MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Patty Wetterling is talking for the first time about the arrest of a person of interest in the abduction of her 11-year-old son, Jacob, in October of 1989.
Wetterling said in an interview Wednesday afternoon that the arrest of Danny Heinrich left her feeling powerless and paralyzed.
She says a meeting she is helping to organize in Paynesville this Sunday is part of her effort to move forward and help other victims.
Wetterling was very candid about how hard the past few weeks have been, but she also says she will not let the continuing uncertainty of what happened to Jacob and Heinrich’s arrest allow her to feel powerless.
“You feel sort of frozen with more questions than answers,” Wetterling said. “I was like, ‘Ah, now what do we do? What do we do with this information? He’s not arrested in Jacob’s case, he’s a person of interest, so, you know, can I do anything to help that? What is law enforcement doing?’ I have the same questions that all of you have.”
Heinrich’s arrest came as a surprise; the family had little advance warning. But Heinrich was one of the first names the Wetterlings were asked about in 1989.
“I remember his name from the very beginning,” Wetterling said.
She says while she knew the Heinrich name, she did not know back then details revealed in a search warrant made public after his October arrest.
The police chief in nearby Paynesville had gone to Wetterling investigators in 1990 to say they should look into Heinrich because he was a suspect in a series of unsolved sexual assaults on young boys in that community.
“Jerry and I had met with some of the victims in Paynesville a few years ago, Wetterling said. “I felt their pain, and I thought, you know, we’re kind of in this together through this one suspect, and I felt it would be helpful for us and for them.”
She says her husband, Jerry, has also been struggling with the continued uncertainty.
“It’s really hard on him, it’s hard on all of us. He is pretty quiet,” Wetterling said. “‘I don’t know if this is the guy who took Jacob. If it is, where is Jacob?’ That’s really been my number-one thing for all of these years is finding where is Jacob.”
Wetterling says there are similarities in Jacob’s case, the Paynesville cases and another boy’s abduction where there is a DNA match to Heinrich. But the boys were let go in all of the other cases.
Heinrich has long denied having anything to do with Jacob’s kidnapping. He is currently facing child pornography charges, and he could spend decades in prison if convicted.