Heinrich confession offers details of Jacob Wetterling’s final hours

Danny Heinrich
Danny Heinrich

Coverage of Danny Heinrich’s confession to the murder of Jacob Wetterling played coast-to-coast, much of it pulled from local reporting. In the Strib, Pam Louwagie and Jennifer Brooks write, “Heinrich described the 11-year-old’s final, terrified hours in graphic and heartbreaking detail before a crowded courtroom in Minneapolis. … Exchanging a murder sentence for a single child pornography charge — one of 25 Heinrich was facing — might seem like strange justice. But U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger said it was simply the only way to get the volatile Heinrich to lead authorities to the Paynesville grave that no one had been able to find after almost three decades of intensive searching.”

For MPR, Brandt Williams and Jon Collins say, “Asked why Heinrich killed Jacob after sexually assaulting him, Luger said authorities believed he panicked that night after hearing a police car. Luger said that given Heinrich’s volatile and unpredictable nature, there was limited time to reach an agreement that would answer the question: Where is Jacob? ‘Heinrich was open for the moment to tell us what happened,’ Luger said recounting the steps that led to the confession. ‘Danny Heinrich was ready to talk and we had to grab the moment.’ Luger also dismissed ideas that Heinrich was getting off easy, noting he’ll spend 20 years in prison and civil commitment after that.”

KSTP-TV’s story has this,Heinrich said he wasn’t under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time and that his actions ‘were voluntary’ and ‘of his own free will.’ Heinrich said he then went home to Paynesville but returned to the site a few hours later with a shovel. Heinrich said he dragged Jacob about 100 yards to the northeast of where he was shot. Heinrich said his shovel wasn’t big enough, but he remembered there was a construction company nearby, so he went to see if a shovel was there. Heinrich said he found a Bobcat and knew where the company kept the key, so he returned to the site and dug a hole using the Bobcat, which is where he buried Jacob. Heinrich said Jacob was buried in a reflective vest, red jacket and blue sweatpants.”

For KARE-TV Dana Theide reports, “ … the DNA test led to a search warrant on Heinrich’s home, and the discovery of child pornography. [Stearns County Attorney Janelle] Kendall knew that federal penalties were far more harsh than those that could be levied at the state level, so she called Luger, and the full-court press on Heinrich began. Luger and the multi-agency team were certain Heinrich was responsible for Jacob’s death, but they knew how difficult gaining a confession would be. … Investigators would feel like they were making progress, and then Heinrich would shut down. … On Monday, August 29 prosecutors and investigators met with Patty and Jerry Wetterling and their attorney Doug Kelly to outline the deal, which would call for just 20 years in prison if Heinrich detailed the murder and helped bring Jacob home. They agreed and signed documents the next day.”

In the St. Cloud Times, Kristi Marohn and David Unze add, “Heinrich took investigators to a spot where he said he buried Jacob. Investigators found a red St. Cloud hockey jacket consistent with the one Jacob was wearing when he was abducted. But investigators didn’t find the additional evidence they needed and interviewed Heinrich again Sept. 1. That interview lasted late into the evening, and led to a second excavation that revealed bones, teeth and a shirt with the name Wetterling on it, Luger said.”

In the PiPress, columnist Ruben Rosario reminds readers of other, even older unsolved murders. “Like Jerry and Patty Wetterling, Rita Reker, a widow and great-grandmother, is a lifetime member of a club no one ever wants to belong to: parents of murdered or missing children. Forty-two years ago on Labor Day, two of her daughters — Mary, 15, and Susanne, 12 — vanished after they reportedly went to a St. Cloud-area shopping mall to buy last-minute supplies for the start of school the next day. Nearly a month later, their bodies were found in a quarry west of St. Cloud. … In spite of numerous tips, as with the Wetterling case until last week, the killer remains at large.”

That is one big herd. Says Paul Walsh for the Strib, “Minnesotans — and a few interlopers from beyond the borders of the Land of 10,000 Lakes — attended this year’s State Fair in numbers never before achieved. Fair officials on Tuesday announced a record attendance total of 1,943,719 over the 12-day Great Minnesota Get-Together.” I’m still trying to figure out how I spent $100 on a footlong hot dog, a bowl of strawberries and a couple beers?

This is like something out of a prison movie. In the Strib, Andy Mannix reports, “Stillwater prison Warden Steven Hammer was disciplined twice for inappropriate conduct with staff earlier in his career before the Minnesota Department of Corrections placed him on leave last Monday pending an unspecified investigation, according to personnel records. Officials have not said why last week’s action was taken. … In August 2014, when Hammer worked as warden of Minnesota Correctional Facility-Rush City, then-Assistant Commissioner John King issued a letter of reprimand after Hammer confirmed rumors he was involved in a romantic relationship with an employee.”

Did you catch this, from Tim Graham at the conservative site, Newsbusters? “If NPR ever wanted to wonder why they haven’t been granted a Trump interview, it’s because he knows NPR is an elite liberal sandbox for people who congratulate themselves on their marvelous taste and mental acuity. So when [Garrison] Keillor penned an acidulous character assassination of Trump for the Chicago Tribune, the liberals were very pleased. At Vox.com, they raved ‘Most pundits who attack Trump denounce him as racist, dangerous, and authoritarian. But Keillor does something that is probably much more likely to get under the billionaire’s skin: He makes him look pathetic.’”

In the Strib, Mary Lynn Smith says, “Minnesota students will be out millions of dollars that they spent on tuition to attend a national for-profit college that abruptly shut down on Tuesday. … ITT Educational Service announced Tuesday that it was closing after being sanctioned in August by the U.S. Department of Education and banned from enrolling new students using federal aid.” Do they realize how that impacts shareholder value?

It won’t be easy. Stribber Jeremy Olson on the Allina nurses strike says, “The immediate loss of income could be a pinch for many of the 4,800 nurses who went on strike … . Nurses picketing at five Allina hospitals on Monday described a variety of survival strategies, from deferred mortgage and car payments to second jobs in nursing or other careers to moving back in with parents. But it’s a particular blow when the entire household income for a family comes from nursing.”

Tough day for State Auditor Rebecca Otto. Says Brian Bakst for MPR, “A Minnesota judge upheld a new state law giving counties greater ability to hire outside auditors to conduct required financial reviews, turning back the core of a challenge by State Auditor Rebecca Otto in her bid to overturn the measure. But Ramsey County District Judge Lezlie Ott Marek’s ruling, issued Friday but not publicly released until Tuesday, preserved the auditor’s ultimate jurisdiction to conduct reviews in certain circumstances at county expense. The 17-page ruling says that the law merely modifies Otto’s existing duties and doesn’t abolish them entirely.”

Comments (2)

  1. Submitted by beryl john-knudson on 09/07/2016 - 10:21 am.

    …and Hienrich gets the ” best’ of attorneys?

    If Katherine Roe is the lead attorney for Hienrich… and Friedberg says she’s a good attorney in California -“the best” as a compensation workers specialist…how much is she and her fellow attorneys being paid by whom for defending the gross crime so belatedly exposed, that is what are the attorney “workers’ in this case being so compensated, I do wonder?

    Will he receive a “safe haven” among fellow child abusers…did I read that correctly?

    • Submitted by Richard Rowan on 09/07/2016 - 01:15 pm.

      Public Defenders

      The correct spelling of Heinrich’s attorney’s name is Katherian, not Katherine. She is a Federal Public Defender in Minnesota and so I guess she gets paid by federal taxpayers. You can google the salary scale for federal public defenders.

      Heinrich is entitled to a public defender based on the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the US Constitution in the case Gideon v. Wainwright, in which the Court ruled that the Sixth Amendment of the Bill of Rights requires the government to provide free legal counsel to indigent defendants in criminal cases.

      I would guess that Heinrich’s attorneys played a key role in convincing him to confess. Without a confession we would probably never have known what happened to Jacob, and Heinrich would still only have been found guilty of possessing child pornography.

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