Jacob Wetterling: FBI agent recalls arrest, attempt to charge Heinrich in 1989


The FBI agent who led the Jacob Wetterling investigation is speaking publicly about the 1989 arrest of Danny Heinrich, who last month was identified as a "person of interest" in the 11-year-old's abduction.

Former FBI supervisor Al Garber spoke to KARE 11 this week, explaining the circumstances of Heinrich's 1989 arrest following the kidnapping and sexual assault of a 12-year-old boy in Cold Spring in January 1989 – nine months before Jacob was taken.

Heinrich was arrested last month on child pornography charges, and DNA found during the arrest has been linked with the Cold Spring assault. Authorities believe the person who carried out that attack to be responsible for Jacob's abduction and potentially several similar assaults in the Paynesville area in the 1980s.

Garber told the TV station that Heinrich was under intense scrutiny in 1989 over his possible involvement in the Cold Spring case and that investigators built up enough information to arrest him.

However, his questioning yielded little fruit, with Garber saying Heinrich struck him as "somebody who wouldn't talk, who wouldn't say anything," and that he eventually asked for a lawyer, which "shut down the interview."

He was released without charge and put under surveillance in the hope he would "trip up," KARE notes, but it was eventually concluded there wasn't enough to charge him with the assault, nor later with Jacob's abduction.

Speaking with WCCO, Garber admits they could have waited to have compiled more evidence before arresting Heinrich, despite the best efforts of investigators, and says he hopes the latest developments in the case can yield some tangible results.

"In my whole career investigating crimes, evidence is what counts," he told the TV station. "Whatever else that people see — emotions, logic, common sense — that’s good, but it’s not evidence. So I’m hoping that this is their first step. They proved other crimes. I’m hoping that they’re going to be able to find the evidence that either he did it, or he didn’t do it."

WCCO has also this week reported on a link between Jacob's abduction from St. Joseph and a burglary and arson at nearby property a few weeks later that Heinrich is believed to have had links to. You can read more on that here.

Heinrich, of Annandale, remains in custody on child pornography charges following his arrest last month and a subsequent court appearance.

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