MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Bruce Bechtold was a rookie Stearns County Deputy on the October night when Jacob Wetterling was abducted in 1989.
“I was a brand new deputy, and he was a monster creeping around the county,” Bechtold said, referring to Danny Heinrich, who admitted Tuesday to kidnapping, assaulting and killing Wetterling.
It took nearly three decades until investigators zeroed-in on Heinrich. In 2015, Heinrich’s DNA linked him to the January 1989 attack on Jared Scheierl, a case that resembled Wetterling’s.
“When they were all done, they kept coming back to the same thing,” Bechtold said. “We need to take another look at Danny Heinrich.”
Days later, those suspicions led to a search of Heinrich’s Annandale home. Bechtold was among the deputies who found a trove of child pornography in a basement room, including videos of the Wetterling coverage.
“Videotaped TV shows, overapped that with Wetterling coverage, overlapped with pornography,” Bechtold said.
But last Friday, years of frustration ended. Bechtold and a dozen other investigators dug in the dirt outside Paynesville and recovered Wetterling’s body.
“Can’t look back and say why wasn’t this done or that,” Bechtold said. “The U.S Constitution can’t arrest on a hunch, need enough evidence to convict somebody.”
Last Wednesday, investigators uncovered a red hockey jacket along with some bones. The next day, however, crime lab tests came back negative: What’d they’d found were animal bones.
So, investigators went back to the site on Friday and expanded the search area. By evening, Wetterling’s remains were finally recovered.