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Woodbury developer buys Jacob Wetterling's killer's house

Daniel Heinrich, named Thurday, Oct. 29, 2015, as a "person of interest" in the 1989 abduction of Jacob Wetterling, lives in this home at 55 Myrtle Ave. in Annandale, Minn. (St. Cloud Times: Dave Schwarz)

ANNANDALE, Minn. — A Woodbury man wants to demolish the home of the murderer of 11-year-old Jacob Wetterling.

Tim Thone, owner of Thone Development LLC, bought and and destroyed it as a Christmas present for his four adult children.

"When it's done," said Thone, "then maybe we can all feel good."

The house in Annandale, Minn., was owned by Danny Heinrich, 63, who confessed to Jacob's 1989 murder — one of the most notorious crimes in state history. Heinrich will spend at least 17 years in federal prison for possession of child pornography.

Thone bought the house Thursday, Dec. 15, and is scheduled to tear it down Friday, Dec. 23. The cost of the project will be about $74,000.

The idea hit him Dec. 10 as he watched a TV news show. The story was about the Wetterling case, and included a brief shot of Heinrich's house, which was for sale.

"I thought, 'That house just can't be there,'" said Thone.

The house reminded him of the emotional scars left by the crime.

In 1989, Jacob was riding a bike near his home in St. Joseph, Minn., when he was kidnapped at gunpoint by a masked assailant. In September — 27 years later — Heinrich confessed to kidnapping, sexually assaulting and murdering the boy.

Thone recalled how the crime changed his life. "I had four kids," he said, "and after that we didn't let them play in the front yard."

Thone is a Woodbury-based developer who has built about 500 homes.

In only a few days, Thone has made deals with city officials, bankers, lenders and contractors. He persuaded local companies to donate their work for the job — including the Felhaber Larson law firm, DSM Excavating of Hastings and Red Pine Industries of St. Paul.

He called Jacob's mother, Patty Wetterling. "She said that seeing the house being torn down would be part of the healing process," Thone said.

Buying the house, including back taxes and fees, will cost Thone about $58,000. Another $16,000 in services will be donated, including asbestos removal and the demolition work.

He hopes that the land will be leveled off and the lot left empty.

"We don't want a memorial on this site. We don't want an ice cream parlor or a park with somebody's name on it," said Thone.

"We want the memory of the predator not to be there."

Thone is not accepting donations.

"I don't want a penny. But when your kids come home from college, give them one extra hug," said Thone.

"And then maybe take one present from under the tree and say that instead of that, you are going to send some money to the Wetterling Foundation."

Online

For information about the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center, including how to donate, go to bit.ly/2hGDAoO.

The Pioneer Press is a Forum News Service media partner.

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