Sheriff: Suspect in Jacob Wetterling Abduction Gave Investigators Details on Danny Heinrich

September 20, 2018 10:22 PM

For decades, investigators assigned to the Jacob Wetterling abduction focused on Duane Hart, a convicted sex offender from Paynesville.

But in the early 1990s, Hart also gave the FBI key details about Danny Heinrich, the man who in 2016 confessed to killing Wetterling.

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Now, Stearns County Sheriff Don Gudmundson said agents on the task force failed to follow up on that information.

RELATED: The Wetterling Files

During a press conference, Gudmundson reviewed key portions of the case file. He said then-FBI special agent Alan Garber interviewed Hart twice.

"Here's a critical question," Gudmundson said. "What happened to this information? Based on the reading of the file, it's not apparent that any follow up was done on this information."

Hart claimed to know Danny Heinrich. Gudmundson said Hart told investigators he'd been inside Heinrich's apartment, where he observed a black ninja suit and saw two police scanners, including one that was gray in color. Hart also said Heinrich showed him a dark blue pistol.

RELATED: 'We Can't Change What's Happened, but We Can Learn From It': Sheriff Outlines Missteps in Wetterling Investigation

Those are all details that matched suspect descriptions in the investigation.

Gudmundson said in the review of the case file, Hart recalled a conversation with Heinrich in October 1989.

"Heinrich asks Hart how to get rid of a body, asking if putting a body down a well or in a river would be the best way," Gudmundson said. "Hart tells him a body down a well will stink and that a body down the river will float."

Gudmundson said this information came to light during Hart's first interview with the task force in March 1991. But seven months later, investigators interviewed Hart again.

TIMELINE: Investigation of Danny Heinrich as a Suspect in Jacob Wetterling Case

During the October 1991 conversation, according to Gudmundson's review of the case file, Hart said the abductor has a ninja suit, a short-wave radio and a light tan van.

For a second time, Hart tells investigators key details about the suspect.

"The abductor lives in the vicinity of St. Joseph or Paynesville and is good at covering his ass," Gudmundson said.

At Thursday's press conference, Garber defended the FBI's work on the case. He said they though Heinrich did do it, but didn't have the evidence to go off of.

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Kirsten Swanson

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