Judge awards $17M to sex assault victim of Wetterling killer

Jared Scheierl was abducted 9 months before Jacob Wetterling.
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Stearns County District Court.

Stearns County District Court.

A man who was sexually assaulted as a 12 year old by Danny Heinrich, the killer of Jacob Wetterling, has been awarded $17 million in damages.

Judge Andrew Pearson awarded the sum, including $10 million in punitive damages, to Jared Scheierl after finding against Heinrich in a 10-page decision released on Thursday.

It's unlikely that Scheierl will see much of the money given that Heinrich is serving a sentence for child pornography possession, since when he has admitted to the sexual assault and murder of Jacob Wetterling.

Scheierl was abducted and sexually assaulted by Heinrich in Cold Spring in January 1989. Heinrich wasn't caught at the time, and nine months later he would abduct and kill Jacob Wetterling.

In his decision, Judge Pearson said Heinrich "got away with kidnapping, sexual assault, and murder," adding: "This judgment is the only punishment Mr. Heinrich will ever receive for assaulting Mr. Scheierl."

"This amount is necessary to punish Mr. Heinrich and deter others like him from acting similarly," Pearson adds. "It is not excessive based on the unique circumstances of this case and is in line with awards in other cases from Minnesota and elsewhere."

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Speaking to MPR after the hearing, Scheierl's attorney Doug Kelley said: "The most important thing here is this is the first time Danny Heinrich was held accountable abducting and abusing Jared Scheierl."

In September, Stearns County Sheriff Don Gudmundson issued a series of stinging criticisms of the original Wetterling investigation, among them that it took far too long for investigators to link the Wetterling abduction to what happened to Scheierl earlier that year.

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