After 27 Years, Finally Answers in the Jacob Wetterling Case
Jacob was 11-years-old when he was abducted on October 22, 1989
After 27 years, finally some answers into the disappearance of 11-year-old, Jacob Wetterling.
Saturday, September 3, a Minnesota man led authorities to the remains of Wetterling, who he abducted in 1989.
Wetterling was taken on a rural Minnesota road by a man wearing a mask and donning a gun, and his family has waited decades for answers on what happened.
Last year, authorities named Danny Heinrich, as a person of interest in the abduction. Just last week, Heinrich led authorities to where Wetterling’s remains were buried.
Today Heinrich, 53, appeared in court on charges of child pornography, and as part of a plea agreement with authorities, he confessed to the kidnapping, sexual assault, and murder of Wetterling.
Heinrich accepted the plea deal, which was two parts, according to U.S. Attorney, Andrew Lugen, part one required him to tell where Jacob was, as well as a full detailed confession.
The second part would require him to plead guilty to his current charges and to confess in open court what he did to Jacob Wetterling and Jared Scheierl, who was sexually assaulted when he was 12 in Cold Spring in January 1989.
He was initially facing 25 counts of child pornography, that was reduced to one count of receiving child pornography, the other 24 counts are dismissed in addition to this agreement.
Heinrich initially denied involvement in Wetterling’s death, but in court he said he saw the boys bike by, and confronted them as they were returning down the road. He ordered the boys to get in the ditch, and he said the boys tried to shine a flashlight in his eyes, and offered him the tape they had rented from the video store.
He then brought Jacob to his car, handcuffed him, and put him in the front passengers seat. Jacob said, “What did I do wrong?”
Heinrich had a police scanner that he used to avoid officers, and ordered Jacob to hide below the seat as they drove out of St. Joseph.
Heinrich then took Jacob on a route that ended in Paynesville, near a row of trees by a gravel pit. He opened the door for Jacob, removed the handcuffs, and made him undress. He then proceeded to touch Jacob inappropriately, he claims there was no penetration or oral sex.
Heinrich heard a police car, and panicked. He told Jacob to turn around, using the excuse he needed to use the bathroom, and loaded his revolver, then proceeded to shoot Jacob in the head twice.
Heinrich later buried Wetterling in a gravel pit; he would revisit the site a year later, to find that it was uncovered and would then relocate the body to the area he led police last week.
Andy Luger, U.S. Attorney said during Tuesday’s press conference, “The unthinkable admissions we just heard in court, make us all angry. We will of course all ask, why? There’s no good answer.”
Prosecutors say they have consulted with the Wetterling family and have gotten their approval for a plea deal, which means their son’s killer faces a recommended sentence of just 20 years in prison.
Attorney, Andy Luger, told reporters after Heinrich pleaded guilty to a single child pornography count, that the 53-year-old isn’t getting away with anything. He could still be civilly committed after he finishes his sentence.
Patty Wetterling, Jacob’s mother, who has been a major advocate for Jacob and other missing children, spoke at the press conference today. This is the first time the family has spoke to the media since Jacob’s body was unearthed last week.
“For us, he was alive until we found him. We need to heal. There’s a lot of lessons learned and work to protect all of our world’s children,” Patty said through tears.