MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The day after a wrenching sentencing for Danny Heinrich, the attorney for the Wetterling family says they are looking forward to Thanksgiving.
In order to get answers to what happened to Jacob, the Wetterling family agreed to a plea deal that sentenced Heinrich to 20 years on child pornography charges.
On Monday, the entire Wetterling family along with Jacob’s best friend and another Heinrich victim, Jared Scheierl, gave emotional victim impact statements as Heinrich sat nearby.
On Tuesday, the attorney who stood by their side as they delivered those statements says he believes as difficult as the sentencing day was, it was a day of healing.
Tonight, we have the story of what Patty Wetterling told family in the judge’s chambers right after the emotional sentencing.
“Yesterday was lance the wound, get all the venom out there,” Wetterling family attorney Doug Kelley said.
Kelley stood by the side of all who delivered powerful victim impact statements at Danny Heinrich’s sentencing. He said, “Patty said to me we have left a lot of negativity in that courtroom.”
Kelley says after the emotional court hearing, the family along with Jared Scheierl gathered in the judge’s chambers. He said, “There was a kind of a group family hug and then Patty said ‘We are going to have one of the most joyous Thanksgiving’s in a long time.'”
Kelley says, Trevor Wetterling, who moved out of state, will be home for Thanksgiving this year, and the Wetterling’s have the peace of knowing their son buried in a small peaceful cemetery is nearby. Kelley said, “They know now where Jacob was buried, they know who committed the crime, they know what is going to happen.”
Kelley says for the Wetterling’s, for Jacob’s friend Aaron Larson, for Jared Scheierl, delivering the victim impact statements was a moment of deliverance.
“There was a cathartic release with all of those collective victim impact statements yesterday,” Kelley said.
And as painful as yesterday was, it was a chance to leave the masked man dressed in black who stole Jacob behind. Kelley says Patty Wetterling told him this: “I don’t want to hear Heinrich’s name again. I am not going deal with Heinrich. I am going to deal with going forward and I think the whole family adopted that strategy and it has done them well.”
Kelley, a formal federal prosecutor, says he believes that if Heinrich, who is 53, survives his 20-year sentence, he believes prosecutors will be able to civilly commit him as a sex offender.