Minnesota Man Confesses to 1989 Killing of 11-Year-Old Jacob Wetterling

Danny Heinrich, 53, confessed to killing the boy as part of a plea deal.

— -- A Minnesota man has confessed to the killing of 11-year-old Jacob Wetterling, who was abducted in 1989 near his Minnesota home.

Danny Heinrich, 53, provided details in court Tuesday on what took place on Oct. 22, 1989, the day Wetterling went missing.

Heinrich said in court he was on a dead-end road when he noticed three children on bicycles, Wetterling, his brother and their friend. Some 20 minutes after he first saw them, he got out of his car, put on a mask and confronted them with a revolver, he said.

Heinrich told the two other boys to run away and not look back or he would shoot them, he told the court. He then put Wetterling in the back of his car and handcuffed him behind his back. The boy asked him, "What did I do wrong?," Heinrich recounted.

Heinrich said he feared they would be spotted after hearing police on a scanner in his car and made Wetterling duck, he said. He then took the boy to Paynesville, where he stopped next to a grove of trees, he told the court. He said he then removed the handcuffs, made Jacob undress and then forced the boy to touch him.

The victim told Heinrich that he was cold and wanted to go home. Heinrich allowed Wetterling to get dressed, he said, but he began to cry when Heinrich told him he couldn't go home.

As they began to drive again, Heinrich panicked when he saw a police car down the road, he recounted. He then loaded his revolver, telling Wetterling to turn around before he shot him in the head, he said. The victim was still standing and crying after the first shot, so Heinrich shot him again.

Heinrich said he went home after killing Wetterling, but returned a few hours later with a shovel. He dragged the boy about 100 yards from the scene of the shooting and buried him using construction equipment.

The victim was buried in a reflective vest, red jacket and blue sweatpants, Heinrich said. About a year after killing Wetterling, Heinrich went back to the burial site and found the red jacket above the ground. He then put the bones, skull and clothing in a bag and buried it in a 2-foot hole he dug in a field across the highway.

Heinrich also admitted to kidnapping and sexually assaulting another boy nine months earlier in January 1989.

Heinrich was in court Tuesday to face child pornography charges, in a separate case from Wetterling's abduction.

The victim's remains were identified Saturday, the Associated Press reported. As part of a plea deal, Heinrich was required to provide a "specific geographic location" to prosecutors to conduct a search for evidence for the abduction and murder of Wetterling, court documents filed in a Minneapolis federal court show. Once human remains or clothing was found, Heinrich was also required to provide an in-person proffer to law enforcement concerning Jacob's abduction and murder.

Heinrich was required to plead guilty to receipt of child pornography, according to the plea agreement, and the parties are seeking 20 years in prison.

A 1994 federal law was named for Wetterling and require states to establish sex offender registries. Since his death, Wetterling's mother, Patty Wetterling, has become a nationally recognized advocate for missing and exploited children.

"Everyone wants to know what they can do to help us," the mother said in a statement. "Say a prayer. Light a candle. Be with friends. Play with your children. Giggle. Hold Hands. Eat ice cream. Create joy. Help your neighbor. That is what will bring me comfort today."