Remains found of Minnesota boy who went missing 27 years ago

STEARNS COUNTY, Minn. — The remains of Jacob Wetterling, a Minnesota boy abducted from a rural road 27 years ago, have been found, the Stearns County Sheriff’s Office said Saturday in a news release.

“The Ramsey County Medical Examiner and a forensic odontologist identified the remains as Wetterling’s earlier today,” the release said.

The release didn’t say if anybody has been charged. The sheriff’s office said investigators will evaluate new evidence and “expect to be in a position to provide more detailed information early next week.”

The abduction of the 11-year-old boy led to the 1994 Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Act, which requires states to maintain sex offender registries and guidelines.

Unnamed sources told WCCO and the Minneapolis Star Tribune that a suspect in Wetterling’s disappearance led the FBI to remains that are now being tested for DNA.

Patty Wetterling, Jacob’s mother who became an advocate for families of missing children, said in a text, “Our hearts are broken. There are no words.” She declined further comment.

Abductor wore stocking mask

Jacob disappeared on a dark road in central Minnesota on the night of Oct. 22, 1989.

Jacob had been at home with his two younger siblings, Trevor, 10, and Carmen, 8, and Jacob’s friend Aaron Larsen, 11, while Patty and Jerry Wetterling attended a dinner party about 20 minutes away.

Wetterling, who lived in rural St. Joseph, his brother and a friend were coming home from a convenience store on bikes and a scooter when a man wearing a stocking mask and holding a gun approached.

The man asked the boys their ages, grabbed Jacob and told the others to run into the woods or else he’d shoot, Jacob’s father has said, recounting what his other son told police.

The case garnered worldwide attention.

Widespread search

As news of the disappearance spread, FBI agents and National Guard troops descended on St. Joseph to aid in the search.

Tens of thousands of tips surfaced in the weeks that followed, but none led to an arrest or, until now, discovery of the boy’s remains.

In October 2015, authorities announced a development: Child pornography suspect Danny James Heinrich, 52, was questioned in the abduction.

Investigators interviewed Heinrich about Jacob’s disappearance, according to Andrew M. Luger, the U.S. attorney for Minnesota. Heinrich denied any involvement in the disappearance, authorities said.

At that time, no charges were filed in the Wetterling case.