MINNEAPOLIS - A "person of interest" has been named in connection of the Jacob Wetterling case.

During a news conference today (Thursday) in Minneapolis, police have named 52-year-old Daniel Heinrich, of Annandale, as a person of interest in the abduction of Jacob Wetterling on October 22nd 1989.

Heinrich is facing charges of child pornography, after a search warrant found 19 binders full of photos of naked young boys, video tapes, and DNA evidence on clothing relating to the sexual assault of a young boy in Cold Spring found nine months before Wetterling's abduction.

The search warrant was used at Heinrich's home at 55 Myrtle Avenue South on July 28th, 2015 to seek evidence related to the January 13, 1989 kidnapping and sexual assault of the Cold Spring boy and the abduction of Jacob Wetterling on October 22nd, 1989.

According to the criminal complaint, among the suspected child pornography images found in the home, were more than 100 images that appear to depict child pornography, some of which depict know child victims, based on a review of a national database of known victims of sexual abuse.

Investigators also recovered hours of videos, apparently secretly recorded by Heinrich, of neighborhood children delivering newspapers, riding bicycles, playing in public playgrounds and participating in sports. According to the criminal complaint, there were also "several bins of boys sized clothing."

FBI Special Agent Richard Thornton said at the conference that a little over a year ago, they worked with the Stearns County Sheriff's Office to conduct a cold case review on the Wetterling disappearance. During the review, officials used forensic technology on the clothing the Cold Spring boy was wearing the night he was assaulted and a DNA match was found with Heinrich.

Stearns County Sheriff John Sanner says Heinrich was looked at as a suspect back in 1989. He resided in the Paynesville area at the time Wetterling was kidnapped. Between 1986 and 1988 there were multiple incidents in which young males were physically and/or sexually assaulted in Paynesville.

In the Cold Spring case, a boy was pulled into a car on January 13th 1989 at 9:45 p.m. The driver asked the 12-year-old for directions before grabbing him and telling him that he had a gun. The criminal complaint says he drove the boy for 15 minutes before sexually assaulting him in the back of the car. He then took him back to Cold Spring, dropped him off and told him not to look back, or "he would be shot".

The boy later described the man to authorities as in his 30's, wearing a brown baseball cap, a dark vest, black army boots and military fatigues, matching the description of Heinrich.

Wetterling was taken on October 22, 1989 in the area of 29748 91st Avenue. He was riding his bike with his brother and another friend when a man approached them and displayed a handgun.

The masked man asked they boys how old they were and told the other two to run away and not look back or he would shoot them. Wetterling was led away by the masked man and has never been seen again. The boys told authorities the man was wearing dark pants, a dark coat and dark shoes.

Heinrich later gave police permission to take impressions of the tires on his 1982 Ford EXP that he was driving at the time. Investigation found that the impressions had similar marks to the ones left at the Wetterling crime scene. An examiner also found that his right shoe corresponded in size and design to an impression taken from the abduction site. However, the criminal complaint cautions that an "exact match" of both impressions would have to be based on a unique characteristic of a tire or shoe. No unique markings were present on either.

Police say Heinrich has denied any connection to Wetterling's disappearance, and is not being charge in connection with his abduction at this time. A detention hearing is expected to be held on Monday.

A spokeswoman from the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center tells WJON Jacob's family is asking for time and privacy.

The Wetterling investigation continues to be active. Anyone with knowledge of Heinrich's activities in the 1990's is asked to contact Stearns County Sheriff's Office at 320-656-6625 or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-THE-LOST.

The case is the result of an investigation by the FBI, Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and the Stearns County Sheriff's Office.

From the Associated Press:

Danny Heinrich's white, one-story home sat empty Thursday with a white Chrysler sedan in the driveway, on a residential street corner near a school.

In the house next door, with children's toys and strollers out front, Megan Champlin described her neighbor as "kind of a hermit," generally leaving the house only for work or to sit in the backyard.

The 28-year-old mother of three kids said she never expected anything amiss with Heinrich in the two years since her family moved in until Heinrich told her husband about the July search warrant — and the child pornography that police found.

But even then, Champlin said the significance didn't hit her until law enforcement announced his arrest and described him as a "person of interest" in Wetterling's abduction on Thursday.

"What? That was living next to us?" she said, describing her emotions as she watched the press conference. "It's kind of a gut-wrenching feeling."


Daniel Heinrich - Sherburne County Jail Photo


(Photo: Isaac Schweer, WJON)
Jacob Wetterling, image courtesy of The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children