The real estate developer who demolished the Annandale house that once belonged to the man who killed Jacob Wetterling has officially donated the vacant lot to the city.
The quarter-acre property will remain undeveloped for 10 years with any proceeds from a sale going to the local police department, under an agreement approved last week by the Annandale City Council.
The one-bedroom house on a corner lot once belonged to Danny Heinrich, who confessed last fall to abducting, molesting and killing 11-year-old Jacob in October 1989 as the boy rode his bicycle home from a convenience store along with his best friend, Aaron Larson, 11, and brother Trevor, 10.
Authorities searched the house in the summer of 2015 and discovered a trove of child pornography, surveillance videos of little boys at play, and the leverage they needed to coax Heinrich to later confess that he was the one who abducted Jacob, leaving the Wetterling family and the state to a futile decades-long search for the boy.
While Heinrich, 53, was in custody, his empty and foreclosed house remained. Hundreds of neighbors petitioned the city to buy the property at auction and raze it.
In December, Woodbury developer Tim Thone, a father of four children, bought the house for the sole purpose of destroying it. It was torn down later that month. At the time, Thone said he planned to spend about $58,000 on the property.
He said that he talked with Jacob’s mother, Patty Wetterling, about his plans, and hoped for a sense of “finality” when it was finally torn down.
Thone and his son were in the audience last week when the Annandale City Council voted to accept the property. The room burst into applause.
“It was a little bit of a satisfaction and I would say it was symbolic of something,” Thone said. “It made people feel good for a little bit, but it’s not about a good thing that happened.”
Late last summer, Heinrich led authorities to a farm field just outside the city of Paynesville, Minn., where he had buried Jacob’s remains. Several days later, Heinrich appeared in court and confessed publicly, spelling out in chilling detail how he abducted Jacob from a dirt road in St. Joseph, Minn., about 30 miles from Paynesville, and later killed him.
As part of a plea agreement for providing that information, Heinrich was not charged with murder, but was sentenced to 20 years in prison for child pornography.
He is now serving time in a federal prison outside Boston.
Mark Brunswick • 612-673-4434