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What Do Prosecutors Need To Charge Heinrich In The Wetterling Case?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Tire tracks and shoeprints: Investigators have old evidence in the Jacob Wetterling case that links person of interest Danny Heinrich to the area where Jacob was last seen. According to a former U.S. Attorney, prosecutors need more.

The disappearance of Jacob Wetterling 26 years ago has stayed with Minnesotans. And that's no different for former U.S. Attorney Rachel Paulose.

"I think the message of this case is that law enforcement has never stopped seeking justice for Jacob," Paulose said.

Newly released evidence shows the footprint investigators found at the scene of Jacob's abduction is a match to a sneaker seized from Danny Heinrich. And a tire print at the scene is consistent with Heinrich's 1982 Ford EXP, but that's not enough to charge him with Jacob's abduction.

"You have to prove your case beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury, and those two pieces of evidence, clearly the government decided in its own judgment that that would not be sufficient to prove a crime, but secondly we have this question of federal jurisdiction," Paulose said.

Paulose explains, to charge federally, a state line must have been crossed during the commission of a crime. And so far, there are no allegations of that in the publicly filed documents. Simply put, prosecutors need more.

"The best evidence is always a defendant's own incriminating statement or physical evidence," Paulose said.

Or, she said, if a witness comes forward with something Heinrich allegedly said or did that would incriminate him.

"Even if the government doesn't have sufficient evidence to convict, they seem to be painting a picture of evidence to connect Mr. Heinrich to Jacob Wetterling's abduction," Paulose said.

Heinrich has denied and continues to deny his involevment in Jacob's abduction. Authority's stress he has not been charged in that case.

And something to note: Heinrich currently faces as much as 70 years in prison if he's found guilty of each child pornography charge against him.

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