WCCO-TV’s Jennifer Mayerle wasn’t the only reporter in federal court Wednesday when the person of interest in Jacob Wetterling’s 1989 disappearance was in court again.

Last week Mayerle scored that scoop when the story broke about Daniel James Heinrich’s arrest on pornography charges and his possible connection to the Wetterling case.

“When an arrest is made a person has to make an initial court appearance,” Mayerle said playfully. “Our job was to find out when and where and that’s what we did on Thursday. When I learned [it was going to be] in St. Paul, I knew the press conference had been called for 2 o’clock in Minneapolis. … I figured I might be alone on it.”

Mayerle found it interesting that when the judge asked Heinrich for his name he identified himself as “Danny” not Daniel. “You’d think when a judge asks you to say your date of birth, your name and reads you your rights, you’d state your given name appropriately,” said Mayerle. “He walked in wearing mostly black, head to toe. He had on gym-type pants with a red stripe down the side. No handcuffs on his ankles or wrists. And he was wearing glasses unlike his mug shot.”

Mayerle was anxious to hear Heinrich’s voice.

“The one thing that we have heard for years is that this person who may have abducted Jacob Wetterling and who was involved in the kidnapping of the boy in Cold Spring had a low, gravelly, raspy voice. My whole thing that day was wanting to hear him talk. … When the judge asked him to speak it was interesting because it was lower and somewhat raspy.”

I hope authorities have found the guy who tore apart Patty and Jerry Wetterling’s world and destroyed a sense of security in outstate Minnesota.

“You know Jacob and I were born just a couple months apart. I was the same age as him,” said Mayerle. “I remember it like it was yesterday, my youngest brother, Rob, who was only 4 at the time, asking my mother every morning: ‘Mom, have they found Jacob yet?’ ”

The scoop seems like a full-circle moment for the former CBS46 Atlanta reporter who came home to Minnesota in 2014. Shortly after Mayerle returned, WCCO-TV anchor Frank Vascellaro told me to watch her work because he anticipated she would have a big effect on the local news.

“I was up in Park Rapids, Minnesota, and her mother came up to me and said, ‘Hey, my daughter works in Atlanta and she interned at ’CCO,’ ” Vascellaro said Tuesday. “After looking at her résumé I was like, ‘Wow, she’s an impressive journalist; she’d won a lot of awards.’ I told [News Director] Mike [Caputa] about her. She’s a solid citizen and very good at what she does.”

 

14-year-old Slater fan

When Jennifer Mayerle hit the air at WCCO, Realtor Julie Mellum shot me an e-mail reminding me that I’d written about Jennifer during the shooting of the movie “Untamed Heart.”

“I think I was 14 years old when I was in your column the first time, the only time,” Mayerle said. “Julie, a family friend, was renting a house to Christian Slater. I had such a crush on Christian Slater,” said Mayerle, who also recalled: “I spent time in his trailer. I took his dog, Barney, for a walk. I picked ticks off his dog. I got to talk to Marisa Tomei and Rosie Perez. They were all just lovely and welcoming and so fun.”

Mayerle got to visit the movie set because Mellum arranged it.

A break for J.T. Barrett?

Sunday on ESPN’s “The Sports Reporters” Jackie MacMullan said she thought Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett should have gotten a stiffer penalty than a suspension from Saturday’s Minnesota game after his arrest on a charge of operating a vehicle while impaired. Coach Urban Meyer is also taking away Barrett’s scholarship for a term.

“You don’t catch my attention when you suspend a player from Minnesota. You suspend them from Michigan and Michigan State, then I know you’re really serious about what you’re saying,” said MacMullan, who noted that Meyer is out promoting a book about “the value” of his program.

This is very weak punishment for underage drinking from Meyer, co-author of “Above the Line: Lessons in Leadership and Life from a Championship Season.” Barrett’s behavior was very much below the line of what’s acceptable. Of course, Meyer has so many good QBs at Oh-How-I-Hate-Ohio-State, Barrett probably won’t be missed during the Gophers game.

 

C.J. can be reached at cj@startribune.com and seen on Fox 9’s “Buzz.” E-mailers, please state a subject; “Hello” does not count. Attachments are not opened.