7 Jacob Wetterling search warrants released

Seven search warrants have been released from the Jacob Wetterling case file. Thursday afternoon, a Minnesota judge signed an order authorizing the release of all sealed search warrants in the Wetterling case. The warrants include the Paynesville searches that led to Danny Heinrich’s confession and the discovery of Jacob Wetterling’s remains, but the documents also show how investigators locked in on two people who didn’t commit the crime as recently as 2010 and 2014.

Paynesville searches

Two of the search warrants concern the Paynesville property where Jacob Wetterling’s remains were found. According to the search warrants: “On August 30, 2016, law enforcement was provided information from a source of information (SOI), who shall remain anonymous, relative to the investigation of the Wetterling abduction. The SOI has a personal relationship with Danny Heinrich and has regular contact with him.”

The search warrants state that Heinrich told the SOI he buried the remains of Jacob Wetterling, including his clothing, in a clandestine grave located on a farm operations site off Business Road 23 in Paynesville. On Aug. 31, Danny Heinrich was present when investigators searched the Paynesville property. The search led to the recovery of Jacob Wetterling’s red nylon jacket, but the only bones that were recovered were non-human.

Heinrich told investigators about an initial burial site where he assaulted and killed Wetterling, and investigators obtained a second search warrant for a more extensive search of the property. These searches led to the recovery of Jacob Wetterling’s remains – confirmed by the Ramsey County Medical Examiner – as well as his clothing.

4 searches and a hypnotic interview of an innocent man

Four of the search warrants offer a look at an innocent man under suspicion, Dan Rassier. On Oct. 22, 1989 Wetterling was abducted in front of the driveway of Rassier’s parents’ farm.

In 2010, investigators began extensive excavation along several areas of the Rassier farm, but found nothing.
Investigators had placed Rassier under hypnosis way back in 1989. According to the warrant, "during the period in which the questions turned to Jacob's abduction, he began crying and shaking,” and “Rassier said he lost track of time."

Patty Wetterling wears a wire

In 2009, detectives had Patty Wetterling wear a concealed recording device and pretend to run into Rassier outside of a gym in St. Cloud.  The conversation seemed bizarre. 

Rassier told Wetterling "there are plenty of places on the farm to dispose of a body." He told her "that he has this fear in the back of his mind... other people.. could go on his property and bury Jacob."

And when Patty Wetterling said the man who kidnapped her son “has had a life of hell,”  Rassier said, "I think the person that did it is probably dead.”

2014 focus on Duane Hart

As recently as 2 years ago, Wetterling case investigators were also looking at civilly-committed sex offender Duane Hart, who molested young boys in Stearns County and Kandiyohi County in the late 80s. Hart was a family friend of Danny Heinrich.

According the warrant, "with Hart's sexual psychopathic personality..." he was a "viable suspect." Listening in on his phone calls from the Moose Lake facility, they learned "Hart wanted someone to sell or get rid of items in a storage locker." But again, it was a lead that apparently went nowhere.

Danny Heinrich’s confession

By 2015, investigators were back to Danny Heinrich -- another early suspect. And this time they had the right man.

On Sept. 6, Danny Heinrich admitted in court to kidnapping, sexually assaulting and killing Jacob Wetterling. The confession comes nearly 27 years after the abduction, and just days after Heinrich led investigators to Jacob’s remains in rural Paynesville, Minn

For Dan Rassier, whose life was turned upside down, there's vindication, but no satisfaction.

“It's devastating to me to finally realize for sure that they found him and he's gone from this planet,” Rassier said in an interview with Fox 9 after Heinrich’s confession. “I mean it's just not a happy time."