Watch CBS News

1st Person Of Interest In Wetterling Abduction Wants His Name Cleared

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Authorities continue to ask for more information about Danny Heinrich, the man identified as a person of interest by law enforcement in the Jacob Wetterling case a week ago Thursday.

But there was another person of interest named publicly in 2010. Dan Rassier is a school band teacher, and Wetterling was abducted at the end of his quarter-mile-long driveway.

Rassier became the prime suspect in 2004 when authorities finally identified a set of tire tracks at the abduction scene. The driver of that car was ruled out. That is when authorities confronted him.

Related: Witness In Wetterling Abduction Speaks On Heinrich's Arrest

"[An investigator said] 'We know this guy left his tire track and we know now somebody did it on foot and you're the guy,'" Rassier said.

Rassier was never told what was revealed last week -- that on his driveway there was another set of tire tracks and a footprint that was a match to Heinrich. Rassier now wants his name cleared.

He says when investigators confronted him in 2004, asking him to confess. He says things got a lot worse in 2010 when he was as a person of interest. Authorities said there was probable cause for a search warrant to dig up his farm.

"Probable cause makes all these people think that, 'What is there on this guy?'" Rassier said.

He says it was especially difficult for his father, Robert, who died Saturday -- three days after Heinrich was arrested.

Rassier says a family friend reached out to the Stearns County Sheriff's Office to see if authorities could clear Rassier before his father passed. The friend was told authorities are not ready to do that.

"He always said he didn't want to die until this was solved," Rassier said.

WCCO showed Rassier the documents made public last week, which show that back in 1989 and 1990, Heinrich was a suspect in the Wetterling case, the unsolved sexual assault and kidnapping of a Cold Spring boy and a series of unsolved attacks on boys in Paynesville.

"Twenty-six years they had this information. Twenty-six years, and now? You got to be kidding," Rassier said.

He wonders why the investigation shifted in 2004 to the theory of a kidnapper on foot, when investigators knew there was another set of tire tracks and a footprint that matched Heinrich.

Related: Investigators Believe Paynesville Attacks, Wetterling Abduction Connected

"They never mentioned anything like that," Rassier said.

Rassier told authorities in 1989 that at 9 p.m. -- about the time of Wetterling's abduction -- he was upstairs when he saw a small dark blue or black car drive up quickly and turn around in his driveway, and that there may have been a child or a small woman in the passenger seat.

He says while the make of the car he saw is similar to Heinrich's Ford EXP, the color blue is brighter.

"It's possible that it looked that dark," Rassier said. "The only way I could be sure is to have that color of a car turn around."

We asked Rassier if he thinks Heinrich could in fact be the man who abducted Wetterling.

"It would appear that there is a strong connection," he said. "I don't want to accuse him of doing it until they really have it nailed down, and that is what they should have done with me."

Heinrich stands 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighs 190 pounds -- a build that matches the victims' descriptions of the attacker. Rassier is 6 foot 1 and weighs 170 pounds.

Authorities say while the foot and tire print in the Rassier driveway are a match to Heinrich, they are not conclusive.

The Stearns County Sheriff and the FBI declined to comment for this story.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.