By Jennifer Mayerle

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The family of Jacob Wetterling was at the Minneapolis Federal Courthouse on Tuesday as details of Jacob’s 1989 abduction were released.

They were announced as part of a plea deal with Danny Heinrich, the man who led FBI investigators to his remains late last week. Heinrich appeared in court Tuesday on child pornography charges in a separate case. His trial in that case is set for next month, but he changed his plea in that case to guilty.

Heinrich then admitted to kidnapping, sexually assaulting and murdering Wetterling. Heinrich said in court he shot and killed Wetterling after hearing a police car in the area on Highway 23 near Paynesville. He said he panicked, told Jacob to turn around because he had to urinate. He fired two rounds at the back of Jacob’s head that misfired before he fatally shot Wetterling.

The Wetterling family openly wept in court as Heinrich went into detail about the night he kidnapped, assaulted and killed Jacob.

Jacob Wetterling’s remains were found Saturday, authorities say, in a rural part of Paynesville not far from Heinrich’s home. Wetterling was abducted about 27 years ago. Sources tell WCCO a plea deal has been in the works for months to get Heinrich to tell FBI investigators where Wetterling’s body was, an arrangement that was approved by the Wetterling family.

Patty Wetterling’s sister exited the courthouse weeping and said she couldn’t understand how Heinrich could keep his secret for 27 years.

Patty Wetterling spoke to the media after Tuesday’s court hearing.

“Jacob has taught us all how to live, how to love, how to be fair and how to be kind. I want to say to Jacob, I’m so sorry. It’s incredibly painful to know his last days, his last hours, his last minute.

“We love you Jacob. We will continue to fight. For us, Jacob was alive until we found him.” Patty Wetterling said.

As part of the plea deal, Heinrich will likely serve 20 years in prison. He will be sentenced at a hearing in November. The Wetterling family agreed to the plea deal, along with victim Jared Scheierl.

“I was thrown into the investigation not by choice, but because I was a victim,” Scheierl said. “I have a new purpose, to help others heal and move forward.”


Jennifer Mayerle