ST. CLOUD, Minn. (KMSP) - Jared Scheierl was just 12 years old when he was sexually assaulted by Danny Heinrich, the same man who kidnapped Jacob Wetterling.
Friday, Scheierl took the stand for the first time in a civil trial against Heinrich for what was a very emotional day in court, nearly 30 years after he was kidnapped and sexually assaulted.
“It was two and half years in the making; it’s just an emotional and personal case for a lot of people,” Scheierl said.
On the stand, Scheierl went into detail about the pain and suffering he endured on a winter day at the hands of Danny Heinrich when he was a 12-year-old boy living in Cold Spring, Minnesota.
It’s a trauma that consumes him to this day.
“I think that some of the feelings and emotions that I’ve been going through over the past few years could have been avoided had I had the opportunity to charge Danny Heinrich initially in 2016,” Scheierl said.
As part of a plea deal in 2016, Heinrich, who is now sitting behind bars in a Massachusetts prison, confessed to assaulting Scheierl and killing Jacob Wetterling, who went missing nine months after Scheierl was attacked.
Heinrich’s confession came after the statute of limitations expired. This civil lawsuit is now the only way to hold Heinrich accountable.
“It’s a win in that sense, that people start to talk about these cases more you identify and you,” Scheierl said.
Scheierl’s ex-wife, a childhood friend and Patti Wetterling all gave emotional testimony Friday as well.
“When we met Jared, we really did adopt this man,” Wetterling said. “He’s a wonderful man and he’s trying so hard to be happy and to be successful and I think he will be, but it’s been a hard, long journey.”
The fear was fueled by anxiety and anger, and Scheierl says that the experience has broken his family apart and led to issues on the job and caused feelings of isolation.
Friday at least brought a sense of closure.
“If you have anger in your heart let it out, because it’s not good to carry it with you,” Scheierl said. “It affects everyone else around you and it diminishes your character.”