U.S. News

Minnesota man admits to abducting, killing 11-year-old in 1989

CHICAGO (Reuters) - A Minnesota man admitted in court on Tuesday to the 1989 abduction and killing of an 11-year-old boy whose remains he helped police locate last week as part of a plea agreement, authorities said.

Jacob Wetterling was riding his bike on a rural Minnesota road with his brother and a friend when he was abducted in October 1989. Danny Heinrich, 53, said he kidnapped, sexually assaulted and fatally shot the boy.

Heinrich “is the confessed murderer of Jacob Wetterling, and nearly 27 years after he committed this heinous crime, he has been brought to justice. And Jacob is finally home,” Andrew Luger, U.S. attorney for the District of Minnesota, said in a statement.

Heinrich’s confession, in addition to helping lead police to the spot where he buried Wetterling’s body, was part of a deal in which he plead guilty to a federal child pornography charge, but will not face charges in the killing.

Heinrich, who has been in custody since his arrest last year, also confessed to sexually assaulting another 12-year-old boy.

He faces a recommended 20-year sentence for the pornography charge, according to the U.S Attorney’s office. Sentencing is set for Nov. 21.

Last October, authorities named Heinrich a person of interest in the case, given the similarities between Wetterling’s abduction and a number of unsolved sexual assaults in central Minnesota dating to the 1980s.

Wetterling’s parents, Patty and Jerry Wetterling, became advocates for missing children after his disappearance.

“His legacy will go on,” Patty Wetterling said of her son at a news conference following Heinrich’s court appearance on Tuesday.

“For us, Jacob was alive until we found him ... we need to heal,” she said.

Authorities searched Heinrich’s home in July 2015 and found child pornography in three-ring binders and on a computer hard drive.

Additional reporting by Diane Bartz in Washington; Editing by Peter Cooney and Alan Crosby