Daniel James Heinrich, 52, was taken into custody on charges of receiving and possessing child pornography
Police have named a person of interest in the high-profile 1989 disappearance of 11-year-old Jacob Wetterling in Minnesota, PEOPLE confirms.
Jacob, his younger brother and his best friend were riding their bikes home from a convenience store in St. Joseph, Minnesota, on Oct. 22, 1989, when they were allegedly approached by a man in a stocking mask holding a gun. The man allegedly asked the boys their ages, then grabbed Jacob and told the others to run or he’d shoot.
Jacob was never seen again.
But on Thursday, police revealed that a man they first questioned in connection with the abduction 26 years ago had re-emerged as a “person of interest” in the case.
Daniel James Heinrich, 52, was taken into custody at his home Wednesday night on charges of receiving and possessing child pornography.
Authorities had searched Heinrich’s home in July, looking for evidence in Jacob’s kidnapping, as well as another unsolved abduction that occurred in January 1989, according to an affidavit obtained by PEOPLE. They didn’t find anything that connected Heinrich to Jacob, but they did allegedly find 19 three-ring binders filled with images of child pornography, prompting the current charges against Heinrich. Those binders also allegedly contained photos of known child victims of sexual abuse.
Officials also allegedly found bins of boys’ clothing and recordings of news reports about Jacob’s kidnapping.
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“Given the nature of these charges and as a result of similarities between the abduction of Jacob Wetterling, a number of unsolved sexual assaults in central Minnesota dating back to the 1980s and the alleged criminal actions of Danny Heinrich, we consider him to be a person of interest in the Wetterling abduction,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Richard T. Thornton at a Thursday press conference.
Heinrich denies any involvement in Jacob’s abduction.
In a statement, Jacob’s parents, Patty and Jerry Wetterling, thanked law enforcement for their efforts and asked for privacy. “The search for Jacob is an ongoing investigation and we will watch and learn with everyone else.”
The parents continued: “We are so grateful for the prayers, the support and the Hope shared in our search for Jacob and the search for answers. Who took Jacob? Where is he? What happened?
“Today we ask for a little time. We will be available for comment next week but ask for some space at this point in time.”