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

September 20, 2018 04:07 PM

In October of 1989, 11-year-old Jacob Wetterling vanished. His disappearance went unsolved for nearly three decades, until September 2016, when Danny Heinrich confessed and led investigators to the spot where he buried Wetterling's body.

Below is a timeline of the investigation into Heinrich as a suspect in Wetterling's disappearance, compiled from investigative files released Thursday.


RELATED: The Wetterling Files

Jan. 16, 1989: Danny Heinrich is first identified as a suspected child abductor in January 1989, after a young boy is kidnapped and assaulted in Cold Spring.

However, Heinrich was quickly ruled out as a suspect and was not interviewed.

Oct. 22, 1989: Jacob Wetterling is kidnapped.

Oct. 24, 1989: Two days later, investigators receive a tip that Wetterling's disappearance may be connected to a series of abductions in the Paynesville area. That tip would not be investigated for more than two months.

Dec. 12, 1989: Heinrich is interviewed by two FBI agents about the Wetterling kidnapping for the first time.

Jan. 8, 1990: The Paynesville police chief comes forward to tell investigators Heinrich should be considered a suspect because of molestation episodes over the last year in that town.

Jan. 10, 1990: Heinrich is interviewed again about Wetterling by a sheriff's deputy and an FBI agent.

Jan. 12, 1990: Two days later, Heinrich fails a lie detector test and is put under surveillance.

Jan. 23, 1990: The FBI searches Heinrich's father's home.

Jan. 26, 1990: Heinrich appears in a police lineup. He was not identified by the victim in Cold Spring, but the lineup was not shown to any other victims or the two boys who were with Wetterling the night he was abducted.

Feb. 9, 1990: Heinrich is arrested by sheriff's deputies at a small town bar. He was charged with kidnapping and first-degree criminal sexual conduct for the abduction in Cold Spring, but was later released.

March - April 1990: Heinrich is not mentioned again until background investigations are conducted in the spring of 1990.

June 1990: By June of 1990, Heinrich was "all but forgotten" as a possible suspect in Wetterling's abduction, according to current Stearns County Sheriff Don Gudmundson.

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

Oct. 28, 2015: Heinrich is arrested on child pornography charges.

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

Aug. 31, 2016: Heinrich shows investigators where he killed and buried Wetterling, in a wooded area on a farm outside of Paynesville. Wetterling's remains are unearthed over the next several days.

Sept. 6, 2016: Heinrich outlines the events of Oct. 22, 1989, in court, admitting he kidnapped, sexually assaulted and killed Jacob. He also admits to reburying Jacob's remains.

Dec. 23, 2016: Heinrich's Annandale home is demolished.

Jan. 4, 2017: Heinrich is sentenced to federal prison in Oklahoma.


Joe Augustine

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