ST. CLOUD, MInn. -- Authorities on Thursday said a man facing charges in a child pornography case is also a person of interest in the 1989 Jacob Wetterling abduction and a kidnapping case in that same year in Cold Spring -- two Stearns County cases that have been linked before.
In the Cold Spring case, a 12-year-old boy was abducted on Jan. 13, 1989, sexually assaulted and left in a rural ditch. It had some similarities to the Wetterling case, which involved an 11-year-old boy being taken by a masked gunman, Stearns County Sheriff John Sanner has said.
On Thursday, officials announced that DNA evidence connected Daniel Heinrich to that Cold Spring case. On the basis of that evidence, they were able to obtain a warrant where evidence of child pornography was discovered.
Heinrich is considered a person of interest in the Wetterling case, but officials emphasized that Heinrich has not been charged in that case and he has denied any involvement.
However, anyone with information about Heinrich's activities in the late 1980s and early 1990s is asked to contact authorities.
Whether a link existed between those two cases has been investigated since Wetterling was taken in October 1989, Sherrif Sanner said.
The victim in the Cold Spring abduction and sexual assault declined to talk in 2004 for a story but did talk on camera to Twin Cities television station KARE. The story identified links the victim sees between his case and Wetterling's abduction.
Even though the victim appeared on television, he said he fears for his safety and that of his family because his abductor was never caught.
Sanner said previously that authorities ran parallel investigations into the Cold Spring case and the Wetterling abduction.
The Cold Spring case involved a 12-year-old boy who was pulled into a car about 9:45 p.m. Jan. 13, 1989, as he walked home from ice skating. The driver of a dark-blue car stopped to ask the boy directions before grabbing him.
The man told the boy he had a gun, but the boy never saw one. He took the boy to a rural area north of Richmond in Stearns County and sexually assaulted him. The driver then pushed the boy from the car into a ditch.
The boy described his attacker as a man wearing military fatigues and black boots, possibly military boots. The abductor had husky shoulders and a low-pitched, raspy voice.
Wetterling was taken about 9:15 p.m Oct. 22, 1989, just southeast of St. Joseph. He was riding his bike home with his brother and a friend when a masked gunman approached them.
The gunman came out of a ditch or a side road and told the boys to throw their bikes into the ditch and lie on the ground. He asked the boys' ages and then told the other two to run. Jacob Wetterling has never been found.
The boys in the Wetterling case described the kidnapper as wearing dark clothing and black boots. The man also was described as having a raspy voice.
Sanner said detectives have continued investigations into both cases. Deputies took people in for questioning in connection with the Cold Spring case but never arrested anyone, Sanner said.