'What did I do wrong?' - murdered boy

2016-09-06 21:18
A white ribbon with a large "J" hangs on a pole along Minnesota Street as residents wait for confirmation that remains found belong to 1989 abduction victim Jacob Wetterling. (Kimm Anderson, St Cloud Times via AP)

A white ribbon with a large "J" hangs on a pole along Minnesota Street as residents wait for confirmation that remains found belong to 1989 abduction victim Jacob Wetterling. (Kimm Anderson, St Cloud Times via AP)

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Minneapolis - The man who killed 11-year-old Jacob Wetterling more than a quarter-century ago is detailing how he carried out the crime.

Danny Heinrich admitted in federal court on Tuesday that he killed the boy whose 1989 disappearance has transfixed Minnesota in the years since.

The 53-year-old Andover man described donning a mask and confronting three children with a revolver near Jacob's central Minnesota home. He says he took Jacob, handcuffed him and assaulted him in a grove of trees.

Afterward, he shot Jacob and later buried him in a gravel pit, and reburied him a year later.

Heinrich says when he took Jacob, the boy asked, "What did I do wrong?"

Heinrich made the admission as he pleaded guilty to federal child pornography charges that could put him behind bars for decades.

Asked whether he abducted, sexually assaulted and murdered Jacob, Heinrich said: "Yes I did."

Heinrich, 53, led authorities to Jacob's buried remains in a central Minnesota field last week, according to a law enforcement official who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing case.

Heinrich had long been under investigators' scrutiny. They first questioned him shortly after Jacob's abduction, but he maintained his innocence and they never had enough evidence to charge him. They turned a renewed spotlight on him as part of a fresh look into Jacob's abduction around its 25th anniversary.

As part of that effort, investigators took another look at the sexual assault of 12-year-old Jared Scheierl, of Cold Spring, nine months before Jacob's disappearance. Investigators had long suspected the two cases were connected.

Using technology that wasn't available in 1989, investigators found Heinrich's DNA on Scheierl's sweatshirt, and used that evidence to get a search warrant for Heinrich's home, where they found a large collection of child pornography. The statute of limitations had expired for charging him in the assault on Scheierl, but a grand jury indicted him on 25 child pornography counts.

Jacob's abduction shattered childhood innocence for many rural Minnesotans, changing the way parents let their kids roam. His smiling face was burned into Minnesota's psyche, appearing on countless posters and billboards over the years.

His mother, Patty Wetterling, always kept hope her son would be found alive. She became a national advocate for missing children, and with her husband, Jerry Wetterling, founded the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center, which works to help communities and families prevent child exploitation.

In 1994, Congress passed a law named after Jacob that requires states to establish sex offender registries.


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