MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A man who was a both a victim and hero is in the spotlight two days after Danny Heinrich admitted to the murder of 11-year-old Jacob Wetterling.
Heinrich led investigators last week to the Paynesville farm where he buried Wetterlings’s body nearly 27 years ago.
He signed a plea agreement in court Tuesday that will put him behind bars for 20 years.
He then confessed to killing Wetterling in October of 1989 and sexually assaulting another boy just nine months before that.
That boy was Jared Scheierl, who is now 40.
Scheierl is credited with working tirelessly to help solve his own 1989 abduction, as well as the Wetterling case and the unsolved sexual assaults in Paynesville.
Overshadowed by the horrifying confession two days ago in the Wetterling case is that Heinrich also confessed in court to the kidnapping and brutal sexual assault of then 12-year-old Scheierl. It was in the nearby town of Cold Spring, nine months before Wetterling.
Heinrich recounted in graphic detail Scheierl’s sexual assault, testifying he kept the boy’s pants as a souvenir.
“I know how fortunate I am to be here despite whatever hardships I have had to deal with, I recognize my blessings as well,” Scheierl said.
It was Scheierl, along with blogger Joy Baker, who began a relentless push in 2014, insisting that unsolved cases in Paynesville, Scheierl’s case and Wetterling’s case were all linked.
Patty Wetterling recognized the efforts moments after Heinrich’s horrific confessions.
“One huge shout out to Jared and to Joy, and Jared had the courage to stand up and say, ‘This happened to me,’ they deserve credit,” Wetterling said.
Scheierl appeared on CNN Thursday with his and the Wetterling family’s attorney, sporting a Captain America shirt. He got another shout out from the host of “The Hunt” — John Walsh — whose own son was abducted and murdered in 1981.
“I think Jared has the perfect T-shirt on, Captain America, because he is one of the bravest victims I have ever met,” Walsh said.
Scheierl, a father of three from Paynesville, spent hundreds of hours of his own time tracking down leads and pushing a reluctant Steans County Sheriff’s Department, the BCA and the FBI to re-open the cold cases.
“It’s been humbling, and that’s part of the reason I went with the Captain America shirt because the number of times I’ve been called a hero, I thought I’d wake up this morning and say, ‘You know, I’m just going to have fun with this and I’m going to look the part,'” Scheierl said.
He insists there are many unsung heroes in the case, but there is no question he is at the top of many people’s lists – including that of Patty Wetterling.