Investigator Talks Working The Wetterling Case From The Beginning

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.

More from Bill Hudson

One Comment

  1. anne jansen says:

    First of all my heart goes out to the Wetterling family. Nobody but fate knew these boys were going that night on their bikes in the dark to get a movie. I want to know what brought Heinrich to this basically deserted area to which he was heard by the boys to be rummaging around in the brush on their way to the tom thumb, although they did not know what was doing the rummaging. We all know now it was Heinrich . but here is the question what was Heinrich doing loitering around on the dirt road before the boys came across him on their way home. Was he out there getting rid of something else? It just seems so odd that Heinrich would be randomly waiting for an opportunity like this What was Heinrich doing in the hour or two before the boys crossed his opportunistic path? thanks

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