The disappearance of then-11-year-old Jacob Wetterling has been connected to what investigators are calling an “assault cluster” of cases victimizing young boys in Paynesville, Minnesota, in the late 1980s, reports the Star Tribune.
The Star Tribune also reports that Daniel James Heinrich, of Annandale, has been charged with “receiving and possessing child pornography.” The 52-year-old has been named as a person of interest in Jacob Wetterling’s abduction.
Thirty-nine-year-old Jared Scheierl, a victim of sexual assault as a boy, was snatched off of a Cold Spring road in January 1989, before being driven to a remote location and sexually molested. When he was eventually let go he was told, “not to look back or he would be shot.”
Jacob Wetterling was abducted with two other boys, Aaron Larson, and his brother Trevor, in October 1989. The boys are said to have been told to lie face-down on the ground and asked their ages. Trevor and Aaron were set free and similarly, told to “not look back.”
Jared Scheierl was reportedly questioned by police about the similarities between his own case and Jacob Wetterling’s case extensively, shortly after the events. He was said not to have seen a connection between his own case and Wetterling’s until a blogger, named Joy Baker, interviewed him. He was said to have then “immediately” recognized similar aspects of each.
“His demeanor, the low, raspy voice. The threat of a knife or gun. The ages of the kids …”
When police searched Heinrich’s house recently, they were unable to find evidence linking him directly to Jacob Wetterling. Police did, however, reportedly find child pornography related to boys in the Paynesville area.
Jacob Wetterling’s parents, Patty and Jerry Wetterling, spoke with the media at a press conference for the first time since the recent break in their son’s tragic case. After they first received news of Heinrich’s arrest, the Wetterling’s reportedly asked for “a little time” before they spoke formally with the media.
“No one plays a more important role than you, everyday citizens, reporting that little piece of information added to other pieces of information [to] bring Jacob home,” Jerry Wetterling was quoted.
“We still don’t know who took Jacob. We have as many questions or more as all of you. The one question we have… [asked] for 26 years is: Where’s Jacob? Where is Jacob? I really believe that somebody in this community knows,” Patty Wetterling was quoted, “We were caught off guard, like all of you.”
“I want to thank you for being with us for 26 years,” Patty Wetterling stated to the press members.
Ms. Wetterling spoke at length about the possibility that there may be other victims and about child sexual abuse, abduction, and refusing to be silent. Wetterling also spoke about how the community needs to gather together. Wetterly stated, “Hope is real,” and talked about the many stories of missing children returning home after being gone for many years.
Wetterling talked about the need for a world that values children and does not tolerate violence. Wetterling also spoke about traveling to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children tomorrow, and the fact the the center investigated over a million images with child pornography in 2014, and that the mark was eclipsed in the first three months of 2015.
[Feature Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]