Jacob Wetterling's remains found, 27 years after abduction

A man once named a person of interest in the Jacob Wetterling case talks to Fox 9 about the new developments regarding Danny Heinrich and Jacob's remains.

- The remains of Jacob Wetterling have been found, nearly 27 years after his abduction. The Ramsey County medical examiner positively identified the remains using Wetterling's dental records. Numerous media reports state that Danny Heinrich, the person of interest in Wetterling's 1989 disappearance, told authorities where they could find Jacob’s body. 

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension released the following statement on behalf of the Stearns County sheriff's office: “The Stearns County Sheriff’s Office today confirms that Jacob Wetterling’s remains have been located. The Ramsey County Medical Examiner and a forensic odontologist identified the remains as Wetterling’s earlier today. Additional DNA testing will be performed at the BCA. The Stearns County Sheriff’s Office, assisted by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, the FBI, the Stearns County Attorney’s Office and the United States Attorney’s Office are currently in the process of reviewing and evaluating new evidence in the Jacob Wetterling investigation.  Authorities expect to be in a position to provide more detailed information early next week. We are asking for your patience and respect for the Wetterling family’s privacy until that time.”

Patty Wetterling: 'Our hearts are broken'

"Our hearts are broken. We have no words,” Patty Wetterling said in a text message to Fox 9. 

Statement from Jacob Wetterling Resource Center

"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.

"This light has been burning for close to 27 years. The spark began in the moments after the abduction of Jacob Wetterling, when his family decided that light is stronger than darkness. They lit the flame that became Jacob’s Hope. All of Central Minnesota flocked to and fanned the flame, hoping for answers. The light spread state-wide, nationally and globally as hearts connected to the 11 year old boy who liked to play goalie for his hockey team, wanted to be a football player, played the trombone, and loved the times he spent with his sisters, brother, and parents.

"Today, we gather around the same flame. The flame that has become more than the hope for one as it led the way home for thousands of others. It’s the light that illuminates a world that Jacob believed in, where things are fair and just.

"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."

Jacob Wetterling's abduction

Jacob Wetterling was abducted back in 1989 near his St. Joseph, Minnesota home. Court documents say he was taken at gunpoint by a masked man when he was just 11 years old.

Person of interest Danny Heinrich

Danny Heinrich of Annandale, Minn. was arrested last October on federal child pornography charges and named a person of interest in the Wetterling case. His DNA matched a the sexual assault of a boy in Cold Spring, also in 1989.

On July 28, 2015, investigators searched Heinrich’s Annandale home for evidence related to the Cold Spring kidnapping and the abduction of Jacob Wetterling. Investigators recovered Heinrich’s collection of child pornography from a computer and from three-ring binders. That discovery led to Heinrich’s arrest and charging on 25 counts of child pornography offenses.

Heinrich's federal trial is scheduled to begin Oct. 11 in Minneapolis.

Identification of remains

The Ramsey County medical examiner handles the identification of remains in Stearns County investigations. Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Michael McGee was at the office on Saturday, along with Dr. Susan Myster – a forensic anthropologist who is an expert in the identification of bones.

Recent case timeline

Oct. 29 - FBI names Danny Heinrich a person of interest in Jacob Wetterling abduction

Nov. 2 - Wetterling family press conference: ‘Where is Jacob? Somebody knows’

Nov. 8 - The "other person of interest" in Jacob Wetterling case

Dec. 16 - Charges multiply in indictment of Wetterling person of interest Danny Heinrich

Feb. 16 - Mom's birthday message to Jacob Wetterling

Feb. 21 - Danny Heinrich enters not guilty plea

April 27 - Investigators secretly recorded Wetterling person-of-interest during raid

May 11 - Lawsuit tags Wetterling person of interest in 1989 Cold Spring abduction

June 2 - Document reveals how Danny Heinrich was linked to Jacob Wetterling

Statement from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the Wetterling family today as they receive news about the 27 year investigation of their son Jacob's abduction.  The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children has been involved in Jacob's case since he disappeared in 1989.

"Our hope today is that this new information will bring some answers to a family who has never stopped searching for their son and brother. Their perseverance is an inspiration to searching parents everywhere, and to everyone at NCMEC. “

Statement from Gov. Mark Dayton

“For nearly 27 years, Minnesotans have held the Wetterling family in their thoughts and prayers, as they never gave up hope and never stopped searching for their beloved Jacob. Today, we continue to offer our love and support, as the Wetterling family finally brings their son home to rest.  

“I hope they will find solace in knowing that they do not stand alone. Jacob’s story has touched the lives and hearts of Minnesotans for a generation.

“Today, I pray for a measure of peace for the Wetterling family and for all Minnesotans touched by this terrible tragedy. And I thank the law enforcement officials and others who never stopped searching for him.”

Statement from Lt. Governor Tina Smith

“There is nothing parents fear more than losing their child. For one Minnesota family nearly 27 years ago, that fear became tragically real. None of us will ever know what the Wetterlings have gone through, on that day, or on each day since.

“But every Minnesota family has felt their loss. My own sons were small when Jacob was lost, and for more than two decades, our family and all Minnesota families have hurt, prayed, and hoped alongside the Wetterlings.

“That pain won’t end today. But as the Wetterling family finally brings Jacob home, I hope they will find love and support in the thousands of families, including mine, in Minnesota, who have hurt, hoped, and prayed alongside them.

“The Wetterling family never stopped searching. We stand in solidarity with the Wetterlings as they seek justice, and peace.

“We will always keep Jacob in our hearts.”
 

Statement from Sen. Amy Klobuchar

“The Wetterling family's long journey in search of their son has come to a sad end this week. Twenty-seven years ago, 11-year-old Jacob disappeared while riding his bike in Stearns County. Today, his mom announced that his remains have finally been found. Patty Wetterling is a friend and I have seen firsthand her extraordinary advocacy for children and how she has turned her grief into action. The Wetterling family and all who knew and loved Jacob are in our hearts today.”

Statement from Rep. Betty McCollum

“With today’s heartbreaking news, all of Minnesota grieves with Patty, Jerry, and the entire Wetterling family. At this tragic time, it is my hope that Jacob will finally rest in peace as he is brought home to his family and so many who love him. Amid our sadness, we remain profoundly grateful for the tireless advocacy and leadership Jacob’s family has provided on behalf of our country’s missing and exploited children. I know that all Minnesotans and Americans will join me in keeping the Wetterling family in our thoughts and prayers.”

Statement from Rep. Tom Emmer

"Jacob Wetterling's disappearance on October 22nd, 1989 shattered the innocence of all Minnesotans. Today, Jacquie and I join people across this nation in sending our deepest sympathies to the Wetterling family. Throughout this ordeal, Patty has been a pillar of strength and the ultimate example to me and many others of the love every parent has for their children. While this is not the outcome we hoped and prayed for these past 27 years, we now hope and pray today that the Wetterling family is able to find some peace and comfort at this tragic time."


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