|Born||Jacob Erwin Wetterling
February 17, 1978
|Disappeared||October 22, 1989 (aged 11)|
|Status||Missing for 24 years, 1 month and 16 days|
|Home town||St. Joseph, Minnesota|
|Parents||Patty Wetterling (mother), Jerry Wetterling (father)|
Jacob, his brother, and a friend were cycling home from a convenience store on October 22, 1989, when a masked gunman came out of a driveway and ordered the boys to throw their bikes into a ditch and lie down on the ground. He then asked each boy his age. Jacob's brother and friend were told to run toward a nearby wooded area and not look back or else he would shoot them. After a short run, both boys did look back and saw the gunman grab Jacob by the elbow and walk him away. The whereabouts of Jacob and the identity of the gunman remain unknown.
The investigation into Jacob's abduction continues. In 2004, some new reports appeared in the local press. A long-held belief that the abductor got away in a car was abandoned. It was also revealed that ten months prior to the Wetterling abduction another boy had been kidnapped, placed into a car, and sexually assaulted before being released. The modus operandi was similar to that in the Wetterling case: the man used a gun and upon releasing the boy told him to run and not look back or else he would be shot. That incident occurred ten miles from the location where Jacob, his brother, and friend were stopped.
In early 2009, Milwaukee police discovered child pornography and an alleged video of Wetterling taken before the abduction in the home of Vernon Seitz, 62, of the St. Francis, Wisconsin, area. Seitz had died in his house, but officers asked for additional assistance after the pornography was discovered. Along with the child pornography, articles involving missing children and maps of the cities from which those children had disappeared were found in Seitz's home. It also emerged that Seitz himself had been abducted and tortured in 1950, and family said he was thus concerned for Wetterling from personal history.
On June 30, 2010, investigators with search warrants descended upon a farm near the abduction site. "Items of interest" were found when hauling away six truckloads of dirt from the site to search for evidence. However, it was revealed in late September that testing was unable to "establish, distinguish or identify potential evidence".
Four months after Jacob's abduction, his parents, Jerry and Patty Wetterling, formed the Jacob Wetterling Foundation, an advocacy group for children's safety. In 1994, the Jacob Wetterling Act was passed in his honor. It was the first law to institute a state sex-offender registry. The law has been amended a few times, most famously by Megan's Law in 1996.
The Bridge of Hope is named in honor of Jacob. Patty Wetterling ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Representative from the Sixth Congressional District of Minnesota in 2004 and 2006.
Jacob is a featured child in the Polly Klaas Foundation.
- Steve Irsay, Court TV (c. 2002), The Search for Jacob[dead link]
- "The Charley Project". "Jacob Erwin Wetterling". Retrieved June 28, 2007.
- "Child Porn, Cannibalistic Texts Found in Dead Man's Home" (c. 2009), 
- Ramirez, Jessica. "The Abductions That Changed America", Newsweek, 29 January 2007, pp. 54–55.