MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Danny Heinrich, the man named Thursday as a person of interest in the 1989 disappearance of Jacob Wetterling, has lived alone in a simple house in a quiet Annandale neighborhood for the past 8 years.
The 52-year-old was arrested Wednesday night on charges of possessing child pornography. His neighbors in Wright County told WCCO-TV they have been waiting for something to happen.
Patty Peterson, who lives across the street from Heinrich, watched in July as agents raided the home.
After that, Heinrich allegedly told his neighbors he was questioned but released over the Wetterling abduction.
“He says, ‘I thought that was all done and in the past, and now here they are again,'” Peterson said.
Heinrich’s home sits just a block from a middle school, and is surrounded by neighbors with young children.
“It’s a shock, but he is kind of a strange guy,” Peterson said. “But…I had no idea.”
At the time of the Wetterling case, Heinrich lived in a former motel in Paynesville, about 23 miles from where Wetterling was abducted in St. Joseph.
Heinrich has held a steady job at Buffalo Veneer & Plywood. That’s where investigators pulled him from the factory floor over the summer for questioning.
“I’m just glad he’s gone,” said one neighbor, who asked not to be identified.
She said the details of the indictment made her sick.
“Everyone’s got to talking, and everyone’s heard about it,” she said. “That he’s a suspect back in 1989, they booked him, took his mug, hair samples…all that stuff.”
Neighbors said they watched as FBI agents and state investigators carried a number of boxes from Heinrich’s home.
Officials say binders and a computer found in his home contained images of child pornography, mostly images of young boys.
Investigators also found VHS tapes, which appear to have been shot by Heinrich, showing boys doing various activities, such as delivering newspapers and playing on the playground. Some of the footage appeared to have been captured on a hidden camera.
While Heinrich isn’t charged in the Wetterling case, he is being considered a person of interest.
He’s also a suspect in an abduction and assault in Cold Spring in January 1989. His DNA was linked to the crime scene.