Jacob Wetterling

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Jacob Wetterling
Jacob Wetterling.jpg
Born Jacob Erwin Wetterling
(1978-02-17)February 17, 1978
Disappeared October 22, 1989 (aged 11)
Nationality American
Home town St. Joseph, Minnesota
Parent(s) Patty Wetterling (mother), Jerry Wetterling (father)

Jacob Erwin Wetterling (born February 17, 1978) is a boy from St. Joseph, Minnesota, who was kidnapped from his hometown at the age of 11 on Sunday, October 22, 1989. His whereabouts are unknown.


On October 22, 1989, just after 9 pm, Jacob Wetterling (11), his younger brother Trevor (10), and a friend Aaron (11), were cycling home from a convenience store where they had gone to rent a video,[1] when a masked gunman came out of a driveway and ordered the boys to throw their bikes into a ditch and lie face 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 the two remaining boys. He picked Jacob, and told his friend to run away and not look back otherwise he would shoot.[2]

Continuing investigation[edit]

External images
Age progression of Wetterling to age 35

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.[3]

The Charley Project has sketches of a man believed to have abducted Wetterling and sexually assaulted the other boy in 1989.[4]

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.[5]

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".[6]

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.[7]

"Person of Interest" publicly named[edit]

In October 2015, a person of interest, Daniel James Heinrich, was publicly named in regards to Wetterling's disappearance. The person had been questioned and a DNA sample was taken back in 1990, however he was never charged with any crime.[8][9] The person of interest's DNA was recently matched to an abduction of a 12-year-old in Cold Spring in January 1989.[10] The suspect was arrested Wednesday October 28, 2015 and charged with possessing child pornography.[9][11]


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.[12] 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.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mike Kohner. "Jacob Wetterling Resource Center". jwrc.org. 
  2. ^ Plummer, William; Nelson, Margaret (November 20, 1989). "A Town Prays for a Missing Son". People. 32 (21). Retrieved January 1, 2016. 
  3. ^ Steve Irsay, Court TV (c. 2002), The Search for Jacob Archived November 16, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
  4. ^ "The Charley Project". "Jacob Erwin Wetterling". Retrieved June 28, 2007. 
  5. ^ Garza, Jesse (January 6, 2009). "Dead barber's home yields creepy stash". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved March 15, 2015. 
  6. ^ Forliti, Amy (September 28, 2010). "Minn. officials: No break in 1989 abduction case". Boston.com. Associated Press. Retrieved March 15, 2015. 
  7. ^ Furst, Randy (October 29, 2015). "'Person of interest' named in 1989 Jacob Wetterling disappearance". Startribune. Retrieved October 29, 2015. 
  8. ^ a b "Heinrich to be kept in jail, a 'danger to the community'". KARE-11. 
  9. ^ "Court Documents: Annandale Man, 52, A Suspect In Jacob Wetterling Case". October 29, 2015. Retrieved October 29, 2015. 
  10. ^ Furst, Randy (October 29, 2015). "'Person of interest' named in 1989 Jacob Wetterling disappearance". Startribune. Retrieved October 29, 2015. 
  11. ^ Ramirez, Jessica (January 29, 2007). "The Abductions That Changed America". Newsweek. 149 (5): 54–55. ISSN 0028-9604. 

External links[edit]