In the Dark: 9: The Truth
October 26, 2016 8:21 AM - Subscribe

When Danny Heinrich confessed in court on Sept. 6 to abducting and murdering Jacob Wetterling and assaulting Jared Scheierl 27 years ago, investigators declared that at last, the public had the truth. But despite Heinrich's excruciatingly detailed accounts, the truth remains elusive. Many questions remain unanswered.
posted by ellieBOA (5 comments total)
That was so great. I really like the way they pulled the kid gloves off at the very end. This story is first and foremost a plea for more police oversight.
posted by lumpenprole at 12:29 PM on October 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

This whole story is like the anti-Serial. They had so many chances to catch the right guy and they didn't.
posted by Zephyrial at 2:23 PM on October 26, 2016

They had so many chances to catch the right guy and they didn't.

I expected there to be a grand conspiracy for half the podcast, but it was simply just ineptitude of the sheriffs office. Sad thing is I don't know which is worse. And that Sheriff at the end. "Aww shucks, it was this guy all along. Well, nothing we could have done better, he did the perfect crime! Case closed." ...
posted by Megustalations at 12:24 AM on October 27, 2016

I used to live in Stearns county, so guess this shouldn't have been a surprise, but it still had me banging on the steering wheel towards the end.

If you are the sheriff, you should consider it to be your primary goddamned job to improve the department's performance, not be totally unaware of your clearance rate and refuse to look back because it might make people feel bad. That last bit is so stereotypically Minnesotan, we'll all share the polite fiction that everything is OK so we don't have to have difficult conversations.
posted by superna at 5:42 PM on October 28, 2016

Yikes. I kept waiting for this series to redeem itself, but it never did.

First of all, the criticisms of the sheriff department's activities are incoherent. We're supposed to be outraged that they spent time investigating Dan Rassier, an obvious eccentric who lived at the crime scene and went far out of his way to remind the cops that he had a bizarre obsession with the details of the case. This despite the fact that he was never charged, or particularly harassed aside from a few pointed interviews. (The media leak is a real problem; but the connection to the Sheriff administration is entirely speculative.) But we're also supposed to be outraged that they didn't continue to harass Danny Heinrich, whose only ties to the crime seem to have been owning a blue car and having his character questioned by the man who molested him as a child.

We're told that the national obsession over stranger child abductions and the registry system is a shocking and pointless over-reaction to an incredibly rare crime. (Which, to be fair, is true.) But, we're also told that failing to devote the entire resources of the sheriff's department to one exceptional instance of such a crime - over the course of decades - is a dereliction of duty.

They point out all the frustrating and painstaking work that went into transcribing case clearance rates; but that data is never actually used. You don't need to call in an "expert" to comment that the Stearns County numbers seem a bit low; you have ALL the data. You can figure out whether or not it's low. How does it compare to nearby counties? How does it compare to counties in the same region with similar population densities? For hundreds of years statisticians have been developing tools to answer exactly the questions our host is asking, and yet they never bother to use them. (Not every radio host needs to understand statistics; but interviewing someone who does isn't exactly hard.) Not only that, but there's almost no mention of the quality of clearance rates as a metric, or the perverse incentives they cause in law enforcement departments that obsess over them. It takes a minute of googling to find example of police departments refusing to open cases, arresting innocent people, and even framing and torturing suspects in order to improve their stats. Yet we're supposed to be shocked that a sheriff in small town claims he's interested in qualitatively good police work rather than his clearance rates. That sounds like exactly the sort of thing local police administrators ought to be doing!

Finally, we're supposed to be angry that random beat cops responding to a domestic burglary failed to use the opportunity to thoroughly (and under false pretenses) investigate the home of some guy who was investigated but never charged with a crime decades ago in a different town. I don't know exactly what sort of dystopian police state Madeleine Baran wants to live in, but I sure hope she doesn't vote, 'cause it sounds awful.

Given all the buzz, I was expecting something other than a Great Plains Geraldo Rivera grinding her tiny little axe against the current Stearns County Sheriff. American Public Media owes me the four hours of life that it wasted on lazy, pointless journalism.
posted by eotvos at 10:54 AM on November 5, 2016

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