Jacob Wetterling’s killer may have had a rough childhood, and for that Patty Wetterling is sorry, she said in a statement Friday. But Danny Heinrich, who waited 27 years to confess to her son’s murder, is a man who made horrible choices, Wetterling said.
“To state that he never had any intention to commit this heinous crime is ludicrous,” Wetterling wrote in response to a court brief filed Thursday by Heinrich’s attorneys. That filing stated that Heinrich regretted taking Jacob’s life, relived the crime and thought of the Wetterlings often, and had tried to think of a way that he could reveal the location of Jacob’s remains without incriminating himself.
Heinrich, jailed late last year on child pornography charges, confessed in September to abducting, sexually abusing and shooting 11-year-old Jacob in October 1989, snatching the boy as he rode bikes with his brother and a friend in rural St. Joseph, Minn.
Heinrich is expected to be sentenced Monday to a 20-year prison term as part of a plea agreement in federal court.
Patty Wetterling pointed out in her statement Friday that Heinrich went hunting for boys that night, bringing a gun and bullets with him.
“I believe his struggle with the secret was really his struggle with the fear of being caught,” the statement said. “I am glad to hear he feels remorse. The only way he can know the magnitude of the pain he has caused is to allow himself to feel for someone other than himself. I hope he feels that every day just as we have had to feel the loss and the pain of losing Jacob every moment of every day.”
Heinrich’s attorneys had sought to humanize a man who they contend could never shed a “constantly ingrained notion of his inadequacy” growing up around Paynesville, suffering head injuries as a child and sexual assault as a young man.
Patty Wetterling wrote that most victims of sexual assault and head injury do not grow up to sexually assault others.
“He made choices,” she wrote. “Really bad choices.”
She reflected on an open letter she wrote to Jacob’s abductor in 1999 begging for answers, understanding whoever was responsible was once an 11-year-old boy himself and may not have been loved. She asked in the letter for the abductor to “please talk to me.”
She indicated that she believes Heinrich saw the letter, but still didn’t come forward.