ST. PAUL-They were separated from the others. It wasn't much - one additional door blocking Danny Heinrich and Anton Martynenko's cells from the other six in the pod.
But it was enough to help solicit a confession in the murder of Jacob Wetterling months before Heinrich made the admission in court, according to an affidavit recently filed by Martynenko's attorneys in his own case.
"The (Wetterling) case was stalled near its completion and the information that Mr. Martynenko provided bolstered the Government's belief that it was investigating the true perpetrator," Martynenko's attorneys, Marsh Halberg and Lee Orwig, wrote in a court document addressing their client's sentencing on child pornography charges Tuesday, Nov. 29.
Martynenko, 33, of Eagan, also shared Heinrich's plan to keep the location of Jacob's body a secret until receiving a 20-year cap to his prison sentence, according to the document.
Martynenko met Heinrich, 53, while they were incarcerated in the Sherburne County Jail in Elk River.
Martynenko was in prison for manipulating more than 155 boys into sending him nude photographs and explicit videos, making him the most prolific producer of child pornography prosecuted in the U.S. District Court in the District of Minnesota, according to prosecutors.
Heinrich was in prison for 25 counts of child pornography and considered a "person of interest" in the Wetterling case. DNA evidence connected Heinrich to the kidnapping and sexual assault of Jared Scheierl in Cold Spring. That crime occurred nine months before Wetterling's abduction and was remarkably similar, according to court documents.
Prosecutors couldn't charge Heinrich with the assault of Scheierl because the statute of limitations had expired. And in Jacob's case, the fact there was no body stymied investigators.
Martynenko approached his attorneys about Heinrich after he became convinced of Heinrich's involvement in both cases, court documents said.
Heinrich was "obsessed" with the Wetterling case - clipping related articles from newspapers, becoming "extremely volatile and unpredictable" when it was mentioned in the news, and repeatedly mentioned the statute of limitations in connection with the case, according to a letter sent by Orwig to Scheierl's attorney in late May.
Heinrich also "showed an unusual amount of rage" toward the child victims of sexual abuse, blaming them for the abuse and saying that they were "in it for the money, just like Scheierl," the letter said.
Talking with Heinrich about the case and related topics took "an emotional toll" on Martynenko, and he worried about his safety, but he "felt it was his moral duty" to pass the information along, according to court documents filed by his attorneys.
By mid-August, Martynenko had shared 40 pages of notes on conversations with Heinrich, which Orwig and Halberg shared with the U.S. Attorney.
Later that month, Martynenko revealed that after meeting with his own attorneys, Heinrich "bragg(ed) ... that he was going to be very famous in the coming weeks and to be sure to watch for him on television."
Later, in a private conversation with Martynenko, Heinrich detailed how he identified, abducted, sexually assaulted, and killed Wetterling, the court document said.
Heinrich's confession included his plan to use the location of Jacob's body as leverage in negotiating a plea deal, according to the document.
In September, Heinrich, 53, pleaded guilty to receiving child pornography. He was not charged with Jacob's murder. As part of a plea deal, he led authorities to Jacob's body in rural Paynesville and admitted to kidnapping, sexually assaulting and killing the boy on Oct. 22, 1989.
Heinrich was sentenced 20 years in federal prison last week.
Martynenko pleaded guilty to producing, distributing, and advertising child pornography in January and was sentenced to 38 years in prison Tuesday.
U.S. District Judge Richard Kyle shortened Martynenko's prison sentence from 40 years because of the information he provided, which was not solicited by the government or part of his plea agreement.
"Part of his path to rehabilitation and atonement is attempting to do other good deeds in the world," Martynenko's attorneys said in court documents. "He saw this opportunity to assist as a small but important part of aiding in the resolution of the Wetterling and Scheierl cases."
In a document filed before Martynenko's sentencing, prosecutors simply said that "Martynenko provided helpful background information in a separate case" and recommended a 40-year, below-the-guidelines sentence.
Another factor in their recommendation was the fact that Martynenko's plea spared his victims from the pain of testifying, the document said.
The St. Paul Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service