ANNANDALE, Minn. – A real estate developer plans to buy and destroy the home once owned by the man who killed 11-year-old Jacob Wetterling, whose 1989 disappearance haunted Minnesota for nearly three decades.
Developer Tim Thone said the idea came to him on Dec. 10, while he watched a news story about the case that broke open this year, when Danny Heinrich led authorities to the field where he buried Jacob's remains. Heinrich later admitted to kidnapping, sexually assaulting and killing the boy.
The news report included a brief shot of Heinrich's house, which was up for sale in Annandale, about 50 miles northwest of Minneapolis. Thone said the house reminded him of the emotional scars left by the case.
"I thought, 'That house just can't be there,'" Thorne said.
Thorn and his wife were young parents when Jacob was snatched from his bike by a masked gunman and disappeared.
"After that, we didn't let them play in the front yard," he said of his four children. "As parents, and as Minnesotans, it had a profound effect."
Thorne, who lives east of Minneapolis in Woodbury, expects to buy the one-bedroom foreclosed house and tear it down by Christmas as a present for his adult children. The effort will cost Thorne about $74,000.
Annandale Mayor Dwight Gunnarson said Heinrich's house was a constant reminder to residents and would've always had a stigma.
Heinrich, 53, publicly confessed in September to abducting, sexually assaulting and killing Jacob. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison on a child pornography count that allowed authorities to finally close the case. As part of his plea bargain, prosecutors agreed not to charge Heinrich with murder.
Jacob's 1989 abduction led his parents to launch a national center to prevent child exploitation.