Assault victim hopes for end to Wetterling mystery

Published 9:33 am Tuesday, November 3, 2015

ST. PAUL — A Minnesota man who was sexually assaulted months before the 1989 abduction of Jacob Wetterling said Monday that he hopes the identification of his suspected attacker helps investigators determine what happened to Jacob.

Jared Scheierl was 12 when he was grabbed off the streets of Cold Spring in central Minnesota by a man who forced him into his car and sexually assaulted him in the backseat. After the man threatened to kill him, he let Scheierl out of the car. Nine months later, 11-year-old Jacob was abducted about 10 miles away near his home of St. Joseph and never seen again.

Nearly 27 years later, Scheierl said Daniel James Heinrich’s arrest last week was “surreal.” Authorities charged Heinrich with five counts of possessing or receiving child pornography Thursday. They also linked him to the attack on Scheierl, saying Heinrich’s DNA was found on the sweatshirt Scheierl wore that day, and they named Heinrich a “person of interest” in Jacob’s disappearance. Heinrich has not been charged in Jacob’s disappearance and can’t be charged in Scheierl’s assault because the statute of limitations has expired. He has previously denied his involvement in both cases.

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“I don’t even need a confession,” said Scheierl. “My heart still goes out to the Wetterlings. I hope that this leads to some form of conclusion or answers for Jacob.”

Heinrich, 52, of Annandale, is being held in the Sherburne County jail and has not responded to a message from The Associated Press seeking comment. Federal authorities say he has denied any involvement in Jacob’s disappearance. The public defender listed as Heinrich’s attorney didn’t respond to a call and email Monday, nor did a second public defender who appeared in court with Heinrich last week.