ST. CLOUD, Minn. (KMSP) - A tense moment capped off the Jacob Wetterling case files release event Thursday morning.
After Stearns County Sheriff Don Gudmundson finished his presentation, the original FBI Investigator assigned to the case, Al Garber, took the podium unprompted to rebut Gudmundson’s version of events.
“I’ve known Don Gudmundson for many years and we’ve worked together a number of times and I have a great deal of respect for Don,” Garber said. “I don’t know what his motive is in this presentation frankly, but I think there are some things you need to know to make this a positive experience, not a negative one.”
Garber went on to accuse Gudmundson of making his beliefs in the case fit the facts. Then, he questioned Gudmundson’s credentials in handling the high profile investigation, which caused Gudmundson to return to the podium.
He briefly attempted to defend his credentials before saying, “You know what, Al?” Why don’t you take it outside?”
Garber did just that, inviting the gathered media to listen to his remarks outside the building.
Once outside, Garber read from his notes and disagreed with Gudmundson’s re-telling of the story. Later, he sat down with Fox 9 to discuss his qualms with Gudmundson's presentation.
Garber elaborated on his thoughts, saying, “I knew from [Gudmundson's] first words, ‘this investigation went off the rails,’ I knew then this was going to be about making facts fit conclusions.”
He said he was insulted by the impression given that investigators didn’t do anything in the first few months. Garber instead described up to 70 investigators working more than 16 hour shifts with two briefings daily where everyone working the case from local, state and federal agencies shared what they had found and what they didn’t.
“I don’t know what he was talking about. Did he think we were on a coffee break from October to December? I just don’t get it. I don’t know what he was talking about,” Garber said.
Garber was shocked to hear the Sheriff question everything from the 24/7 surveillance Danny Heinrich was under for two weeks to investigators’ first interview with him.
Garber says Heinrich was not picked up out of a bar as the Sheriff described. Plus, three of the best psychological profilers Garber could find were brought in from the FBI Academy and even staged a practice run prior to the interview actually being conducted.
Garber disputed the Sheriff's portrayal of those interrogators being inexperienced, too.
“He doesn’t really know what we did regarding Danny Heinrich and I think he puts that off that he couldn’t read or doesn’t remember the FBI documents that he couldn’t release,” Garber said.
In addition to correcting the Sheriff, Garber says he is defending original members of law enforcement who worked the case, but more than that, he worries criticism will cause law enforcement to lose even more public trust.
“I am definitely more worried about the big picture than I am about my reputation or even the reputation of the investigators at the time,” he said. “I want to correct the record, for them and for me, but more importantly I want the people of this state to know you have a lot of good people working. There isn’t just one good person, Don Gudmundson.”
Keep up with all the coverage of the Wetterling case files release at Fox9.com.