|Born||Jacob Erwin Wetterling
February 17, 1978
|Disappeared||October 22, 1989 (aged 11)|
|Status||Missing for 25 years, 8 months and 14 days|
|Home town||St. Joseph, Minnesota|
|Parent(s)||Patty Wetterling (mother), Jerry Wetterling (father)|
Jacob Wetterling, 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 was told to run toward a nearby wooded area and not look back or else he would be shot. Subsequently, the gunman asked to view the faces of both boys. He picked Jacob, and told his friend to run away and not look back otherwise he would shoot. The whereabouts of Jacob and the identity of the gunman remain unknown.
The investigation into Wetterling's abduction continues. In 2004, some new reports appeared in the local press. A long-held belief is that the abductor got away in an abandoned car. It was also revealed ten months prior to the Wetterling abduction that another boy had been kidnapped, placed into a car, and sexually assaulted before being released. The modus operandi was similar to 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 Wetterling, his brother, and friend were stopped.
In early 2009, the Milwaukee Police Department 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 whose children had disappeared were found in Seitz's home. It also emerged that Seitz himself had been abducted and tortured in 1959, 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 and hauled away in six truckloads of dirt from the site to search for evidence. However, it was revealed in late September testing was unable to "establish, distinguish or identify potential evidence".
In May 2014, investigators confirmed that they were taking another look at a series of attempted and actual child molestations that occurred in the Paynesville, Minnesota, area in the two years leading up to the Wetterling abduction. Between the summer of 1986 and the spring of 1987, five teen boys were attacked. No one was ever arrested. The authorities re-interviewed some of the victims and are working with the internet blogger who brought the information to light.
After months of research and interviews with some of the victims, it is believed that these attacks were not random and that the culprit could be connected to the abduction of Wetterling, just 40 minutes away.
Four months after Wetterling'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 and Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act in 2006.
The Bridge of Hope is named in his honor. Patty Wetterling ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Representative from the Sixth Congressional District of Minnesota in 2004 and 2006.
Wetterling is a featured child in the Polly Klaas Foundation.
- Mike Kohner. "Jacob Wetterling Resource Center". jwrc.org.
- Steve Irsay, Court TV (c. 2002), The Search for Jacob[dead link]
- "The Charley Project". "Jacob Erwin Wetterling". Retrieved June 28, 2007.
- Garza, Jesse (January 6, 2009). "Dead barber's home yields creepy stash". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved March 15, 2015.
- Forliti, Amy (September 28, 2010). "Minn. officials: No break in 1989 abduction case". Boston.com. Associated Press. Retrieved March 15, 2015.
- Ramirez, Jessica (January 29, 2007). "The Abductions That Changed America". Newsweek 149 (5): 54–55. ISSN 0028-9604.