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Cold Case Spotlight

Person of Interest Named in 1989 Disappearance of 11-Year-Old Jacob Wetterling

Authorities in Minnesota have identified a person of interest in connection with the 1989 abduction of Jacob Wetterling.

During a news conference Thursday, federal and local officials announced the arrest of Daniel Heinrich, Annandale, Minn., on several child pornography charges, and said he may be connected to the mysterious cold case.

Daniel Heinrich Sherburne County Sheriff's Office

A search warrant was executed on Heinrich's residence on July 28 and police found 19 three-ring binders filled with pornographic images of young boys, a computer hard drive filled with images, along with dozens of VHS tapes, officials said.

The videos, which police say appear to have been shot by Heinrich himself, show young boys participating in everyday activities such as delivering papers and having fun at playgrounds.

U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger also says Heinrich's DNA has been matched to a kidnapping and sexual assault case of a young boy back in January 1989. The young boy in that case was grabbed off the street, forced into a vehicle where he was sexually assaulted, then dropped off and told that if he turned around, he would be shot, according to NBC affiliate KARE.

Jacob Wetterling

Jacob was just 11 when he was abducted on October 22, 1989 near his home in central Minnesota, while he was out riding his bike with some friends.

Officials said Heinrich was looked at closely back in the 1989 and 1990. He was once again investigated, when detectives from the FBI and several law enforcement agencies met to discuss the Wetterling case about a year ago.

Officials on Thursday stressed that Heinrich has not been charged in connection with Wetterling's abduction, but that he is being named a person of interest. Heinrich has reportedly denied any involvement in connection with the boy's disappearance.

The Wetterling family released a statement Thursday afternoon, thanking all those who were, and continue to be, involved in the investigation.

Related: The Mysterious Disappearance of Jacob Wetterling

"We are grateful for the prayers, the support and the hope shared in our search for Jacob and the search for answers... today we ask for a little time," read the family's statement.

"For 26 long years we have said that somebody knows something. If you know anything about this man, his ties to St. Joseph in 1989 and his victimization of children or since, please call the Stearns County Sheriff's Department."

Jacob's case was one of the first cases highlighted in Dateline NBC's 'Cold Case Spotlight' series. His case was featured in October 2014.