August 1986 to Autumn 1988: Juvenile boys assaulted in Paynesville in eight incidents.
Jan. 13, 1989: Jared Scheierl, 12, is kidnapped and sexually assaulted in Cold Spring. Scheierl describes the male perpetrator and his car in detail.
Jan. 16, 1989: A Stearns County Sheriff’s Deputy identifies Danny Heinrich as a possible suspect in Scheierl’s case.
Jan. 17, 1989: Scheierl picks out Heinrich and one other male in a photographic lineup.
Oct. 22, 1989: Jacob Wetterling, 11, is abducted by a masked man on a road near his house in rural St. Joseph while returning from a convenience store with his brother and friend. Tire tracks and footprints are quickly identified at the scene.
Oct. 24, 1989: A victim from the Paynesville attacks tells authorities that he thinks the Paynesville incidents are connected to the Wetterling abduction because it was “quick, military and proficient.”
Oct. 24, 1989: Tires at Wetterling abduction scene identified as Sears Superguard Radials.
Nov. 30, 1989: The first mention of the Cold Spring abduction in the Wetterling case comes in an interview with Scheierl and his parents.
December, 1989: Heinrich is interviewed and an investigator notices his tires are Sears Superguard Radials. He tells investigators that he can’t recall where he was the day Jacob disappeared.
Jan. 5, 1990: An officer checks out the lead sheet from the Paynesville victim who had come forward.
Jan. 8, 1990: Paynesville police chief says Heinrich should be considered a suspect in the molestations in his city.
Early January, 1990: Authorities interview Heinrich about Wetterling and note a strong resemblance to the composite sketch of Scheierl’s abductor. Report says polygraph given to Heinrich registered deceptive on all questions pertaining to Scheierl and Wetterling. Investigators focus on a pair of gym shoes and car tires, which are consistent with those at the Wetterling scene. Heinrich also volunteers hair samples for testing. Authorities decide he will be placed under surveillance and watch him for parts of three days.
Jan. 16, 1990: Detective gets a copy of a 1986 DWI arrest of Heinrich in Paynesville, where a battery-operated police scanner was confiscated. Heinrich’s old Mercury Topaz is located in Princeton. Scheierl is allowed to sit inside it and says it feels like the seat of the vehicle in which he was abducted.
Jan. 23, 1990: Authorities search Heinrich’s father’s home in Paynesville and collect Army boots, camouflage pants and shirt, two police scanners and a zippered vest. In a locked trunk, he had photographs of a male child coming out of the shower in a towel and a male child in his underwear. Officers did not seize the photos after Heinrich objected. He later burned the photographs.
Jan. 26, 1990: Scheierl does not pick out Heinrich in a physical lineup. Scheierl said his mental picture of the perpetrator had become less clear over time.
Feb. 9, 1990: Heinrich is arrested at a bar in Roscoe, Minn., in Scheierl’s kidnapping. When questioned, he emphatically states his innocence and invokes his right to an attorney. He is later released without being charged. Stearns County Sheriff Don Gudmundson now calls that interview a “fatal flaw” in the Wetterling investigation.
April-May, 1990: Ten background investigations of Heinrich are conducted.
March, 1991: Paynesville convicted sex offender Duane Hart is interviewed at a state correctional facility. Hart, a friend of Heinrich’s brother, tells the FBI that he’d been in Heinrich’s apartment in late 1989 and saw items including two police scanners. He said Heinrich showed him a dark blue pistol and asked how to get rid of a body.
July 2015: Heinrich’s DNA is matched to DNA found on Scheierl’s sweatshirt.
Sept. 2, 2016: Investigators find Jacob’s remains in a Paynesville pasture.
Sept. 6, 2016: In a packed federal courtroom in Minneapolis, Heinrich confesses to kidnapping, sexually assaulting and murdering Wetterling.