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Jacob Wetterling’s Remains Found 27 Years After He Was Kidnapped

Jacob Wetterling’s remains were discovered in Minnesota recently, 27 years after he was kidnapped as an 11-year-old, authorities told the Associated Press on Saturday, September 3. Specifics of when and where the remains were discovered weren’t disclosed due to the ongoing nature of the investigation.

According to the AP, the Stearns County Sheriff’s Office confirmed in a statement that “Jacob Wetterling’s remains have been located,” and the Ramsey County medical examiner and a forensic odontologist identified them Saturday.

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A law enforcement official told the AP that a person of interest led authorities to a field in central Minnesota last week, which is where they eventually found the remains and other evidence.

“We are in deep grief,” a statement on the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center site reads. “We didn’t want Jacob’s story to end this way. In this moment of pain and shock, we go back to the beginning. The Wetterlings had a choice to walk into bitterness and anger or to walk into a light of what could be, a light of hope. Their choice changed the world.”

Patty Jerry Wetterling
In this Aug. 28, 2009, file photo, Patty and Jerry Wetterling show a photo of their son Jacob Wetterling, who was abducted in October 1989 in St. Joseph, MN.

The Wetterling family started the resource center in Jacob’s honor to help prevent the exploitation of other children; Jacob’s 1989 abduction led to the passing of a 1994 law that requires states to establish sex offender registries. The story made headlines for shattering the image of relative innocence surrounding suburban Minnesota life at the time.

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“Our hearts are broken,” Jacob’s mother, Patty, texted to KARE-TV on Saturday after news of the discovery broke.

On October 22, 1989, Jacob was riding his bicycle with his brother and a friend when a masked gunman abducted him, telling the two other boys to run. That was the last that anyone saw of the 11-year-old.

Though authorities pursued numerous leads trying to track down Jacob or his kidnapper, it wasn’t until last year that a suspect was named: 53-year-old Danny Heinrich, who was tied to another case of a Stearns County boy’s kidnapping and sexual assault.

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Heinrich’s brother, David Heinrich, told KARE-TV Saturday that he was sending his sympathies to the Wetterling family. “I want the Wetterlings to know I had no idea,” David told KARE. “I am happy for them that they know — not that he’s passed, but at least they have closure.”

The statement on the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center site assures the public that the organization will not rest just because Jacob’s remains have been found.

“Our hearts are heavy, but we are being held up by all of the people who have been a part of making Jacob’s Hope a light that will never be extinguished,” the statement reads. “It shines on in a different way. We are, and we will continue to be, Jacob’s Hope. Jacob, you are loved.”

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