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Jacob Wetterling’s killer sent to prison for 20 years

MINNEAPOLIS – The confessed-killer of Jacob Wetterling was recently sentenced to 20 years in prison – lighter sentence for making the confession and ending a family’s misery.

Danny James Heinrich, 53, was sentenced back on November 21 to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty in September to federal child pornography charges. As part of his plea allocution, Heinrich admitted in court that on October 22, 1989, he abducted, sexually assaulted and murdered 11-year-old Jacob Wetterling. Heinrich also admitted that, in January 1989, he abducted and sexually assaulted 12-year-old J.S.

The announcement was made today by United States Attorney Andrew M. Luger, FBI Special Agent in Charge for the Minneapolis Division Richard T. Thornton, Stearns County Attorney Janelle P. Kendall, Stearns County Sheriff John Sanner and Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) Superintendent Drew Evans.

“Today’s sentencing marks the close of a sad chapter in Minnesota history,” said U.S. Attorney Luger. “Danny Heinrich hurt countless lives, none more tragic than Jacob Wetterling. I encourage all Minnesotans to draw on the example of Patty and Jerry Wetterling, who transformed their grief into hope. Patty and Jerry have dedicated their lives to helping other parents bring their kids home. We can all help. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children received more than 4 million online tips last year of suspected child sexual exploitation. No concern is too small, no observation too unimportant to call 1-800-THE-LOST or go online to Every child matters. Every second counts.”

“The FBI, along with our law enforcement partners, never wavered in the effort to solve this heinous crime,” said Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Minneapolis Division Richard T. Thornton. “Although solving this crime took decades, justice has been delivered to both the Wetterling family and to the citizens of Minnesota. This sentencing should serve as a reminder to those who perpetrate crimes against children: Law enforcement will never give up in its hunt to find you and bring you to justice no matter how long it may take.”

“The victims today spoke eloquently of the real effect of these crimes, for not only themselves but also on behalf of other victims both present and represented in the videos and in the vast amount of child pornography Heinrich possessed,” said Stearns County Attorney Janelle Kendall. “Their accounts of the pain compounded by Heinrich’s years of silence during their pleas for answers was heart rending. I must agree with the US Attorney that Heinrich’s regret only caused him to act when he’d been cornered. That said, I was also struck by the resilience, strength, and insight of these victims brought together by evil, but now joined by Jacob’s Hope. It has been an honor and privilege to know them through this experience. Thanks again to our federal and state partners for getting us all to today.”

According to Heinrich’s guilty plea, on October 22, 1989, he abducted, sexually assaulted, and murdered Jacob Wetterling.

According to Heinrich’s guilty plea, on January 13, 1989, he abducted and sexually assaulted J.S., a 12-year-old boy.

According to Heinrich’s guilty plea, he possessed between 10 and 150 child pornography images, including images of prepubescent minors under the age of 12. The pornographic material portrays sadistic or masochistic conduct, and images of morphed child pornography.

This case is the result of an investigation conducted by the FBI, Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and the Stearns County Sheriff’s Office.

This case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Steven L. Schleicher and Julie Allyn of the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Special Prosecutions Unit. Assistance was provided by the Stearns County Attorney’s Office and the Department of Justice Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section.

Jacob Wetterling and his killer, Danny James Heinrich
Jacob Wetterling and his killer, Danny James Heinrich
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