Friday, June 7, 2019

Jacob Wetterling: Missing Since October 22, 1989 **SOLVED**

11-year-old Jacob Wetterling was riding bicycles with his brother and a friend in St. Joseph, Minnesota on October 22, 1989 when they were approached by an unknown man with a gun. The man let the other boys go, but grabbed Jacob and walked away with him. Jacob has never been heard from again.
The man who took Jacob may have been responsible for an assault on a child just ten months prior in the nearby town of Cold Spring, Minnesota. As Jared was giving the directions the man stepped out of the vehicle and grabbed his shoulders from behind, and forced him down into the backseat of the car (the man also forced Jared to pull his winter cap down over his eyes). Although Jared did not see a gun, the man claimed that he had one and he stated that he “wasn't afraid to use it”.Jared’s story begins on a winter night in Cold Spring, Minnesota.
It was Friday, January 13, 1989 (9:45 p.m) when twelve year old Jared began walking the four blocks back to his home from the hockey rink where he had been skating with two of his friends when a man pulled up alongside him on the road and asked for directions. The man drove Jared about 5 miles to an area north of Richmond where he molested him for 3 hours. (Jared was later able to lead authorities to the location where he was sexually assaulted when he recognized a distinctive light at a nearby farm. “Where you see the silo there, there was a distinguished light I remember from that night while I was looking out the window,” Jared recalled. ) After the assault, the man took Jared’s blue jeans and his underwear and left him to put his snow pants on over the naked lower half of his body.

While driving back to town, the man kept questioning Jared about whether or not the boy could identify him. Once they were back near town, the man pulled Jared from the back seat and told him to run and not look back or he threatened to shoot. Police were at Jared’s home within minutes after his return and he was taken to a local hospital for tests taken throughout the night.Jared has been called upon frequently since his abduction to assist police with possible connections to the Wetterling abduction. In fact, investigators confirm that one of the key sketches released in the search for Wetterling’s abductor was actually put together by Jared.


Ten Months Later/October 22, 1989
More important perhaps was that Jerry knew October 22, 1989 had been a tough one for Jake. His son had skated poorly at hockey tryouts for his youth league in nearby St. Cloud. Later, Jerry Wetterling would recall a moment from that day that could lend support to the stalker theory. That afternoon (after having spent that morning with Jacob fishing at Big Fish Lake), Jerry and his two sons were skating at the hockey tryout. There were about 20 spectators. Suddenly, Jacob slipped out of sight. “It was very strange but very real,” Jerry remembered. “I had this sense of danger for Jacob. I can almost point to the spot on the ice where it happened to this day.” Jerry found Jacob and the ominous feeling soon passed, but in retrospect, he said, “It prompted me to wonder if possibly the abductor had been in the ice arena at that time, in a sense looking at Jacob or stalking him.” (another chilling version of the event: Suddenly Jerry was walloped by something very strange. “I felt a tremendous surge of fear and danger,” he recalls. “It was all aimed at Jacob. I stopped and looked at the people in the stands and at the kids on the ice. I was frantic until I spotted Jacob and knew he was okay. It was an overpowering moment.”Nothing like this has happened to Jerry before or since. In the absence of other clues, the Wetterlings will forever wonder if the abductor was at the ice rink, spotted Jacob, took a liking to him and followed them home.) Renting a comedy might be just the thing to lift Jacob’s spirits. Jerry decided to allow Jacob and Trevor to ride to the Tom Thumb. It was the first time the two boys had permission to ride after sundown.

Dispatcher: “I want you to give me anything you, you can recall about this male party that approached you guys, okay?”

“When he walked in the door, I knew something was wrong just by the way he looked – in shock, pale and stuttering,” she remembers. “He kept trying to say ‘a guy, a guy,’ and he kept saying that. And he finally got that out and I said, ‘Jared, we need to talk.

Somebody will commit a crime toward a child, then have three months of feeling empty, and then three months of starting to look, and he’ll do it again in nine months…

St Joseph, Minnesota:

All Jacob Wetterling wanted to do was rent a video. At age 11 he was savvy enough to know that if mom said no, dad just might say yes. Jacob’s parents, Jerry and Patty, had left their house in St. Joseph, Minn. to attend a dinner party in nearby Clearwater Minnesota . Jacob stayed behind to watch over his two younger siblings, Trevor, 10, and Carmen, 8. Jacob’s friend, Aaron Larson, age 11, joined the group. It was a warm and overcast Sunday night in St. Joseph, population 2,200. Trevor Wetterling was the first to telephone about getting permission to go rent a video from the Tom Thumb convenience store. Trevor figured he had a chance of getting mom’s okay. The store was only a ten-minute bike ride away, and besides, it wasn’t even a school night because of a teachers’ conference the next day. Trevor’s pitch failed. Patty Wetterling was worried about drivers not being able to see the boys on the dark stretch of country road.

Now it was Jacob’s turn. He called his dad. The boys had revised their plan. Trevor would carry a flashlight, Aaron would wear a white sweatshirt and Jacob would wear his father’s orange reflective jogging vest. And a 14-year-old neighbor would babysit for Carmen. The plan seemed sound to Jerry.

About halfway through their mile-long trip, Aaron heard a rustle in the tall grass by the road: ”A little shiver went through me,” which he revealed in an interview 20 years after the abduction. “I didn’t know if it was a person or an animal, but I kind of sped up. I don’t know if Trevor or Jacob even heard it. … It was just a strange noise that shouldn’t be there.” Not wanting the others to know he was scared, he said nothing.

The boys arrived at the Tom Thumb store sometime around 9:00 p.m. (the unusual man who was glaring at customers at a convenience store in Avon earlier that day was also at the Tom Thumb glaring at customers. The man was last seen at 9:00 p.m. standing outside the store next to an ice machine). For 10 or 15 minutes, the boys studied the videos, renting “Naked Gun” because their first choice, “Major League,” was checked out. After buying some candy, the boys headed home. At about 9:15 p.m. Jacob, Trevor and Aaron were making their way back from the store, videotape in hand. The older boys were on bikes; Trevor was on a push scooter. As they approached a particularly dark stretch of the road, where a long gravel driveway led to a farm (and close to the spot where Aaron had heard the strange noise) suddenly the flashlight held by Trevor picked up a figure moving from the driveway into the road in front of them.

Uncertain, the boys slowed. “Stop!“ ordered a burly man with a harsh, raspy voice who now stood before them pointing a pistol. “Turn off that flashlight. I have a gun.” The boys saw that his face was covered by black nylon stockings. (“The first thing I remember was the flash of the gun, and a guy saying, ‘Stop, I have a gun,’” Aaron recalled. “I caught my breath. I thought it was a high school kid pulling a joke on us. … Then it hits you: this is happening, it’s no joke.”)

Then the man ordered the boys to dump their bikes and scooter and to lie face down in the ditch along the road. (Aaron remembers his heart “going 1,000 beats a minute,” but having no clue what was happening. “You didn’t hear about people being kidnapped or abducted. It didn’t cross my mind.”)
He first leaned down, looked closely at Trevor’s face and demanded his age. “Ten,” Trevor said. The man then asked Aaron the same question “eleven,” Aaron answered. Brandishing the gun, the man turned to Jacob and ordered him to give his age. Jacob said that he was eleven.

Then the gunman demanded that Trevor get up and run as fast as he could to the woods. Trevor was not gone that long, maybe 10 seconds when the man waved his pistol at Aaron and yelled, “Run to the woods as fast as you can, and don’t look back or I’ll shoot!”

Aaron ran as fast as he could to catch up to Trevor. After running 100 yards, Aaron looked back — and saw nothing but darkness (other accounts of the story say Aaron witnessed the gunman grab Jacob by the elbow of his red St. Cloud hockey jacket, leading him away into the darkness).

Frantic, the boys ran to the Wetterling house. The babysitter called her father, who called 911.

Within minutes, the cul-de-sac lit up with squad cars. Petrified, Aaron looked out a living room window and kept telling himself he would see Jacob again. “Sooner or later, he’s going to come and he’s going to get out of the car and this will all be over.”

Patty Wetterling: “By the time Aaron caught up to Trevor and they felt safe enough to turn around and look back, Jacob and the man were gone. The boys ran home and told Rochelle (the babysitter) to call 911. She called her dad, and he called 911. Then he called us.

The police arrived six minutes later and went to the place where the boys had seen the man. Jacob’s footprints were on the driveway by where the man had been standing. But then they ended and his toe sort of dug into the gravel. There appeared to be some resistance at that point. There were tire tracks on the driveway.

The neighbor who called said, “You have to come home.” Jerry grabbed me and said, “We’ve got to go. Somebody took Jacob.” I grabbed my purse. We didn’t even say goodbye. We just walked out of the party.

We had a very long drive back. I was yelling at Jerry. He didn’t have any answers, and I just kept asking questions. We didn’t have cell phones. I kept telling him to speed, but he didn’t want to get pulled over. He thought that would delay us. I said, “No, that would mean a police escort. Just go.”

We finally arrived at our road and it was a nightmare. There was a squad car, and the police stopped us and drove us home. Trevor was just…I’ve never seen a kid wound tighter. He just couldn’t stop talking. Aaron was tucked in the corner of our kitchen, biting his nails, like he was trying to disappear. He couldn’t talk. I remember Amy and Trevor and Carmen sitting on the couch in absolute terror.”

What Trevor Wetterling and Aaron Larson described – a mask, a gun and a selection process – spawned a variety of theories. The use of a mask suggested to some that the kidnapper might have been known in the community and was trying to shield his identity. Perhaps the boys even knew him. But the boys were in close physical proximity to the kidnapper, and heard his voice several times. They never identified the criminal as someone in particular. Investigators also could not recall an instance of a stranger child kidnapping in which a gun was involved. When pedophiles take children, it is for sex. They do not want to harm them physically. The gun suggests that violence was perhaps the kidnapper’s motive (side note: in an interview from 1991, Jeff Jamar of the FBI stated that: “based on what happened at the scene, we go on the assumption that it was a sex crime from the beginning. The person who abducted Jacob had… we think, attempted to abduct someone else in the recent past and it failed, hence the gun” . I wonder what the details are surrounding that failed kidnapping? I cant find any additional information about it).


Agents assigned to the FBI Academy’s Behavioral Science Unit at the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime compiled a profile of Jacob’s kidnapper:
“The offender is likely to be a white male between the ages of 25 to 35 years old; very low selfimage; likely to have committed a similar crime in the past; may have some physical deformity (such as scars or acne) and is likely to have had a recent stressful event in his life which would have precipitated the high-risk approach taken in this crime. The high-risk approach also indicates the offender may have attempted similar acts recently and failed. The offender is likely to be in an unskilled or semi-skilled job that does not include contact with the public. Persons who know the offender would likely notice heightened anxiety on the offender’s part since the crime occurred.”

Early on, it did not look like it would be too hard to find the criminal. Days after Jacob’s disappearance, police began looking for a red Chevette. Ten people said that they saw the car at the Tom Thumb moments before the kidnapping. In a town where everyone pretty much knew the vehicle of choice of everyone else, the Chevette was unfamiliar. It turned out that the mystery car probably belonged to an art student. He called police and told them that he had been in the area looking for things to sketch. His story was verified, and police moved on.


Eighteen months after Jacob’ disappearance a man was arrested for burglary in St. Cloud, Minnesota. Upon running a criminal background check, law enforcement officials discovered that the man was a previously convicted sex offender. Further, the St. Joseph police learned that in October, 1989 the man had lived closer to Jacob’s abduction site than did the Wetterling family; yet, local police had not been aware of his presence within the community. In fact, unbeknownst to local police at the time of Jacob’s disappearance, there were halfway houses in the St. Joseph area that housed sex offenders upon their release from prison. This information was disconcerting because during the search it was commonly assumed that Jacob’s kidnapper had attempted similar behavior in the past. The St. Joseph police lamented that prior knowledge of the presence of these previously convicted sex offenders may have prevented Jacob’s abduction in the first place.
In 2003 the long held belief that the abductor took Jacob away in a car was abandoned when a man named Kevin, came forward to tell the police he had left the tire tracks in the driveway after hearing about the abduction on a police scanner and rushed to the scene in his car leaving the tire tracks behind. The driver told authorities that in 1989 he had given his name and explanation for being there to an officer at the abduction scene. No record of the conversation exists though. Also, the boys did not see or hear a vehicle that night of the abduction, so the police believe that the abductor got away with Jacob on foot, which would make the abductor someone local.

Wetterling 911 Tapes

They’re the words that launched the search for Jacob Wetterling and some of them come from his 10-year-old brother Trevor. A year after the abduction, he talked about how a man asked them their ages and told them to run into the woods or else he would shoot them. The FOX 9 Investigators have obtained the seven-page 911 transcript of that first call made on October 22, 1989. The call comes from a neighbor.

Merlin Jerzak says, “I’m right now next door, my neighbors, at my neighbors, the Jerry Wetterling family. Some of the boys went down to Tom Thumb to pick up a movie and on their way back someone stopped them and ah, we believe that they have one of the boys because the, one of the boys did not come back with them.”

Dispatcher: “Okay, were you, were they picked up in a vehicle?”

Jerzak: “Just a second I’ll ask the boys was there a vehicle, ah, this person appeared ah, on the road when they were bicycling back home.”

Dispatcher: “Okay, did they see the individual at all?”

Jerzak (talking to the boys): “Did they see the individual at all? He had a mask on.”

The dispatcher then gets a rough second-hand description of the suspect. A description of the red hockey jacket Jacob was wearing with Police Department inscribed on the back. The call is confusing. The dispatcher is simultaneously dispatching squad cars, trying to figure out where the abduction occurred on the rural stretch of road and asking questions.

Dispatcher: “Give me some information on this guy with the mask, I want color, anything those kids can remember?”

That’s when Jacob’s brother, Trevor, has calmed down enough to get on the phone.

Trevor: “Well he was, he was like sorta, he was like a man, sort of big. He had like a, it looked sort of like nylon things as a mask.”

The dispatcher asks about the location of Jacob’s bike. Trevor doesn’t know what happened to it.

Trevor: “‘Cuz we have to just like run, run off into the woods.”

Dispatcher: Did the guy have a deep voice? Anything like that you can remember?”

Trevor: “Yes, did he have like a deep voice or whatever? Seemed like he had a cold sort of.”

Dispatcher: “Trevor, did you see the gun the individual had?”

Trevor: “Um, we couldn’t really see it, but we just, we sort of saw it.”

Dispatcher: “Okay, did he threaten you?”

Trevor: “Mm, what?”

Before Trevor can answer, the officers have arrived at the Wetterling home. The dispatcher ends the call telling them they’ll be sending more officers and dogs to begin the search. Unknown to anyone at 
the time, the heartbreaking search for Jacob Wetterling is just the beginning.
In hindsight, the most important detail from this transcript may be what’s not described. The boys never saw a car that night. The man who covered his face may have been someone the boys would recognize, a big man with a congested voice, someone on foot, someone local. The police arrived six minutes later and went to the place where the boys had seen the man. Jacob’s footprints were on the driveway by where the man had been standing. But then they ended and his toe sort of dug into the gravel. There appeared to be some resistance at that point. There were tire tracks on the driveway.

UPDATE: This Case Has Been Solved
Danny Heinrich confesses to abducting and killing Jacob Wetterling "What did I do wrong?" the boy asked before his sexual assault and execution.
By Pam Louwagie and Jennifer Brooks Star Tribune staff writers
SEPTEMBER 7, 2016 — 9:54AM
Finally, Minnesota knows.

The question haunting a family and a state for nearly 27 years — what happened to Jacob Wetterling — was solved Tuesday when his murderer stood in federal court and recounted in horrific detail how he kidnapped the sandy-haired boy on a dead-end rural road, drove him into the dark countryside and sexually assaulted, then executed him. “What did I do wrong?” Jacob asked his kidnapper, Danny Heinrich, after Heinrich snatched the boy at gunpoint and sent Jacob’s little brother and best friend running away scared. The answers came after federal prosecutors cut a deal with Heinrich, who after years of denying involvement in Wetterling’s disappearance led authorities to the boy’s shallow grave in a rural pasture outside the central Minnesota town of Paynesville, some 30 miles from the site of the abduction that brought excruciating pain to the Wetterling family and nightmares to parents across the state.

Heinrich, 53, pleaded guilty to one count of receiving child pornography, a crime for which he is expected to spend 20 years behind bars. Though he will not be prosecuted for Jacob’s kidnapping and murder, Heinrich could remain in state custody under Minnesota’s civil sex offender commitment.The unusual deal was struck, officials said, with the approval of Patty and Jerry Wetterling, who have advocated nationally for missing and exploited children while keeping hope that somehow their son would be found alive. U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger and Stearns County Sheriff John Sanner describe how Danny Heinrich was convinced to show authorities where he buried Jacob Wetterling.

“I want to say ‘Jacob, I’m so sorry.’ It’s incredibly painful to know his … last hours, last minutes,” Patty Wetterling said, fighting tears as she spoke to reporters after Heinrich’s plea hearing. “Our hearts are hurting. For us, Jacob was alive until we found him.”

Exchanging a possible murder prosecution for a single child pornography charge — one of 25 Heinrich was facing — was simply the only way to get the volatile Heinrich to lead authorities to the grave that no one had been able to find after almost three decades of intensive searching, U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger explained.

“He’s not getting away with anything,” Luger said. “We got the truth. The Wetterling family can bring [Jacob] home.”

That October night

Standing in court, with Wetterling’s parents sitting in the gallery behind him, Heinrich described Jacob’s final hours in agonizing detail: “I was driving on a road, a dead-end road. I noticed three children on their bicycles with a flashlight,” Heinrich started, at times struggling to get his words out between sharp breaths.

After Heinrich and the boys passed each other that night, he said, he pulled his car into a driveway and faced the direction of the road that they’d be coming back on. Then he waited. As the boys returned about 20 minutes later, Heinrich got out of his car and, with a mask on, reached for his revolver, a snub-nosed .38 Smith & Wesson Special. He confronted the boys, told them to get into the ditch with their bicycles, then asked their names and ages. The boys offered Heinrich the videotape that they had just rented from the convenience store, but Heinrich knocked it down. They shined their flashlight in his face, and he told them “no, don’t do that,” he testified.

He told Trevor Wetterling and Aaron Larson to run away, warning them not to look back or he’d shoot. He took Jacob back to his car, handcuffed him behind his back and placed him in the passenger seat. Heinrich then drove from St. Joseph with a police scanner crackling with activity inside the car. He told Jacob to duck down as he decided to drive back toward his hometown of Paynesville.

The car went on a circuitous route: west on Hwy. 75, then on Interstate 94, exiting at Albany and cruising onto another county road toward the town of Roscoe before hitting Hwy. 23 to Paynesville.

On the outskirts of town, Heinrich pulled the car onto a country road that he knew well, one with a field approach about 100 yards ahead. Next to a row of trees, not far from a gravel pit, Heinrich opened Jacob’s door and uncuffed him. He took him near the trees, where they both undressed. Heinrich groped the boy and forced the boy to touch him. After about 20 minutes, Jacob told Heinrich he was cold, Heinrich recalled. He told Jacob he could get dressed.

Shortly after learning about her son Jacob's last moments, Patty Wetterling spoke to the media “Take me home,” the boy asked, but Heinrich said he couldn’t take him all the way home, and Jacob started to cry. When Heinrich saw a police car go by, he got scared. “I panicked and pulled the revolver out of my pocket,” Heinrich said. “It was never loaded until that point. I loaded it with two rounds and told the victim to turn around; I had to go to the bathroom. He didn’t know what I was doing.”

Then, Heinrich said, with Jacob turned away, he raised the revolver to the boy’s head, turned his own head away, and pulled the trigger. The gun clicked once, but didn’t go off. He pulled the trigger again, and it fired. When he looked back, the boy was still standing, so he shot once more. Jacob fell to the ground. The execution over, Heinrich drove back to his apartment in downtown Paynesville and waited a couple of hours before returning to the scene after midnight to hide Jacob’s body. He dragged it about 100 yards, then decided the shovel he brought wasn’t big enough to do the job quickly. He walked to a nearby construction company and found a Bobcat.

“I placed Jacob in the grave and I covered him back up,” Heinrich said. He returned the equipment, covered the grave with grass and brush, then threw Wetterling’s tennis shoes into a ravine as he walked back home. Heinrich returned a year later under the cover of darkness to find Jacob’s red jacket sticking out of the shallow grave. Son Trevor consoled Patty Wetterling during a press conference after Danny Heinrich admitted killing her son Jacob Tuesday September 6, 2016 in Minneapolis, MN. Trevor was with Jacob on the night he was abducted.

He gathered as much as he could into a bag — the boy’s jacket, bones and skull — and carried it all across the highway. He dug another grave about 2 feet deep, this time with an Army entrenching tool. He put Jacob’s bones in the grave, placed the jacket on top and covered him a final time.

For almost 27 years, Heinrich guarded his secret from authorities.

‘Stole our innocence’

“Finally, we know,” Luger said Tuesday. “We know the truth. Danny Heinrich … is the confessed killer of Jacob Wetterling.” The day Jacob was abducted “stole our innocence,” Luger said.

Authorities had interviewed Heinrich about Jacob shortly after he disappeared. They reinterviewed him at least twice in 1990, also searching his father’s house, where he then lived. They found six photos of children, including one showing a boy wrapped in a towel exiting a shower, and another of a boy in his underwear. No charges resulted.

In February 1990, Heinrich was arrested on probable cause in the kidnapping and sexual assault of a Cold Spring boy, Jared Scheierl. Heinrich said he was innocent and was released without being charged. Authorities had long believed Wetterling’s and Scheierl’s cases were connected.

In 2015, using new technology, authorities tested DNA from Scheierl’s sweatshirt and found that it matched Heinrich. That led them to search Heinrich’s house, where they discovered more than 150 graphic images. They arrested him a final time, charging him with 25 counts of child pornography. Ten days ago, Luger said, Heinrich’s defense team reached out with an offer — a full confession, detailed directions to Jacob’s grave — but only if he wouldn’t be prosecuted for Jacob’s killing, or an earlier assault on Scheierl.

“This was not an opportunity we could pass up,” said Luger, who described a “volatile and unpredictable” Heinrich as someone who might change his mind at any time. “We have to grab the moment.”

What followed were several tense days as investigators worried that Heinrich might back out of the deal. None of them, Luger said, will forget the moment when searchers discovered the first fragments of Jacob’s red St. Cloud hockey jacket. They later found the bones and teeth of a child, then a T-shirt printed with the name: Wetterling. Heinrich faces the maximum 20-year sentence on the single federal child pornography charge. All other child pornography charges were dropped. At the end of his prison sentence, Stearns County Attorney Janelle Kendall said, Heinrich could be committed to the state’s sex offender program and “may never be released again.”

Door finally opens

“We have been banging on this door forever and now it is opening,” said Alison Feigh, program manager for the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center and one of Jacob’s middle school classmates.

When first announcing the federal child porn charges against Heinrich last year, federal authorities named him a “person of interest” in Wetterling’s abduction. Court documents also raised questions about whether Heinrich was responsible for a series of disturbing attacks on young boys in Paynesville months before Jacob was taken. All of the attacks took place within blocks of Heinrich’s apartment.

Nine months before Jacob hopped on his bike for a quick trip to the video store, Heinrich abducted Scheierl as he walked home from a cafe in Cold Spring on a January night. He confessed in court Tuesday to forcing Scheierl into the back seat of his car and sexually assaulting him. After he was molested, Scheierl told police his attacker wore camouflage and Army boots and had a “walkie-talkie” type of device in the car. Three days later, a Stearns County deputy identified Heinrich, who was in the National Guard at the time, as a possible suspect, according to court records.

A year of change

Documents depict 1989 as a year of change for Heinrich. His car was repossessed in March. His mother remarried in May. His last day of work at Fingerhut Corp. was Oct. 8, leaving him unemployed.

Two weeks later, he abducted Wetterling.

It was a case with frustratingly little physical evidence and a frustratingly large pool of suspects, one of whom was Heinrich, who was in his late 20s at the time. Acquaintances would later describe the quiet, awkward man with thick glasses and a pudgy build as “kind of an oddball.” Nearly 30 years later, Heinrich still wore thick glasses as he stood in court, throngs of reporters watching, as he finally told the world what he had done. Afterward, Patty Wetterling thanked everyone involved in the effort to bring her son home, but added that her family wasn’t ready to talk much yet. “We need to heal,” she said. “There’s a lot of lessons learned and there’s a lot of work to do to protect all our world’s children.” She spoke not about how Jacob died, but how he lived. “He’s taught us all how to live, how to love, how to be fair, how to be kind,” she said. “He speaks to the world that he knew, that we all believe in. It is a world worth fighting for. His legacy will go on.”

Staff writers Stephen Montemayor, Jenna Ross and Paul Walsh contributed to this report.

Timeline of the Wetterling investigation

Oct. 22, 1989: Eleven-year-old Jacob Erwin Wetterling is abducted by a masked gunman about 9:15 p.m. along 91st Avenue, southeast of St. Joseph. Firefighters and 35 officers from the Stearns County Sheriff’s Office and other law enforcement agencies search the area. Two local FBI agents and five from Minneapolis are assigned to the case. A state helicopter with a searchlight searches the nearby woods and fields. A command post is set up at Del-Win Ballroom in St. Joseph. Searches are called off at 3 a.m. until daybreak.

Oct. 23, 1989: The search resumes at 8 a.m. Department of Natural Resources officers use all-terrain vehicles to search a 2-mile radius around the abduction site. Helicopters fly over a 25-square-mile area. A Minneapolis bloodhound leads officers to tire tracks, prompting officers to believe the kidnapper had a car nearby. By 1:30 p.m., fliers are distributed.

Oct. 24, 1989: An FBI expert in psychological profiles flies in from Washington, D.C., to join about 14 other investigators.

Oct. 25, 1989: Authorities receive tips that a small red car had been seen in St. Joseph in the past three weeks. About two dozen red cars in the area are investigated. The FBI profile describes the abductor as a white man, 25-35 years old, employed in a low-skilled job with a low self-image probably stemming from a physical deformity such as acne or scars. About 600 people gather in St. Joseph Catholic Church to pray.

Oct. 26, 1989: At 11:30 a.m. about 30 horses and riders begin searching 1 mile east of St. Joseph. About 50 officers, including at least 20 FBI agents, sift through hundreds of tips. A group of anonymous Twin Cities business leaders offers a $100,000 reward for Jacob’s safe return within 72 hours.

Oct. 27, 1989: Officials release an artist’s sketch of a man who had tried to abduct a Stearns County boy earlier that summer, believing the two incidents could have involved the same man.

Oct. 28, 1989: A white sweat sock is found about 100 yards from the abduction site, but a bloodhound can’t track its scent farther than a nearby road. Tri-County Crime Stoppers adds to the reward money, bringing the total to $125,000.

Oct. 29, 1989: From 7:30-10 p.m., roadblocks are set up in St. Joseph. About 2,000 motorists are stopped and questioned by the Minnesota State Patrol. At 11 p.m. the $100,000 reward established by Twin Cities businesses expires.

Nov. 3, 1989: Authorities have questioned 100 potential suspects. They conduct a final ground search.

Nov. 4, 1989: About 5,000 people link hands, forming a chain from St. Joseph to St. Cloud in what is dubbed “Hands for Jacob.” A sketch of a 1970s Ford van is released. The van was believed to have been used in an earlier abduction attempt of a 10-year-old boy. The sketch generates several tips.

Nov. 9, 1989: An unauthorized sketch of a former suspect circulates. The sketch was removed from circulation in a few days. Authorities have received more than 12,000 tips.

Nov. 12, 1989: Two more suspect sketches are released, one of a man who talked about the incident and another of a man authorities say was suspected of trying to kidnap a New Brighton boy. They generate more than 300 tips.

Nov. 17, 1989: A detailed description of a car involved in the attempted abduction of a 13-year-old boy in Roberts, Wisconsin is released. Someone calls a national missing children’s network and reports that Jacob is in St. Joseph. Authorities investigate but nothing turns up.

Nov. 23, 1989: The FBI releases another sketch, one that blends three others because agents believe all three sightings could have been the same man.

Nov. 24, 1989: Authorities seek information on three cars seen in Jacob’s neighborhood before the abduction.

Nov. 30, 1989: A more accurate drawing of an earlier sketch is released.

Dec. 14, 1989: Attention turns to links between Jacob’s abduction and the abduction and sexual assault of a 12-year-old Cold Spring boy in January. A sketch of the potential suspect is released. Details lead investigators to think the two could be related.

Jan. 16, 1990: The Wetterlings announce plans to establish the Jacob Wetterling Foundation.

May 2, 1991: Patty Wetterling sends 10,000 copies of a letter asking for help in finding her son. It generates a few leads, but nothing significant.

May 24, 1991: U.S. Sen. Dave Durenberger proposes a national registry of people who have committed crimes against children. The measure would be known as the Jacob Wetterling Act. It mirrors a Minnesota proposal.

October 2003: The driver of a long-sought vehicle comes forward. Authorities rule him out as a suspect in the abduction. The theory of the case changes, leading investigators to focus on local suspects who could’ve been on foot when snatching Jacob.

February 2004: The new information brings energy back to the case. Media report the change in focus for the case. Authorities interview a local potential suspect.

May 2004: Media reports surface that link Jacob’s abduction to the abduction and sexual assault of the 12-year-old Cold Spring boy. The boy was taken 10 months before Jacob. The victim comes forward and says he believes links exist. Authorities receive about 20 new tips. But investigators believe the cases likely aren’t related.

June 30, 2010: Law enforcement converge on a rural St. Joseph Township farm. Officers from Stearns County, Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and FBI search the site. Jacob was last seen at the end of the property’s driveway.

Sept. 28, 2010: Stearns County Sheriff John Sanner reports that lab tests on materials gathered in June and July do not produce evidence in the case.

2014-2015: The Stearns County Sheriff's Office, the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and the FBI conducted a full, cold-case review of the Wetterling case. It resulted in the identification of leads and other avenues of investigation. Authorities say examination of DNA evidence connected Daniel Heinrich to a sexual assault case of a 12-year-old boy in Cold Spring, nine months before Jacob disappeared. On the basis of that evidence, authorities obtained a search warrant. Authorities say evidence of child pornography was discovered.

July 28, 2015: Law enforcement officials execute a search warrant in Annandale. The residence is the home of Daniel Heinrich, who officials later say is a person of interest in the Jacob Wetterling case.

Oct. 28, 2015: Police arrest Daniel Heinrich.

Oct. 29, 2015: Law enforcement announce child pornography charges against Heinrich. Authorities say he has also been connected to a sexual assault case of a 12-year-old boy in Cold Spring, nine months before Jacob disappeared. Authorities say law enforcement found DNA evidence to link him to that crime.


Sept. 3, 2016: Patty Wetterling says in a text message to KARE that Jacob's remains have been found "and our hearts are broken."

1 comment:

  1. I'm sorry but I still feel the police investigation of this case was lack lustre. Every householder on that dead end road should have been spoken to within the hour.I also feel that road blocks should have been set up in a twenty to thirty mile radius. It is perfectly possible that had this been done Heinrich would have been apprehended with Jacob still alive . In a lot of these cases it is the abduction as much as the attack that leaves a mental scar. St Joseph needed a Sherlock Holmes that night , instead it got an Inspector Clueso, or to be more precise , an inspector clueless. God bless you Jacob , you deserved better, rest in peace little man.

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