“In the Dark” is an investigative true crime podcast hosted by Madeleine Baran and additional reporters. Season 1 covered Jacob Wetterling’s case from 1989 and examined law enforcement’s accountability when solving crimes. Jacob’s case scared parents nationwide and resulted in the first national requirement for tracking sex offenders with state registries.
Start each season from episode 1 to hear the full investigation unfold. With all episodes less than an hour on average, all seasons are highly bingeable.
11-year-old Jacob was biking home from a convenience store in rural St. Joseph, Minnesota when he was abducted. The FBI joined the search and believed the abductor was a sex offender. After receiving countless phone tips, they were still unable to find any helpful leads. The National Guard was called in, and investigators released a sketch of a man seen in the convenience store that night.
The police released more sketches of possible suspects, and Jared Scheierl, a 13-year-old victim from a sexual assault abduction in January 1989, was called in from a neighboring town. Investigators created a sketch of the man that assaulted Jared.
The police brought in suspect Danny Heinrich for questioning, and he claimed he was innocent. He provided hair samples, handed over his shoes, and permitted investigators to search his vehicle. His car’s tires matched tracks found at Jacob’s abduction site.
Authorities brought Jared into Danny’s car to see if he recognized anything, and Jared said it was very familiar. Danny was brought into the police lineup after his home was searched, and photos of disrobed children were found. Jared did not identify anyone in the lineup and the investigation continued.
A fiber from Jared’s clothing was matched to Danny’s car, and he was arrested and released. Investigators combed through more inconclusive evidence. Later in 1994, the Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Act and Child Safety Act was passed, enforcing a national registry for people who have committed crimes against children. In 1996, the Amber Alert system was created to inform everyone of potentially abducted children.
In 2003, a witness came forward, and in 2004, Jacob’s neighbor, Dan Rassier, was asked to admit to the abduction. Dan’s property was searched, and no evidence was found. The Child Abduction Response Team was created in 2005 to quickly respond to missing children reports and the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act was passed. This enacted a national sex offender registry, requiring states to disclose information about serious offenders.
From 2012-2015, new DNA evidence was examined and connected to Danny, whose home was searched again in 2015. Investigators found binders of child pornography, gear like handcuffs, duct tape, and boys’ athletic wear. It appeared Danny was creating his own pornography, and officers also found surveillance-style videos of neighborhood children riding bikes, walking on the sidewalk, and playing outside.
In 2016, Danny stood trial and confessed to abducting, assaulting, killing, and burying Jacob and assaulting Jared. After a deal was reached with attorneys, Danny was only charged for the pornography case, and he led investigators to Jacob’s burial site.
Season 2 investigated Curtis Flowers’ case, a Black man from Winona, Mississippi who was tried six times for the same quadruple homicide. Flowers fought for his life for over 20 years while a white prosecutor was intent on executing him. This season brought attention to Curtis’ case and uncovered new information, leading to his release from death row. Additional episodes of “In the Dark” reported on COVID-19 in the Mississippi Delta.
“In the Dark” is presented by APM Reports. All 40+ episodes are now streaming wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.