MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — With a renewed focus on finding out who kidnapped Jacob Wetterling, law enforcement is bracing and hoping for a new wave of public tips.
That appeal was heard loud and clear Thursday as investigators named 52-year-old Danny Heinrich as a person of interest in the case.READ MORE: St. Paul Students Plan Walkout Over COVID Safety
Forensic technologies exist today that weren’t available to crime labs in 1989.
DNA analysis alone is much more sophisticated, but it is still the simple leads and clues that investigators are banking on.
Inside the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension’s St. Paul laboratory, technicians have the latest advancements for doing forensic analysis; from the sophistication of DNA testing, to the microscopic probe of footprint and tire track impressions.
“They’re going to dot their ‘I’s and cross their ‘T’s a thousand times,” Mylan Masson, Hennepin Technical College’s law enforcement program director, said.
Masson, a former police officer, says cold cases like the Wetterling abduction often resubmit preserved evidence for renewed testing.
That is what happened when a recent DNA analysis by the BCA laboratory found Heinrich’s DNA on the sweatshirt of a Cold Spring boy, who was abducted and sexually assaulted 10 months before Wetterling disappeared.READ MORE: Minnesota Weather: Tuesday Brings Big, Blustery Temperature Swing
The state’s statute of limitations in that crime has since expired, preventing law enforcement from filing criminal charges against Heinrich.
What is less promising is for any greater study of the tire and shoe imprints left at the scene. While investigators say both are consistent with Heinrich’s car tire and shoe, they lack the minute flaws and marks to provide a conclusive link to the crime scene.
“Is there DNA evidence that wasn’t there in 1989? Is there some other fabric information that they have that they didn’t have back then and now they do because of the search warrant they had?” Masson said.
But the real value of Thursday’s extraordinary announcement of the Heinrich indictment on child pornography is what it has yet to produce — new leads for the Wetterling investigation.
“They’re going to go through every bit of information that they have. Is there new technology that they can use now to be able to link all of this together?” she said.
Thursday’s news conference is already stimulating new leads. The phones have been ringing with new tips at the Stearns County Sheriff’s Office.
They want to hear from anyone who has a shred of information that would either point them closer to a Wetterling involvement, or possibly rule Heinrich out as a person of interest.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Stearns County Sheriff’s Office at 320-259-3700, or 320-656-6625.MORE NEWS: What Is ‘Wordle’? And Why Is It So Popular?
They can also contact the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800 THE LOST (843-5678).