The man named a “person of interest” in the abduction of Jacob Wetterling in 1989 now faces a lawsuit from a man who was kidnapped that same year when he was 12.
The suit, filed Wednesday in Stearns County District Court, claims that Danny Heinrich grabbed Jared Scheierl, forced him into his car and sexually assaulted him. That experience caused Scheierl, now 40, to suffer “severe and permanent emotional distress,” the suit says.
Scheierl said that his suit, which alleges sexual battery and false imprisonment, “will give me an opportunity to sit across the table from [Heinrich] to ask the questions that I’ve always wanted to know.”
Now in federal custody, Heinrich has pleaded not guilty to 25 child pornography charges stemming from a search of his Annandale home last summer that turned up images of children. A search warrant showed that investigators had been looking for evidence of Wetterling, taken in October 1989 from a rural road in St. Joseph, and Scheierl, kidnapped earlier that year in nearby Cold Spring.
The search was prompted by a DNA match: Authorities linked Heinrich to Scheierl’s sexual assault through DNA testing of the sweatshirt Scheierl was wearing at the time. In court documents, investigators also tried to tie Heinrich to similar assaults against boys in Paynesville in the 1980s.
Evidence uncovered as a result of the suit, said Doug Kelley, Scheierl’s attorney, “may shed more light on those [other] cases.”
The suit, seeking more than $50,000 in damages, comes as a key deadline approaches: The three-year window opened by the 2013 Minnesota Child Victims Act expires May 25. That act temporarily lifted the statute of limitations for civil child abuse cases.