Wetterling 'person of interest' wants child porn trial moved

Danny Heinrich
This photo released Oct. 28, 2015 by the Sherburne County Sheriff's Office, shows Daniel Heinrich. Heinrich was arrested on federal charges stemming from a long-term child exploitation investigation. The FBI says Heinrich is a person of interest in the 1989 abduction of Jacob Wetterling.
Sherburne County Sheriff's Office

Lawyers for Danny James Heinrich on Wednesday said a search of Heinrich's house seeking evidence in the abduction of Jacob Wetterling was illegal. They also said they'll petition to have Heinrich's child pornography trial moved.

Heinrich, identified last year by federal prosecutors as a "person of interest" in the Wetterling disappearance, sat silently during a pretrial hearing in U.S. District Court in bright orange jail clothes while his public defenders questioned retired Stearns County Sheriff's Office Captain Pam Jensen about the July 2015 search of Heinrich's Annandale, Minn., home.

Heinrich has been charged with 25 counts of possessing child pornography, which was found during the search for evidence in the Wetterling case. He has not been charged in the Wetterling case and has pleaded not guilty on the child pornography charges.

Heinrich's attorneys said Wednesday the search was illegal because officers lacked probable cause to believe they would find child pornography.

Jensen testified that she began investigating the disappearance of Wetterling 16 years ago. She said in 2015, advances in DNA testing technology made it possible for them to link Heinrich with the 1989 sexual assault of Jared Scheierl in Cold Spring, Minn. Nine months later, 11-year-old Wetterling was abducted about 10 miles away near his St. Joseph, Minn., home and never seen again.

Public defender Reynaldo Aligada questioned Jensen's recollection of the day the search warrant for Heinrich's home and for a DNA sample from him were signed. When asked if she remembered any conversations between herself and the judge after he read the warrant request, she said no.

Aligada said that he intends to argue for a change in venue for the trial later this month. However, he didn't say where he wants the trial moved. It is tentatively scheduled to begin in July.

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