Standing before a packed courtroom that included Jacob Wetterling’s parents and extended family, Danny Heinrich entered a guilty plea in a deal that will keep him behind bars for decades.
After pleading guilty to a single count of receiving child pornography, Heinrich detailed how he kidnapped and killed Jacob. Heinrich told the courtroom how on that fateful night he was driving through St. Joseph around 8 p.m. when he noticed three boys on bikes with a flashlight. He pulled into a driveway after they passed him.
Heinrich testified that he jumped out of the car wearing a mask and holding a .38 revolver. He ordered them into a ditch and asked their names and ages. “I told Trevor and Aaron to run away, don’t look back or i’ll shoot. ” Heinrich recalled.
The defendant described how he handcuffed Jacob and put him in the passenger seat of his car. Heinrich had a police scanner in his vehicle, and after hearing police respond to the kidnapping he decided he’d better drive back to Paynesville. He recalled Jacob at one point asking him, “What did I do wrong?” He took a series of backroads that wound through small central Minnesota communities until he reached a sewage pond road and drove to a grove of trees. There, he forced Jacob to disrobe and masturbate him until the boy told Heinrich he was cold.
Jacob asked to be taken home, but Heinrich recalls telling the boy it was too far. On the way back to the car he noticed a police cruiser on the road nearby. Heinrich said he panicked, pulled his revolver and put two rounds inside. “I raised the revolver to his head, clicked once with no bullet in the chamber. Shot him twice after that. ”
Heinrich, who sources say led investigators to Jacob’s remains last week, admitted guilty to charges of receiving child pornography. The U.S. Attorney will ask the court to dismiss the remaining counts of that indictment. A federal prosecutor detailed the results of a search warrant that ended in the discovery of explicit images of children on the hard drive of Heinrich’s computer. An image the defendant downloaded on March 1, 2014 is the basis for the only charge in the child pornography indictment he is pleading guilty to.
Prosecutors have not yet moved on to facts or potential charges in the Wetterling case.