Skip to main content

Jacob Wetterling: Investigators plan next steps in the case, Heinrich's brother speaks


Investigators in the Jacob Wetterling case are plotting their next moves following the arrest of a man possibly linked to his abduction, but will need a lot more evidence before any charges can be brought.

According to WCCO, the decision by U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger to go public with information that Danny Heinrich, arrested on child pornography charges, was also a "person of interest" in the 11-year-old's disappearance has police hoping it will prompt a "new wave of public tips."

DNA evidence linked Heinrich to a separate abduction and sexual assault in Jan. 1989 of a Cold Spring boy, which in turn led them to consider the 52-year-old, of Annandale, to be a new avenue for investigation in Jacob's disappearance from St. Joseph in October of that year.

But as WCCO notes, the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is hoping for some concrete leads to come from sources other than DNA and other forensic analysis following the announcement.

The Jacob Wetterling Resource Center, set up by the boy's parents in the wake of his abduction to help other families in such situations, told KARE 11 it has received numerous calls from the public with potential tips since Thursday.

This could be crucial, as the TV station spoke to legal experts who suggest that the body of evidence collected thus far is limited at best. They revealed on Thursday that tire tracks and shoe prints from the Wetterling abduction site "are consistent with" the shoes and vehicle owned by Heinrich, but are not a complete match.

The same goes for the abduction itself, with description of the man who took Jacob "seems to fit" with Heinrich, and there are also similarities between his abduction and the one in Cold Spring.

Marsh Halberg, a Twin Cities defense attorney, told the TV station they will need a lot more to move someone from a "person of interest" to "suspect" and then to "defendant."

Heinrich's brother says 'no way' he took Jacob

The brother of Danny Heinrich has been speaking with FOX 9, giving a brief interview in which he said there was much he didn't know about his brother following his arrest for child pornography possession, but is adamant he wasn't responsible for Jacob's disappearance.

"No way. There's no way. He would never carry a gun or anything like that. He has never had a gun," David Heinrich said, referencing the weapon that was said to have been used in Jacob's abduction. He said he was "in shock" following his brother's arrest, but while he accepts the pornography charges against him, he said he doesn't believe the rest.

"I can't. I just can't," he said.

David Heinrich now lives in the same apartment in Paynesville where his brother lived 26 years ago when Jacob disappeared.

The Star Tribune reports that there was a flurry of unsolved attacks in Paynesville reported in the late 1980s, with the person responsible for these believed to be the same person responsible for taking Jacob.

In its in-depth profile of Heinrich, the newspaper notes that he had been questioned about Jacob's disappearance at least three times in 1989 and 1990 and was a suspect in the Cold Spring kidnapping and sexual assault.

Although DNA evidence now links him to the Cold Spring incident, statute of limitations laws set prior to 2000 mean he cannot be charged in this case.

Reports starting emerging Thursday night that Heinrich had a criminal history from the 1980s when he lived in the Paynesville area, about 30 minutes drive from St. Joseph. You can read more about that here.

Heinrich is expected to make a preliminary court appearance on Wednesday.

Next Up

Screen Shot 2021-10-27 at 7.08.20 PM

Train carrying ethanol derails in southern Minnesota

The State Fire Marshal has sent in experts to help with the situation.


Motorcyclist dies a month after striking deer in Minnesota

The crash happened north of Mankato near the small town of Norseland.

fire pixabay stock

House explosion kills 1, severely injures another

Authorities described the home as "completely destroyed."

Kotyza-Witthuhn screengrab

Watch: MN lawmaker 'attacked' by giggling child during live hearing

This has to be the most adorable moment ever from a Commerce Finance and Policy Committee hearing, right?

Sloane Martin

Sloane Martin leaving WCCO Radio for bigger role with Big Ten Network

Martin has been a staple at WCCO Radio since Election Day 2016.

Flickr - Xcel Energy truck - Tony Webster

Xcel Energy wants to raise MN customers' electricity rates

If approved, rates go up by an average of $18.50 a month for customers.

Screen Shot 2021-10-27 at 1.11.05 PM

MPD chief 'confident' officers will still show up after Question 2 vote

Arradondo held a press conference Wednesday in which he urged for a 'No' vote.

J R Jones - Anoka County Jail 2021.10.16 - Resize crop

Charges: Driver in fatal hit-and-run said he thought he hit dog or sign

The crash killed a 56-year-old Blaine woman who had been out walking her dog.

vaccine, covid

Here is Minnesota's plan to vaccinate kids 5-11 against COVID-19

The plan includes hosting vaccination clinics at schools across the state.

Mounds View PD missing 12yo Riddley

12-year-old Twin Cities boy has been missing for 4 days

Police are asking for the public's help locating the child,


Wetterling case files reveal bungled response to Jacob's abduction

Tens of thousands of documents have been released on Thursday.

Danny Heinrich admits to sexually assaulting, killing Jacob Wetterling

Danny Heinrich admitted he assaulted and then killed Jacob Wetterling the night he disappeared.