FBI names ‘person of interest’ in Wetterling case

Published 2:08 pm Thursday, October 29, 2015

MINNEAPOLIS— A Minnesota man charged with child pornography after a search of his home found pictures of naked boys is also a “person of interest” in the disappearance of Jacob Wetterling, whose 1989 abduction led his parents to launch a national center to prevent child exploitation.

Daniel James Heinrich, 52, was charged Thursday with five counts of possessing or receiving child pornography. Richard Thornton, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Minneapolis office, said Heinrich is a person of interest in Wetterling’s abduction, but he has not been charged in that case.

Thornton told a news conference that Heinrich was originally looked at after Wetterling’s abduction and again when investigators reviewed the cold case. Wetterling was 11 when he was abducted on Oct. 22, 1989, near his home in the central Minnesota community of St. Joseph.

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“The defendant has denied any involvement in the disappearance of Jacob Wetterling,” U.S. Attorney Andy Luger said.

Authorities stopped short of calling Heinrich a suspect.

It wasn’t immediately clear if Heinrich had an attorney who could comment on his behalf. The federal defender’s office in Minneapolis did not have Heinrich in its system. Heinrich — who lives in Annandale less than two blocks from a middle school — was in custody Thursday. A number listed for a possible brother did not work.

The disappearance of Wetterling led his mother, Patty Wetterling, to become a nationally recognized advocate for missing children. She and her husband, Jerry, founded the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center, which works to help communities and families prevent child exploitation.