MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Jacob wasn’t the only boy Danny Heinrich confessed to victimizing. Nine months before the Wetterling abduction, he kidnapped and assaulted a 12-year-old named Jared Scheierl in nearby Cold Spring.

Investigators and Patty Wetterling thanked Scheierl Tuesday for coming forward to push for resolution in Jacob’s case. Those close to the case say his courage helped lead to Tuesday’s answers.

The stories were nearly identical.

“This guy stepped out of the vehicle, approached me from behind said ‘I have a gun, I’m not afraid to use it,” Scheierl said.

He was kidnapped, sexually assaulted and left on a rural road in Cold Spring, Minnesota.

“I was told ‘Don’t look back,’ and run or he would shoot,” Scheierl said.

But in Jared Scheierl’s case, there was one big exception — he survived.

Danny Heinrich, age 26 at the time, was a suspect in Scheierl’s case. Later that same year, Jacob Wetterling was taken — a boy Jared never met, but would forever be tied to.

Heinrich was quickly a person of interest in Wetterling’s abduction. Investigators noted his shoe and tire prints were consistent with Jacob’s abduction scene, but they weren’t a scientific match.

He talked to WCCO in his car in 1996.

“You know the parents just desperately need to know what happened to their boy?” the reporter asked Heinrich.

“Absolutely, I don’t blame them, but there’s nothing I can tell them,” Heinrich replied.

“Do you have any information on the abduction of Jacob Wetterling?” the reporter pressed.

“I have no information, that’s the truth,” Heinrich said.

But that was not the truth, and Jared Scheierl helped prove it. Three years ago, he teamed up with blogger Joy Baker to keep the case going. It worked. Stearns County deputies submitted Jared’s jacket for new DNA testing in 2015. Heinrich was a match.

That allowed them them to search his house, which led to the discovery of child pornography, and eventually a courtroom confession.

“As a member of the community, I think I can say that we’re willing to create something positive out of all of this tragic news,” Scheierl said at a press conference after the court hearing Tuesday.

Scheierl today said he’s found new purpose in life through this case: To help others find closure. The attacks of at least seven other boys in the Paynesville area remain unsolved.

Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield