The remains of Jacob Wetterling, an 11-year-old boy abducted in 1989, was finally found and officially identified on Saturday, as confirmed by Stearns County Sheriff’s Office. The Ramsey County Medical Examiner and a forensic dentist identified Wetterling’s remains earlier in the day.
New evidence is being reviewed and evaluated and more detailed information is expected to be released early this week according to the sheriff’s office. Additional DNA tests will also be done.
“On these kinds of cases, it’s really a tribute to law enforcement that they simply never give up. This is what persistence will reveal,” Michael Campion, former superintendent of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and former commissioner of the state Department of Public Safety, said Sunday.
Jacob was abducted while riding his bicycle near his St. Joseph home in Central Minnesota with his brother and a friend.
— New York Daily News (@NYDailyNews) September 3, 2016
Authorities named Danny James Heinrich last October, as a person of interest in the disappearance and suspected homicide of Wetterling. They also announced separate federal charges of possessing and receiving child pornography.
Jacob’s mother, Patty Wetterling, became a nationally recognized advocate for the cause of missing and exploited children. A 1994 federal law named after her son Jacob requires states to establish sex offender registries.
While the investigators are looking at the case of Wetterling, they also considered looking at the sexual assault of a 12-year-old boy from Cold Spring, nine months before Jacob’s disappearance as they had long suspected the two cases were connected.
Heinrich was arrested in 1990, in the sexual assault case but wasn’t charged due to a lack of evidence and he denied any involvement in the kidnapping of Jacob.
Through modern technology, investigators found Heinrich’s DNA on the 12-year-olds sweatshirt and used it as evidence to get a search warrant.
Although nothing was found that would help them link Heinrich to Jacob’s abduction or the attack on a 12-year old boy, the investigators found a large collection of child pornography in three-ring binders, on a computer hard-drive and dozens of videotapes where young boys delivering newspapers and playing and riding bicycles were filmed but Wetterling’s was not among them. Heinrich was charged with 25 child pornography counts.
Heinrich never admitted involvement in the crime and insisted on being innocent. He pleaded not guilty to the child pornography charges and is scheduled to go on trial in October.
According to authorities, they recovered unidentified remains this week after Danny Heinrich agreed to cooperate and provide information. Heinrich took them to a field in central Minnesota where the remains and other evidence were recovered the week before Saturday.
“Once they realized they had a strong, legitimate case against Mr. Heinrich for other crimes, in this case, child pornography, they aggressively prosecuted him for anything and everything they could get,” Heffelfinger said.
Jacob’s mother, Patty Wetterling, said Saturday morning that her son’s remains have been found. “All I can confirm is that Jacob has been found and our hearts are broken. I am not responding to any media yet as I have no words,” she said in a message to KARE-TV.
The FBI is not in the position to confirm any details regarding the matter, said Kyle Loven, chief division counsel at the Minneapolis office, it is still an open investigation. There is no indication when the FBI could comment further.
“This remains an active investigation,” he said.
“Just in Danny Heinrich confesses to abducting and killing Jacob Wetterling !”
— News Pro (@NewsPro_App) September 6, 2016