MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — We now know that in the three-and-a-half months after Jacob Wetterling’s abduction, Danny Heinrich was interviewed and contacted by Stearns County investigators and the FBI four times.

During that time, the FBI determined that Heinrich’s shoe prints and his car’s tire tracks were consistent, but not a scientific match, to the prints and tracks found at the Wetterling abduction scene. Jared Scheierl’s attack was preceded by assaults on eight boys in Paynesville in 1986 and 1987.

Those cases were never solved, but investigators believe they are connected to Heinrich. WCCO’s Nina Moini talked to one of those victims on Sunday.

Troy Cole of Paynesville came forward with help from Jared Scheierl within the last year or so. He told us today he is glad the Wetterling’s have finally found Jacob, but he says he is outraged about how his and other cases in Paynesville were handled.

He thinks Jacob’s abduction could have been prevented if only the Paynesville cases had been thoroughly investigated right when they happened.

“It’s something that you can only put in the back of your head you can never get rid of it,” Cole said.

Troy Cole was attacked and sexually assaulted three years before Jacob was taken, a block or so from his own front door.

“Riding my bike home one night, next thing you know, knife to throat not knowing if you’ll live or die when you’re 13 it’s kind of scary,” Cole said.

Cole says he and seven other boys who reported attacks in the late 80s weren’t taken seriously by Paynesville authorities.

“I gave a statement to city police here that night. Never heard back from anybody,” Cole said.

In a document made public last year, it was revealed that Paynesville’s then police chief, Robert Schmiginsky, contacted the Wetterling investigators in January of 1990 about the Paynesville cases. He told them Danny Heinrich was a suspect.

In 2014, WCCO asked Patty Wetterling if she had known about the Paynesville cases. She said, “We did not know.”

“I think the world of them, how they kept it together this many years not knowing what happened to their kid,” Cole said.

With all of the eight Paynesville attacks happening before Jacob was taken, Cole believes Jacob could still be alive today. But he is relieved Jacob has been found after authorities say 53-year-old Danny Heinrich led them to the boy’s remains.

“I was shocked he actually did talk, finally came forward and let Wetterling’s have closure,” Cole said.

Relieved for the Wetterling family, but Cole is still left with anger and sadness over what he believes could have been.

“There’s only one unanswered question now that I want to know is why didn’t they do anything about it?” Cole said.

Another victim from Paynesville WCCO identified as Craig also told us this weekend that he believes if authorities had done more to find his attacker, Jacob would be alive today. WCCO has made several attempts over the last two years to talk with the former Paynesville police chief about how these victims feel. He has declined to comment.

Comments (11)
  1. NoergX says:

    I would start checking old phone records and such to see if there is any connection between the old Paynesville police chief and other officers to Denny Heinrich. A lot of child molesters worked in teams. Heinrich eluded capture and was able to successfully destroy or conceal pertinent evidence with an uncanny ability……maybe someone was helping him? 99% of cops are good, solid people, but they are attracted to the badge because it represents authority……and power. Something that also drives child molesters.

    1. Dan Mack says:

      There will be time to probe that. Sources at Dayton’s luxury $130,000 plus/year retirement spas for sexual predators revealed that the location of the body was given up in exchange for Dayton’s promise that he would work to get him transferred back to Minnesota for the best treatment money can buy instead of doing his time in a prison. That’s what taxes are for.

  2. cam says:

    The plural of “Wetterling” is “Wetterlings”

    1. Andg says:

      Yep. Maddening when “professionals” don’t get it right.

  3. NonLib says:

    OMG – I know realize we could have stopped Stalin and Hitler and heck – Charley Manson and the Priests at the church’s and OMG! We could have stopped it all!
    Hindsight and the blame game. Never ceases to amaze one now how they come out with the “we could have and should have done this – that- the other thing. Lousy journalism looking for ink. Time to again reinvent your Saint Prince ‘cco

  4. memphisgrass says:

    I do believe the police, FBI, etc could have done better in the Wetterling case.

  5. Kelly B says:

    This is not what the Wetterling family needs to see! Don’t you think they have had “what if’s” going through their minds for 27 years!

  6. Cackling_Rosie says:

    How about focusing all that blame energy on preventing the latest tragic Idea of the Century? Minnesota’s new move to release sexual predators from treatment without successful completion and without supervision.
    Maybe we could prevent new cases.

    1. MinnMade says:

      Shhhh! You’re not suppose to talk about things like that.. Just repeat… I love unicorns! I love rainbows!

  7. Chad says:

    If police didn’t do their job. They need to be held accountable wherever people feel it’s the blame game or not. That many assaults in a small town should have been on the news when it happened. Why would that have been kept quiet?

  8. We’ve heard about Heinrich’s attacks prior to Jacob Wetterling, but I’m wondering how many kids he has abused SINCE. Child molesters don’t just stop. How many other victims were there of this monster?