COLD SPRING, Minn. (KMSP) - A man kidnapped in Cold Spring, Minn. in January of 1989 is filing a civil lawsuit against the person of interest in the disappearance of Jacob Wetterling.
The lawsuit filed in Stearns County alleges Danny Heinrich, 52, kidnapped and sexually assaulted then 12-year-old Jared Scheierl. He hopes the lawsuit will reveal more information about Wetterling, Scheierl's own case, and the rash of cases like theirs in the area.
Heinrich is behind bars in Sherburne County after being arrested at his home in Annandale in October for possession of child pornography during a search for evidence related to Scheierl's 1989 kidnapping and sexual assault. That happened just months before 11-year-old Wetterling’s disappearance in nearby St. Joe.
DNA evidence linked Heinrich to the Cold Spring kidnapping and sexual assault, which prompted investigators to comb through Heinrich’s home in July. They found child porn in 19 three-ring binders and on his computer. Investigators also found tapes of news coverage of Wetterling's disappearance and children's clothing, but said they found no evidence of Wetterling.
The statute of limitations prevents him from being prosecuted criminally, but the May 25 expiration date for the Minnesota Child Victims Act, which opened a 3-year window for victims of clergy abuse to file a lawsuit, prompted Scheierl to take action.
Heinrich is now charged with 25 counts of child porn possession and is slated to stand trial this July.
Former assistant U.S. attorney Doug Kelley and Minnesota’s former chief public defender Dan Scott are representing Scheierl. The lawsuit would go to a civil trial or proceeding and potentially disclose information about Wetterling’s abduction, Scheierl’s own case, and similar cases in the area. Heinrich could refuse to testify, but other witnesses would have to take the stand.