The Jacob Wetterling abduction

Man linked to Wetterling disappearance sued in civil court

Danny Heinrich
This photo released Oct. 28, 2015, by the Sherburne County Sheriff's Office shows Daniel Heinrich.
Sherburne County Sheriff's Office 2015

Updated: 11:30 a.m. | Posted: 7:30 a.m.

A Minnesota man who says he was sexually assaulted in 1989 as a boy is suing the man who's been named as a person of interest in the disappearance of Jacob Wetterling that same year.

A lawsuit filed in Sherburne County District Court on behalf of Jared Scheierl accuses Danny James Heinrich, 53, of sexual battery and false imprisonment, The St. Cloud Times reported. The Associated Press generally doesn't identify victims of sexual assault, but Scheierl has spoken publicly for years about his alleged assault, saying it could lead investigators to Jacob's kidnapper.

Heinrich is being held in the Sherburne County Jail on charges of possessing or receiving child pornography after law enforcement officers searched his Annandale home last summer.

Scheierl's lawsuit claims Heinrich approached him in January 1989, when he was 12 years old, in Cold Springs and forced him into a car. It claims Heinrich then drove to a secluded area where he assaulted Scheierl.

Authorities have linked Heinrich to the attack on Scheierl through his DNA, but the statute of limitations has expired. Investigators also have named Heinrich a person of interest in the 11-year-old Jacob's disappearance in October 1989 from St. Joseph, which is about 10 miles from Cold Springs. Heinrich has denied involvement in both cases.

Scheierl's attorney, Douglas Kelley, said his client filed the lawsuit because the window in which to do so under the Minnesota Child Victim Act expires May 25.

"By filing now we are providing a legal platform that will allow Jared to confront his assailant and ask him questions that Jared has wanted to ask for 27 years," Kelley said.

Kelley said Scheirel realizes he probably won't recover any money from the lawsuit.

"Justice doesn't have to necessarily come in a monetary form. I think answers are a form of prosecution. Or just having a perpetrator admit to his own wrongdoing. It's a sense of closure for victims in some sense," Scheierl said.

Kelley said they hope the investigation may help authorities solve assaults in Paynesville and Jacob's disappearance.