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WCCO Spoke With Wetterling Abduction 'Person Of Interest' In 1996

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- The person of interest in Jacob Wetterling's kidnapping spoke to WCCO-TV in 1996.

A review of our archives has turned up a 1996 undercover interview that WCCO-TV did with Danny Heinrich. That interview was conducted with a hidden camera in Heinrich's red car.

At one point, Heinrich describes how authorities at one point actually arrested him and accused him of abducting Jacob. In the interview, Heinrich described that confrontation this way.

"We know it's you. It's you, it's you. No it isn't. No it isn't. No it isn't," the dialogue goes.

WCCO-TV reported in 1996 that Heinrich had failed a lie detector test and transcripts of the interview quote him as saying he does not want to take another one. There is just a brief glimpse of the back of Danny Heinrich getting into his red 1987 Mercury sedan.

A hidden camera and microphone capture his conversation with a reporter. Heinrich says he doesn't know where he was the night of Jacob's  abduction.

"I don't keep track of last week or the week before. I was probably home," Heinrich said.

In 1996, investigators showed WCCO an image of a footprint from Jacob's abduction scene and told us that it was consistent with Heinrich's shoe print. And they said this tire track was consistent with the tires on Heinrich's blue Ford EXP.

During the interview and in transcripts, Heinrich says in 1989 and 1990 he was under surveillance for months.

"It was pure hell," Heinrich said.

This original January 1990 search warrant shows investigators searched Heinrich's Paynesville home looking for Jacob, his clothing, a gun and any evidence to show where he was on the night Jacob disappeared. They also looked for evidence from an earlier abduction in January 1989.

In that case, 12-year-old Jared Schierel of Cold Spring was abducted, sexually assaulted and then let go. In the 1996 interview, Heinrich insists he knows nothing about either case.

"There is nothing I can tell them. I have no information whatsoever. That is the truth," Heinrich said.

While 12-year-old Jared had not been able to pick Heinrich out of a photo lineup, he helped the FBI create a sketch which bears a striking likeness to Heinrich. In February of 1990, authorities arrested Heinrich and charged him in Jared's case.

That is when he was accused of abducting both boys, Heinrich said.

"We know it's you. It's you, it's you, it's you. No it isn't, no it isn't, no it isn't until finally I have nothing to say until I speak to a lawyer," Heinrich said.

After that, Heinrich refused to talk. Investigators had to drop the charges. In the interview transcripts, Heinrich says that law enforcement followed him for months afterwords and that he became paranoid and he tried to change his appearance by growing a mustache.

This year, investigators say DNA testing connected Heinrich to Jared's abduction.

In February of 1992, investigators returned all of Heinrich's possessions with the exception of his shoe and his tires. It was another 23 years before he was arrested on child pornography charges.

If you have any information about Heinrich, you're asked to call the FBI at (763) 569-8000 or the Stearns County Sheriff's Office at (320) 259-3700.

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