Cold Spring victim's lawsuit against Wetterling killer going to trial

Jared Scheierl, who was assaulted as a child.
Jared Scheierl, who was assaulted as a child by Danny Heinrich, speaks at the press conference announcing Heinrich's confession to the kidnapping, assault and murder of Jacob Wetterling on Sept. 6, 2016, in Minneapolis.
Courtney Perry for MPR News 2016

Nine months before Danny Heinrich killed Jacob Wetterling in October 1989, he kidnapped and assaulted another boy, 12-year-old Jared Scheierl.

Nearly 30 years after the crime, Scheierl will have a chance to speak in court about the trauma and lasting scars he has lived with ever since. The lawsuit he filed more than two years ago against Heinrich is scheduled to begin Friday afternoon in St. Cloud.

What happened to Jared Scheierl?

Danny Heinrich
Danny Heinrich
Sherburne County Sheriff's Office

On Jan. 13, 1989, Scheierl was walking home in Cold Spring when Heinrich approached him and asked for directions.

Heinrich grabbed Scheierl and forced him into his car, threatening him with a gun. He drove Scheierl to a secluded area, sexually assaulted him, then let him go, telling him not to look back or he'd shoot.

MPR News generally does not name victims of sexual assault, but Scheierl has spoken publicly about his ordeal.

Why did Scheierl file a civil lawsuit against Heinrich?

In September 2016, Heinrich confessed to assaulting Scheierl and to kidnapping and killing Wetterling as part of a plea deal.

Heinrich could not be charged for the assault against Scheierl because the statute of limitations had expired by the time he confessed.

Scheierl filed the civil lawsuit in May 2016, shortly before a three-year window to file claims on older abuse cases under the Minnesota Child Victim Act closed. At the time, Scheierl's attorney said he wanted a chance to confront Heinrich and get answers to his questions. Authorities had already named Heinrich a "person of interest" in the Wetterling case.

The lawsuit accuses Heinrich of sexual battery and false imprisonment. It says Scheierl has suffered and will continue to suffer severe and permanent emotional distress and psychological injuries.

The lawsuit seeks more than $50,000 in damages for income loss and the cost of psychological treatment.

What will likely happen at the trial?

The trial will be held in St. Cloud, at Stearns County District Court. It is a bench trial, which means there will not be a jury. Judge Andrew Pearson will hear testimony from several witnesses. Scheierl is expected to testify.

Heinrich is serving a 20-year sentence in a federal prison in Massachusetts on a child pornography charge. Neither he nor his attorney are expected to appear in court.

Your support matters.

You make MPR News possible. Individual donations are behind the clarity in coverage from our reporters across the state, stories that connect us, and conversations that provide perspectives. Help ensure MPR remains a resource that brings Minnesotans together.