The 52-year-old Annandale man identified as a person of interest in the disappearance of Jacob Wetterling was indicted Wednesday on 25 child pornography charges.

The nine-page indictment details charges against Danny James Heinrich, who has been in federal custody since late October on five similar charges. The indictment added 20 charges related to possessing and receiving child pornography both in print and digital images. Some of the material featured prepubescent children under age 12.

Jacob Wetterling’s name doesn’t appear in the indictment, but shortly after Heinrich’s arrest last fall, a federal agent testified in court that he was a “person of interest” in Jacob’s disappearance 26 years ago.

After more than two decades with rarely a formal hint about the identity of Jacob’s kidnapper, the revelation was stunning to a generation of Minnesotans who know the details of the case and are haunted by the horror and unresolved mystery of his disappearance.

No one has ever been charged in Jacob’s abduction. He was kidnapped on Oct. 22, 1989, at gunpoint by a masked man not far from his home in St. Joseph, Minn. He and his brother and a friend were returning from a store after renting a movie. His fate and his whereabouts remain unknown.

The FBI agent who testified last month said Heinrich was now the focus of interest because of similarities to another case. In January 1989, a man forced a 12-year-old Cold Spring boy into his car, drove for 15 minutes and then sexually assaulted him.

After releasing him, the driver told the boy “not to look back or he would be shot,” according to court documents.

DNA evidence later found on the sweatshirt of the boy, Jared Scheierl, now 39, matched Heinrich. That match, made this year, “would not be expected to occur more than once among unrelated individuals in the world population,” according to the criminal complaint. Heinrich could not be charged in Scheierl’s case because the statute of limitations had run out, authorities said in October.

Indictment follows charges

Heinrich initially was charged with child pornography through a criminal complaint. Prosecutors then sought the grand jury indictment made public Wednesday, as is custom.

The additional charges weren’t unexpected. In July, when federal investigators searched Heinrich’s home, they reported finding 19 three-ring binders containing numerous images of child pornography with some of the images mentioned in the indictment dating to 2009.

When authorities arrived at his house with the search warrant, the FBI agent testified that Heinrich described himself as “a dirty old man” but denied creating pornography or sharing it with anyone. None of the charges alleges that Heinrich distributed pornography.

During the search of Heinrich’s home, the FBI agent testified that investigators also found more than 100 hours of video of children in the neighborhood. Some of the video focused on their crotches. All of the children were clothed.

 

Staff Writer Jenna Ross contributed to this report.