The "person of interest" in Jacob Wetterling's disappearance is facing a civil lawsuit from a Cold Spring boy who was kidnapped in 1989.
The lawsuit accuses Danny Heinrich of sexually assaulting and kidnapping Jared Scheierl when he was 12 years old, according to the lawsuit filed in Stearns County District Court Wednesday.
The lawsuit claims Heinrich, who has pleaded not guilty to child porn charges, approached Scheierl and forced him into a car, then drove him to a secluded area and assaulted him, the suit says.
Scheierl says he has continued to suffer pain, emotional distress, loss of self-esteem and psychological injuries since his assault, according to the lawsuit. He is seeking damages in excess of $50,000.
Investigators said that after a search at Heinrich's home, they had matched Heinrich's DNA to the DNA found on the sweatshirt Scheierl was wearing when he was assaulted. However, the statute of limitations had run out, so Heinrich could not be charged.
Timing prompted the lawsuit
WCCO reports the lawsuit is coming now because of timing.
The Minnesota Child Victim Act – which changes the statutes of limitation in civil legal claims for survivors of childhood sex abuse – gives victims until May 25 to file a claim.
"By filing now we are providing a legal platform that will allow Jared to confront his assailant and ask him questions that Jared has wanted to ask for 27 years," Doug Kelley, Scheierl's attorney, told the St. Cloud Times.
Heinrich will likely face a civil trial or civil proceedings, according to WCCO. But court documents filed Wednesday show Kelley thinks Heinrich will deny the claim and invoke his Fifth Amendment right, which protects him against self-incrimination.
But Kelley still thinks the lawsuit could reveal more information about other cases.
“There is no doubt in my mind, collaterally, we are going to discover things about the Payenesville boys and Jacob Wetterling as well,” Kelley told the news station.
Following the search at Heinrich's home, investigators named him a "person of interest" in the Wetterling case. Authorities emphasized he is not a suspect, and he has denied any involvement.
In a statement to BringMeTheNews, Patty Wetterling, Jacob Wetterling's mother, said:
“I am so proud of Jared. His courage to face his abductor and his persistence in asking questions will help him and many others. Hopefully it may also provide answers as well. I am so grateful for the attorneys who believe in Jared and Jacob and have offered assistance.”
The child porn charges
The search investigators conducted in connection to the Wetterling and Scheierl cases last summer uncovered child pornography in dozens of three-ring binders.
Heinrich faces 25 charges of possessing and receiving child porn. His trial is expected to begin in July.
The motion claims it will be hard to find impartial jurors because of "highly damaging publicity" in the media.
Heinrich's child porn trial is expected to be complex, according to FOX 9, citing the “voluminous amount” of information and ties to other crimes decades ago.