(KMSP) - In the end, the FBI saw only one path to Jacob Wetterling, and Danny Heinrich knew the way.
“The only way we were going to solve this case, was if Danny Heinrich told us what happened and lead us to the remains,” said Richard Thornton, the Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Minnesota.
Investigators knew from listening in on Heinrich's calls from jail that he had a hair trigger personality. He would be fine one minute, flying off the handle the next. When Heinrich was finally willing to cooperate, it was anyone's guess how long that moment would last.
Thornton described Heinrich petty and temperamental, with a mean streak.
“Clearly what you have is a very narcissistic person, who is interested in what he wants right at that very moment without any real concern about the consequences of the actions could be,” said Thornton. “The state search warrant indicated where his pornography stash was in a locked cabinet. And he goes ‘That cabinet wasn’t locked. They’re a bunch of lying SOB’s.’”
That kind of erratic behavior meant investigators had to work fast when Heinrich was ready to talk. After agreeing to a plea deal that would put him in prison for 20 years on a child pornography charge without being charged for murder, he finally led them to Wetterling's remains, just outside Paynesville.
Fox 9 also learned investigators have recovered the murder weapon - a gun Heinrich had since given to someone else.
Heinrich was a suspect from the beginning. But it was DNA from the abduction of Jared Schierel, nine months before Jacob's abduction, which put Heinrich back on the radar a couple years ago.
“Gave us a high level of confidence that we had to look at someone that needed to be looked at,” said Thornton.
Heinrich himself may've been abused by a notorious pedophile, Duane Hart, a one-time Wetterling suspect, who was a family friend.
Heinrich is also suspect in the molestation of eight boys in Paynesville, before Jacob and Jared. Yet, the theory is Heinrich suddenly stopped, and didn't offend again for 26 years - perhaps content with the child pornography detectives found in his home.
Thornton said he believes the 11-year-old Wetterling was Heinrich’s final victim, although he said, “We don’t know that definitely.” Thornton said it was also unusual for a sexual predator to suddenly stop such behavior.
Not only is the killer unusual, the crime remains relatively rare as well. According to a U.S. Department of Justice study, of the 58,000 children abducted every year, only about 115 children are kidnapped by a total stranger.
When asked if he thought law enforcement and Wetterling's were satisfied with the plea deal, Thornton said everyone wanted two things: significant prison time, and to find Jacob and get answers for the Wetterling's. He believes this deal, did just that.