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Jacob Wetterling investigative file: Key people in the case

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The site of Jacob Wetterling's remains.
Disturbed dirt lies at the location in a cow pasture of a farm in Paynesville, Minn., where Jacob Wetterling's remains were found.
Judy Griesedieck for MPR News file

Stearns County authorities are releasing the investigative file in the abduction and killing of Jacob Wetterling, who was taken while biking with friends in rural St. Joseph, Minn., in 1989.

Danny Heinrich confessed in 2016 to taking Jacob, 11, and then sexually assaulting and killing him that night. 

The investigative file release on Thursday — expected to include thousands of documents relating to the case — will include everything except the FBI's investigative materials.

Here are the primary people involved in the case.

• Jacob Wetterling: The victim — The 11-year-old Jacob was taken while on biking home with his friends the night of Oct. 22, 1989. He was considered missing for 27 years, until his abductor and kidnapper confessed. 

• Patty Wetterling: The mother — Jacob's mother was 39 when her son was taken. She was a stay-at-home mother of four at the time and had taught math before then. After Jacob's abduction, she ran for public office multiple times and lost. She was crucial in pushing for the first national sex offender registry law and started a foundation. Now 68, she has become a prominent children's safety advocate on the international stage. 

• Jerry Wetterling: The father — Jacob's father had a less-prominent role as an advocate than Patty, his wife. Jerry Wetterling was a chiropractor in St. Joseph. A suspect early in the investigation, Jerry was later cleared. He turned to psychics at one point during the investigation to help cope. 

• Danny Heinrich: The killer — In 2016, Heinrich led authorities to Jacob's remains and confessed to being the criminal they sought for nearly three decades. He was arrested on child pornography charges in 2015, but didn't admit to taking Jacob until the next year. Heinrich also admitted to assaulting another boy, Jared Scheierl, in a town near St. Joseph, in 1989.

• Dan Rassier: The neighbor, and ex-suspect — Rassier lived on the farm with the driveway where Jacob was taken. The music teacher lived a normal life until he gradually became a prime suspect in Jacob's abduction. Rassier's property was searched multiple times and many people treated him as the man behind the crime. He later sued the local sheriff for naming him as a person of interest. 

• Jared Scheierel: The other victim — As a 12-year-old, Scheierel was kidnapped and sexually assaulted. It happened a few months before Jacob's abduction in a town 10 miles away. Scheierel spent years trying to find who his assaulter was. It was Heinrich.

• Charlie Grafft: The first sheriff — The former sheriff of Stearns County at the time of Wetterling's disappearance. He died in 2003. He was 75. 

• John Sanner: The last sheriff — Sanner, who became Stearns County sheriff in 2003 and retired in 2017, named Dan Rassier a person of interest in Jacob's disappearance in 2010. Rassier sued Sanner in 2016.

• Al Garber: The FBI agent — Garber was the FBI supervisor in charge of the investigation in 1989. He helped sift through the thousands of leads that came in during the case. Garber and others investigated Heinrich earlier in the case, but couldn't find the evidence to prove he took Jacob.

APM Reports contributed to this article. 

Correction (Sept. 20, 2018): An earlier version of this article misstated the day the files were released.