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'Person of interest' in Wetterling case appears in court on child porn charges

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Danny Heinrich, identified as a "person of interest" in the Jacob Wetterling abduction, will remain in custody after making his first court appearance on child pornography charges.

The Star Tribune reports the 52-year-old from Annandale appeared in U.S. District Court in St. Paul Wednesday.

He's been charged with five counts of possessing and receiving child pornography uncovered following a raid at his house on July 28.

At Wednesdays' appearance, U.S. Magistrate Judge Tony Leung ruled there was probable cause to continue the case against Leung following evidence given by FBI special agent Shane Ball, KARE 11 notes, with federal public defenders reserving the right to argue against him being held in custody at a later date.

It was Heinrich's first court appearance since U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger revealed last week that he is considered a person of interest in the federal investigation into the abduction of Jacob Wetterling, who disappeared in St. Joseph in 1989.

Authorities said DNA from Heinrich was found on the shirt of a boy kidnapped and sexually assaulted in Cold Spring months before Jacob's abduction, and there were reports of several similar unsolved attacks in the Paynesville area around the same time.

">According to MPR's Madeleine Baran, Heinrich's defense attorney told the court that the 52-year-old had "repeatedly denied involvement" in the sexual assault cases, having cooperated with authorities at the time.

No "bombshells" about the Wetterling case were revealed Wednesday, FOX 9 notes, but Leung said the details of the child porn charges against Heinrich create "a chilling context and a gravity of danger for the community."

The TV station notes the victim in the Cold Spring abduction, who was 12 at the time, attended the 90-minute hearing.

Heinrich will not face charges in connection with that attack because the statute of limitations has expired.

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