages, according to his attorneys. They won't give a specific amount until the paperwork is filed, but say they believe this will be a historic case for Minnesota and set an important precedent for victims moving forward.

Heinrich is currently serving a 20 year sentence in a Massachusetts prison and was not present for the hearing.

Scheierl testified that ever since he was 12-years-old, law enforcement promised they'd bring kidnapping charges against his abductor once found. 

But in 2015, when DNA evidence linked Scheierl's assault to Danny Heinrich, he learned the statute of limitations had run out and Heinrich would never be criminally charged in his case.

The DNA evidence allowed law enforcement to search Heinrich's home and bring child pornography charges against him. They then had enough evidence to leverage a deal that would involve Heinrich leading them to Wetterling's remains.

Patty Wetterling also took the stand, Friday , saying that if Scheierl's DNA evidence hadn't linked back to Heinrich in the first place, law enforcement may have never been able to locate Jacob's remains.

"We really adopted him," Wetterling said of Scheierl "We're incredibly grateful for all he did to find Jacob.  Without Jared's DNA, Heinrich wouldn't have been convinced to confess and tell them where Jacob was."

This civil case isn't closure for anyone. They say it's just a long overdue and necessary part of the process.

"The struggle for me is Danny let everybody go. Until Jacob. And it just… I didn't want it to be him because it didn't make any sense. You know, if he did it, why didn't he let him go? I don't understand. So we've been through a lot together and I was just happy to be here and share some of the journey that I've witnessed. (Jared) is a good man. He's a good person,"  Wetterling said

The court also heard testimony from Scheierl's best friend and his ex-wife on how he had become "consumed" by the case, especially around the time Heinrich was arrested but not charged.

"It's hard to watch the people you care about kind of break down and recognize that their feelings and emotions are wrapped up in this too," Scheierl said.  "If you've got anger in your heart, let it out. Because it's not good to carry that with you."

The judge said he will make his decision as soon as possible.


Katherine Johnson

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


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