Lawyers for the man named a “person of interest” in the abduction of Jacob Wetterling pushed in a pretrial hearing Wednesday to suppress evidence that led to child pornography charges against him.
They also want statements Danny James Heinrich, 53, made to investigators tossed out and are asking for his trial — scheduled for July in Minneapolis — to be moved.
Testimony during the U.S. District Court hearing revealed some of what Heinrich told investigators in July, during a search of his Annandale home, and in the days before his arrest in October, when two investigators pressed him on evidence in Wetterling’s disappearance in 1989 and hoped for a confession.
Instead, Heinrich asked for a lawyer.
Heinrich has pleaded not guilty to 25 child pornography charges stemming from the search of his home that turned up images of children, some younger than 12. He faces no charges related to Wetterling, who was taken from a rural road near his home in St. Joseph, Minn.
At Wednesday’s hearing, Magistrate Judge Leo Brisbois did not rule on any motions. He gave Heinrich’s attorneys two weeks to file a memo with their arguments and the U.S. attorney’s office another two weeks to respond.
The two-hour hearing centered on testimony from retired Capt. Pam Jensen, of the Stearns County Sheriff’s Department. For 16 years, she oversaw the Wetterling case, as well as the investigation into the kidnapping and sexual assault of 12-year-old Jared Scheierl in nearby Cold Spring months before.
Last year, a team taking a new look the Wetterling case linked Heinrich’s DNA to evidence found on the sweatshirt Scheierl was wearing during the assault.
Heinrich’s attorneys, Reynaldo Aligada and Katherian Roe, questioned Jensen at length about whether investigators knew when they filed the search warrant that the statute of limitations had passed in Scheierl’s case. Jensen said that at the time, she believed the statute of limitations was not an issue, based on conversations with other investigators, the county attorney “and maybe just being naive.”
In a motion filed this month, Heinrich’s attorneys called the search of his home “unlawful” and asked that the judge suppress all evidence obtained through that search, which included a DNA swab taken from Heinrich that day. Officials have since said that the statute of limitations expired in Scheierl’s case in 1998.
Prosecutors also played a recording of Jensen approaching Heinrich at his work with a search warrant.
“Can I see the search warrant now?” he asked. As Heinrich read the warrant, he sighed, then swore. He agreed to drive to his home and let the officers inside. “Yep, that’d be fine.”