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Remains of Minnesota boy missing since 1989 found

  • KIMM ANDERSON/ST. CLOUD TIMES VIA AP

    Pedestrians walk past white ribbons hung along Minnesota Street as residents of St. Joseph, Minn., wait for confirmation that the remains of 1989 abduction victim Jacob Wetterling had been found, Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016. The Stearns County Sheriff’s Office says in a statement that Jacob’s remains were identified on Saturday. Jacob was 11 when he was kidnapped from a rural road on Oct. 22, 1989, near his home in St. Joseph, about 80 miles northwest of Minneapolis.

  • KIMM ANDERSON/ST. CLOUD TIMES VIA AP

    A bouquet of flowers is placed at the end of Jerry and Patty Wetterling’s driveway as news has come out that the search for Jacob Wetterling may be over, Saturday afternoon, Sept. 3, 2016, in St. Joseph, Minn. Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton and other officials are offering support to the family of Jacob Wetterling after his mother said the remains of the boy missing for nearly 27 years have been found. In a statement, Dayton says Jacob’s story “has touched the lives and hearts of Minnesotans for a generation.”

MINNEAPOLIS » The remains of Jacob Wetterling, an 11-year-old boy kidnapped from a rural Minnesota road nearly 27 years ago, have been identified, authorities said, providing long-awaited answers to a mystery that has captivated residents and sparked changes in sex offender laws.

A masked gunman abducted Jacob in October of 1989 near the boy’s home in St. Joseph, about 80 miles northwest of Minneapolis. The Stearns County Sheriff’s Office confirmed in a statement Saturday that “Jacob Wetterling’s remains have been located” and that the Ramsey County medical examiner and a forensic odontologist identified them Saturday.

Additional DNA testing will be conducted and investigators are continuing to evaluate new evidence in the case, the sheriff’s office said, adding that authorities expect to be able to provide more details early next week.

A law enforcement official told The Associated Press earlier Saturday that a person of interest in Jacob’s abduction took authorities to a field in central Minnesota last week. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing case, said remains and other evidence were recovered and that the remains had been buried.

Jacob’s mother, Patty Wetterling, sent a text message to KARE-TV earlier Saturday, saying that Jacob “has been found and our hearts are broken.” She did not immediately respond to calls and text messages from The Associated Press.

Jacob was riding his bicycle with his brother and a friend on Oct. 22, 1989, when a masked gunman abducted him. Authorities said the man held on to Jacob and told the other boys to run. Jacob hadn’t been seen since, despite extensive searches, tens of thousands of leads and offers of a monetary reward.

No one has been arrested or charged in his abduction, which led to changes in sex-offender registration laws.

But last year, authorities took another look at the case, and were led to Danny Heinrich, a man they called a “person of interest” in Jacob’s kidnapping.

Heinrich, 53, of Annandale, denied any involvement in the abduction, and was not charged with that crime. But he has pleaded not guilty to 25 federal child pornography charges and is scheduled to go on trial on those counts in October.

The FBI has said previously 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 just nine months before Jacob’s abduction.

Heinrich was questioned by authorities shortly after Jacob’s disappearance, but he denied involvement. Court documents say his shoes and car tires were “consistent” with tracks left near the site of Jacob’s abduction, but couldn’t be ruled an exact match. Authorities also searched the home where Heinrich lived with his father at the time and found scanners, camouflage clothing and a picture of a boy wearing underwear.

Heinrich’s attorney did not respond to emailed requests for comment Saturday.

Jacob’s abduction shattered childhood innocence for many in rural Minnesota, changing the way parents let their kids roam. His smiling face was burned into Minnesota’s psyche, appearing on countless posters and billboards over the years. Each year, Minnesota residents were asked to keep their porch lights on for Jacob’s safe return.

Patty Wetterling always kept hope her son would be found alive. She became a national advocate for children, and with her husband, Jerry Wetterling, founded the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center, which works to help communities and families prevent child exploitation. In 1994, Congress passed a law named after Jacob Wetterling that requires states to establish sex offender registries.

Officials with the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center posted a statement on its website Saturday, saying they are in “deep grief.”

“We didn’t want Jacob’s story to end this way,” the statement said. “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. … Jacob, you are loved.”

___

Associated Press writer Jeff Baenen contributed to this report.

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  • Heinrich is currently 53 years old and the crime was committed nearly 27 years ago makes the suspect how old? Kinda young to plan an elaborate scheme of kidnapping, raping, killing, hide the victim’s body and remain undetected for so long?

  • Justice comes for some albeit slowly. They now have a suspect. And he will have his day in court. Now, if you’re rich and powerful, you may never be called to account.

    Case in point. A blogger on another SA article mentioned it, so I looked it up. It is a federal suit making charges of repeated rape of a minor by two prominent persons, filed in April and then again in June of this year. Little or no media coverage other than Huffington Post and web media as to the anonymous woman suing a certain Donald Trump and a Jeffrey Epstein for raping her at age 13 and then on subsequent occasions some twenty years ago. A witness came forth, sounded like it was the woman who had provided the girl for the two. Twenty years ago. The plaintiff said it took so long to get the courage to act because she claims both Trump and Epstein threatened the lives of her and her family.

    Not to worry, Trump supporters. Appears that filing of rape charges has a limit of five years in New York, apparently even for statutory rape of a minor, so Trump can’t be charged anyway. So, it’s just a federal civil suit for (YUUGE) damages and a court order to keep Trump and Epstein from retaliating.

    Figure that Trump can easily defeat the charges as the rich and powerful are wont to do. But, why, if this is true or even not true, don’t the Dems publicize the lawsuit and jump for glee? U.S. senators and congressmen have gone down for less. Well, think about Ted Kennedy and Chappaquiddick, and similar charges made against Bill Clinton when he was guv. Kind of hard to bring up an opposing party candidate’s wrongdoing with that kind of history on the other side. And of course Donald Trump would not be as despicable in demanding a trial of any sort for Clinton, either of them, to derail Hillary, would he? He’s so much nicer in that sense — NOT. :0) Oh, well, those in glass houses …

    So, it kind of helps to be among the rich and powerful. But Ted K. had to give up hopes of ever running for President, even though the deeper, darker details of the Chappaquiddick incident never came to light. But a young woman died that night.

    But there’s been scat on this case since the last article in July 2016. There is no indication that it was thrown out, which is kind of hard if there is a prime witness. So it makes one wonder. Did Trump settle it quietly? Sort of like the Korean judicial system where you can pay off the victim and/or family?

    SA, not the kind of stuff you investigate? Or even perhaps write an article denouncing such lawsuits against prime, rich, powerful candidates who are above reproach (Would help your revenue stream)? But I have seen editorials of yours go against the weak and powerless, the lower wannabes. Those are the easy ones, to set up to be kicked down by the public. But you never go against the rich and powerful. Why?

    Anyway, interesting lawsuit. I guess if even the tabloids at the supermarket checkouts don’t cover it, why should the SA?

  • Justice comes for some albeit slowly. They now have a suspect. And he will have his day in court. Now, if you’re rich and powerful, you may never be called to account.

    Case in point. A blogger on another SA article mentioned it, so I looked it up. It is a federal suit making charges of repeated r*pe of a minor by two prominent persons, filed in April and then again in June of this year. Little or no media coverage other than Huffington Post and web media as to the anonymous woman suing a certain Donald Trump and a Jeffrey Epstein for r*ping her at age 13 and then on subsequent occasions some twenty years ago. A witness came forth, sounded like it was the woman who had provided the girl for the two. Twenty years ago. The plaintiff said it took so long to get the courage to act because she claims both Trump and Epstein threatened the lives of her and her family.

    Not to worry, Trump supporters. Appears that filing of r*pe charges has a limit of five years in New York, apparently even for statutory r*pe of a minor, so Trump can’t be charged anyway. So, it’s just a federal civil suit for (YUUGE) damages and a court order to keep Trump and Epstein from retaliating.

    Figure that Trump can easily defeat the charges as the rich and powerful are wont to do. But, why, if this is true or even not true, don’t the Dems publicize the lawsuit and jump for glee? U.S. senators and congressmen have gone down for less. Well, think about Ted Kennedy and Chappaquiddick, and similar charges made against Bill Clinton when he was guv. Kind of hard to bring up an opposing party candidate’s wrongdoing with that kind of history on the other side. And of course Donald Trump would not be as despicable in demanding a trial of any sort for Clinton, either of them, to derail Hillary, would he? He’s so much nicer in that sense — NOT. :0) Oh, well, those in glass houses …

    So, it kind of helps to be among the rich and powerful. But Ted K. had to give up hopes of ever running for President, even though the deeper, darker details of the Chappaquiddick incident never came to light. But a young woman died that night.

    But there’s been little on this case since the last article in July 2016. There is no indication that it was thrown out, which is kind of hard if there is a prime witness. So it makes one wonder. Did Trump settle it quietly? Sort of like the Korean judicial system where you can pay off the victim and/or family?

    SA, not the kind of stuff you investigate? Or even perhaps write an article denouncing such lawsuits against prime, rich, powerful candidates who are above reproach (Would help your revenue stream)? But I have seen editorials of yours go against the weak and powerless, the lower wannabes. Those are the easy ones, to set up to be kicked down by the public. But you never go against the rich and powerful. Why?

    Anyway, interesting lawsuit. I guess if even the tabloids at the supermarket checkouts don’t cover it, why should the SA?

  • Try again. This time, shorter.

    Justice comes for some albeit slowly. They now have a suspect. And he will have his day in court. Now, if you’re rich and powerful, you may never be called to account.

    Case in point. A blogger on another SA article mentioned it, so I looked it up. It is a federal suit making charges of repeated r*pe of a minor by two prominent persons, filed in April and then again in June of this year. Little or no media coverage other than Huffington Post and web media as to the anonymous woman suing a certain Donald Trump and a Jeffrey Epstein for r*ping her at age 13 and then on subsequent occasions some twenty years ago. A witness came forth, sounded like it was the woman who had provided the girl for the two. Twenty years ago. The plaintiff said it took so long to get the courage to act because she claims both Trump and Epstein threatened the lives of her and her family.

    Not to worry, Trump supporters. Appears that filing of r*pe charges has a limit of five years in New York, apparently even for statutory r*pe of a minor, so Trump can’t be charged anyway. So, it’s just a federal civil suit for (YUUGE) damages and a court order to keep Trump and Epstein from retaliating.

    But there’s been little on this case since the last article in July 2016. There is no indication that it was thrown out, which is kind of hard if there is a prime witness. So it makes one wonder. Did Trump settle it quietly? Sort of like the Korean judicial system where you can pay off the victim and/or family?

    SA, not the kind of stuff you investigate? Or even perhaps write an article denouncing such lawsuits against prime, rich, powerful candidates who are above reproach (Would help your revenue stream)? But I have seen editorials of yours go against the weak and powerless, the lower wannabes. Those are the easy ones, to set up to be kicked down by the public. But you never go against the rich and powerful. Why?

    Anyway, interesting lawsuit. I guess if even the tabloids at the supermarket checkouts don’t cover it, why should the SA?

  • Closer with sad ending. Nonetheless, a closer enable the family to move on and continue their good work with Jacob Wetterling Resource Center. Our sincere condolences to the family.

  • I spent some time in the part of Minnesota not long after this boy’s disappearance. It was such a shock, because it’s a rural area where few people lock their doors. I don’t know why this predator decided, after all these years, to reveal to the police where he had put the body. But I am praying for the Wetterling family — it’s good that they will finally be able to bury their boy, but the renewed grief must be overwhelming. They’ve been celebrating Jacob’s birthday all these years — and I hope they will continue.

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