If the 1989 abduction of Jacob Wetterling wasn’t officially a federal case before, it is now. That is a big development that could resolve of one of the most perplexing unsolved missing-child cases in the nation’s history, says the St. Paul Pioneer Press. U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger, flanked by state and county law enforcement officials, said yesterday that Daniel Heinrich, 52, is a “person of interest” in the Jacob Wetterling case. Heinrich is charged with possession of child pornography. Jacob, who vanished Oct. 22, 1989, after he, a younger brother and a friend were confronted by an unknown, gun-toting assailant as they biked home in St. Joseph, Mn., became a symbol of the plight of missing kids.
Heinrich, who was “closely” questioned in the Wetterling case as well as in a series of strikingly similar confrontations and child sexual assaults months before Jacob’s disappearance, has long denied knowledge in the Wetterling and other cases. This time, investigators reportedly matched his DNA on some clothing to one of the other child sexual assault victims. That boy, now an adult and subsequently identified as “Jared” in media interviews throug the years, helped cops draw a sketch of his assailant that bears a close resemblance to what Heinrich looked like then and now. The state statute of limitations for filing charges in what happened to Jared and others has long expired. As a first-time offender on federal child pornography charges, Heinrich, if convicted, could face up to 50 years in prison, the equivalent to a death sentence.