The remains of an 11-year-old boy who was abducted while riding his bike near his Minnesota home nearly 30 years ago have finally been found.
On October 22, 1989, Jacob Wetterling was riding home from the video store with his younger brother and a friend when they were ordered off their bikes by a masked gunman, who demanded they lie face down on the ground. The other two boys were told to run into the woods and not look back, and Wetterling was never seen again.
The case was cold for a long time, until police were led last year to 53-year-old Danny Heinrich, who they identified as a person of interest. Heinrich had previously pleaded guilty to 25 federal child pornography charges, but denied any involvement in Wetterling’s disappearance. According to KARE-TV:
The FBI has said that Heinrich matched the general description of a man who assaulted several boys in Paynesville from 1986 to 1988. Earlier this year, Heinrich’s DNA was found on the sweatshirt of a 12-year-old boy who was kidnapped from Cold Spring and sexually assaulted nine months before Jacob’s abduction.
Heinrich has not been charged, but he did lead authorities to Wetterling’s remains in central Minnesota earlier this week, attributing his knowledge to two unidentified sources.
Jacob’s parents, Patty and Jerry Wetterling, founded the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center as a means of helping communities and families prevent child exploitation. Following the discovery of Jacob’s remains, the center posted a statement on its website and Facebook on Saturday:
We are in deep grief. 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.
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. It shines on in a different way. We are, and we will continue to be, Jacob’s Hope.
Jacob, you are loved.