JACOB WETTERLING – NON-FAMILY ABDUCTION October 22, 1989 – USMCC000001LTWH – UPDATED 03.24.2014
JACOB ERWIN WETTERLING
Jacob Erwin Wetterling
Date of Birth: February 17, 1978
Height: 5’0” Weight: 75 lbs
Hair: Brown Eyes: Blue
Missing: October 22, 1989 From: Saint Joseph, MN
Distinguishing Features: Jacob has a mole on his LEFT cheek, a mole on his neck and a scar on his knee. He also has a previously fractured wrist.
On the evening of October 22, 1989, Patty and Jerry Wetterling, a stay at home Mom and a chiropractor, decided at the last minute to attend a party being held by some of their friends. Their oldest daughter, Amy – 14 at the time, was at a sleepover, and their remaining 3 children Jacob, 11, Trevor, 10, and Carmen, 8, would be fine at home. Jacob’s parents asked him if he would be alright baby-sitting for a couple of hours while they were at the party. Jacob didn’t mind at all and asked if his friend, Aaron Larson could come over to the house, which his parents had no problem with. They ordered the kids a pizza, then headed off to their party, a 30 minute drive from their home. When they arrived at the party they placed a quick call home to check on the kids and give them the phone number of where the party was being held. Not long after, Trevor called his parents saying they were bored, and asked if they could ride their bikes to the Tom Thumbs Convenience Store and rent a movie. Patty’s initial instinct was to say no, it was getting dark outside, so Trevor then asked to talk to Jerry. Patty passed the phone to Jerry, and Jerry recalls how he barely said a word before Trevor launched into making his case. “Look, Dad, I’ve got a white sweatshirt on. Jacob’s wearing your jogging vest. I’ve got a flashlight. We’ll go straight to the store. We’ll come straight back.” And with that, Jerry couldn’t say no. Shortly after talking to Trevor, it was Jacob called his parents next. He told his parents that his younger sister Carmen didn’t want to join the boys on their trip to the store, so he asked if it was ok if Rochelle, the girl next door, came over and watched Carmen while they were gone. With the responsibility their sons showed, Jerry and Patty allowed the boys to call Rochelle and head to the store. It’s clear that these are good kids. Mature, responsible boys that just wanted to rent a movie. The boys bought some candy and pop at the store and rented the movie, The Naked Gun.
They were riding their bikes back home at about 9:15 PM and were only a half a mile away from the Wetterling home, when an unidentified white male wearing a nylon mask and dark clothing approached the group. The man was armed with a gun. He ordered all 3 boys to lay face down in the ditch. He then asked Trevor how old he was, then rolled him over and told him to run away and not look back or he would be shot. He then did the same with Aaron. After letting the 2 boys go, the man took Jacob and disappeared into the night. Aaron and Trevor ran as hard and as fast as they could until they felt safe enough to turn around, when they did there was no sign of Jacob or the armed man, and Jacob has not been seen or heard from since. The boys ran the rest of the way to the Wetterling house and told Rochelle to call 911. Rochelle called her Dad, and he called 911. He then called Patty and Jerry, shattering their world with one phone call. The drive back to their house was the longest drive of their lives.
It took the police 6 minutes to reach the Wetterling’s home, where they were then taken back to the site of Jacob’s abduction. When Jerry and Patty arrived back at their house the chaos surrounded them. Trevor was wound up, unable to stop talking. Aaron was in a corner of the kitchen biting his nails, as though he was trying to disappear, unable to talk. Patty recalls Trevor, Amy and Carmen sitting on the couch in absolute terror. I can’t imagine how helpless Jerry and Patty felt in that single moment. Not knowing where their oldest son was or if he was even alive, and still having to worry about three other children that were terrified, and wanting to know what was going to happen to their brother. Jacob’s family recalls the sheriff saying, “You know, the highway patrol has a helicopter with a search light. Should I call them?”, and the entire gravity of the situation hit them hard. It took no time at all before the FBI was alerted to Jacob’s case and called in. It turned out that FBI agent Al Cotelo was stationed in St. Cloud, and his son was a classmate of Jacob’s. Agent Cotelo called Al Garber, supervisor of the FBI’s Violent Crime Squad in Minneapolis, 30 minutes after Jacob had been abducted, and let him know about the circumstances surrounding Jacob’s disappearance. Agent Cotelo had expressed that they were all hopeful that they would quickly locate Jacob. However, very early the next morning, Agent Cotelo contacted Agent Garber once again, letting him know that Jacob had not yet been found and the hunt was becoming more and more intensive. Agent Garber got in his car and joined in the search for Jacob. He recalls that as soon as he got there, he could tell that this was going to be a huge investigation, with so many things to do, and so many people needed to do them. All the resources that could be accessed to aid in the search for Jacob were. At the height of the investigation, there were 70 investigators working on Jacob’s case full time. Every morning the team would begin with a briefing, then the phones would start ringing endlessly as tips and information poured in.
Unfortunately, despite the man power devoted solely to finding Jacob, there was a complete lack of evidence. The crime scene yielded no physical evidence, despite having every inch covered with a fine toothed comb. There were no witnesses to the abduction besides Trevor and Aaron, and even then, they were terrified, and the abductor wore a mask, which prevented them from getting a good look at the man. The abduction occurred in an isolated area where a car wouldn’t attract attention, creating a shaky beginning to a difficult case, but no one gave up on the search. Despite the challenges ahead in the case, the community and law enforcement stayed the course, never wavering in their efforts to find Jacob, and their support of the entire Wetterling family.
The search launched to find Jacob was immense. Hundreds of volunteers, law enforcement officials, the FBI, the National Guard, K-9 units, and helicopters chased down more than 50,000 leads in Jacob’s case. Despite having so many leads called in, there has never been an arrest in connection with Jacob’s abduction. One lead that authorities had hoped would pan out was a witness reporting having seen a car nearby where the abduction took place on the day that Jacob was taken, which quickly became the focus of the investigation. However, in 2004, more than 10 years after Jacob’s disappearance, the car was identified after the owner came forward to police when he learnt that they were looking for his vehicle. The owner was questioned and subsequently cleared of any involvement of Jacob’s abduction. The man turned out to have been a college student at the time who was driving around the area looking for things to sketch. Authorities now state that they believe Jacob’s abductor was on foot.
The Wetterling’s contacted The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and were given the support and knowledge to help them get through Jacob’s abduction, and educate them on what they could do to make sure he had the best chance of being brought home. The NCMEC told Patty that 40% of the children that come home alive, are found because of TV. Jacob’s case was broadcasted not only in his community, but all over the world. For months on end, the media covered every detail of the case, plastering Jacob’s face everywhere. Former KARE 11 news anchor Paul Magers responded when asked about Jacob’s case, “We certainly stayed on top of it. So did the other television stations and radio stations, but I think we worked it as hard or harder than anybody else. We paid particular attention to what was fact and what wasn’t, because there were a lot of things floating around out there – things we never reported because we couldn’t confirm then.”
Initial speculation in the case surrounded Jacob’s father, Jerry Wetterling, and the possible role he played in his son’s abduction. Authorities very quickly ruled out both of Jacob’s parents as suspects in his abduction. What investigators did learn though, is that Jerry may in fact have a connection with what happened to Jacob. Jerry, a well respected chiropractor, believes in a religion called Baha’i, which believes that all people are created as one race. The Baha’i faith emphasizes the spiritual unity of all humankind. The three core principles are 1)there is only one true God, 2)all major religions have the same spiritual source and 3)all humans were created equal. The Baha’i religion recognizes many prophets, including Mohammed and Jesus. Members of this religion seek to know God through methods such as prayer, reflection and being of service to humankind. The religion was at one point believed to be a sect of Islam, but has since been acknowledged as an independent religion. To put it simply folks, this religion is a peaceful one which accepts all people of all races, sexuality, cultures and beliefs. In my opinion, the world will only greatly benefit having the followers of Baha’i in it. Due to Jerry’s beliefs, authorities recognized the possibility of Jacob’s abduction being a hate crime against Jerry. Many authorities believe that the abductor followed the 3 boys from the store and abducted Jacob. Jerry has expressed that he believes his son may have been stalked for several days before his abduction. I am personally really struggling with how someone could commit this act as a hate crime. I personally believe that those who feel this way, do so in part of the religion’s previous believed connection with Islam. It is a sad thought that a religion which accepts all, is hated by many. Jerry was also a member of the NAAPC, a group which fights for equal rights, and is associated with African American culture, which in turn could also be a reason for someone who may want to hurt Jerry through abducting his oldest son.
Another possible connection police uncovered, was the abduction and molestation of a young boy named Jared only 10 months prior, and only 10 miles away from the location and time of Jacob’s abduction. Jared had just finished playing hockey with his friends at a local rink, and was walking home alone when he was pulled into a car by a man matching the description of Jacob’s abductor, who drove Jared to another location before proceeding to molest Jared for 3 hours. When he was done, he took Jared’s jeans and underwear, and drove back to the spot where he had abducted the young boy. The suspect then pushed Jared out of the car and instructed him to run and not look back or he would be shot. Jared’s mother recalls that fateful night. “When he walked in the door, I knew something was wrong just by the way he looked – in shock, pale and stuttering,” she remembers. “He kept trying to say ‘a guy, a guy,’ and he kept saying that. And he finally got that out.” Police were at Jared’s home within minutes after his return and he was taken to a local hospital for tests taken throughout the night. Jared has been called upon frequently since his abduction to assist police with possible connections to Jacob’s abduction. In fact, investigators confirm that one of the key sketches released in the search for Jacob’s abductor was actually put together by Jared.
As time went by the investigation began to scale back. The team of investigators went from working 6AM to 10PM every day, to working 8AM to 8PM every day. They then began taking a day of each week. Neddermeyer recounts the burnout that began to hit the team hard. The most difficult part of scaling back the search, was telling Jacob’s family that the resources were becoming withdrawn. While law enforcement were forced to scale back, the support from the community stayed on course. Mailboxes were adorned with white ribbons, and Jacob’s picture could be seen in front windows everywhere.
In September of 2004, a young man in Warroad, MN, surfaced, looking very similar to age progressed photos done of Jacob. The man denied being Jacob, however refused to confirm his identity by submitting to a DNA test. Eventually investigators were able to obtain the young man’s fingerprints from Arizona, where he had been arrested for a traffic offense, and confirmed that he was indeed not Jacob.
In early 2009, Milwaukee police found a man by the name of Vernon Seitz, deceased in his apartment after doing a welfare check on the man requested by his co-workers. He had died from a coronary condition. What else they learned and found in the apartment launched a major investigation into who Seitz actually was, and the horrors in which he had almost surely committed. It turns out that Seitz was seeing a therapist by the name of Victoria Fetter, and had confided a few things to her while on his death bed. He claimed he had killed two children over 40 years ago. He said he had been kidnapped himself from a zoo on June 19, 1959, and was then forced to kill a 14 year old boy while his abductors killed another 13 year old boy in front of him. However, no such crimes were ever reported by Seitz or his family, and no children were missing in the area at that time who fit Seitz’s description. Littered throughout the apartment were countless drawings, VHS tapes and paintings of little boys, either naked or being tortured sexually or both. Amongst all this, and even more horrifying, were the numerous maps they found of desolated areas and parks. There was a road map of Illinois with 2 locations circled. They also came across 2 children’s shoes, one being a size of 2 ½, another being a size 3 ½, both containing DNA. They found books on cannibalism, a small round bone with the marrow sucked out, brown, blonde and black patches of human hair, rings and necklaces, bondage straps and chains hanging from the rafters of the home, handcuffs, a box full of negatives and a .38 caliber gun. There were newspaper clippings of missing children, and photos and posters of missing children. It was quickly apparent that Seitz seemed to have taken on quite the obsession with one boy in particular. That boy – was Jacob Wetterling. Authorities found video footage of Jacob before he went missing, maps of Jacob’s hometown, and
many posters and laminated photos of Jacob. They also discovered a map of Millstream Park, which was near the spot where Jacob was abducted. Authorities were shocked when they discovered that Seitz had actually approached Patty while the search for Jacob was going on. He claimed to be a psychic who was abducted as a child and who offered families of missing children his services. Patty declined his ‘help’, but records place Seitz in the area for the following two weeks after Jacob was abducted. There are many questions that will remain unanswered since Seitz was dead long before all of this evidence was discovered, but all of these things piled together look awfully suspicious and point to the likely possibility that Seitz may be the suspect who abducted Jacob.
Stranger abductions are actually incredibly rare in the grand scheme of things, and usually have one of four motives – to obtain a ransom, to retaliate against the child’s parents, to cover up a crime such as child sex abuse, or to carry out sexual exploitation. With the first 3 types of kidnappings being very unlikely, the FBI called in Neil Neddermeyer, one of only a few officers which specialized in child-sex abuse cases in the area. As the days passed and the investigation became more and more heated, Jacob’s parents spent endless hours talking to investigators about anything and everything the investigators could think to ask. At first it was especially difficult for Jerry to consider anyone they knew as being capable of taking Jacob, and was hesitant to give law enforcement names, until Patty shook him and reminded him that someone had taken Jacob, and that they needed to look at everybody. Patty and Jerry were interviewed by the FBI at a local motel in separate rooms. Patty told Agent Garber “You can ask me anything you want, just don’t ask me to be patient. I am not a patient person.” Regional FBI Director Jeff Jabar started by asking Patty to be patient at one point and Agent Garber recalls how Patty just went of saying “Be patient? This is my son. This is my boy. I’m not patient. Find him.” Patty credits Agent Garber with keeping her in the loop and supporting her, Jerry and their children 100% through this difficult time. He and Patty laid down some ground rules, and quickly formed a strong, trusting relationship. Patty did not want to find anything out through the media first, and Agent Garber kept true to his word on not allowing that to ever happen. The second thing the two agreed on, was that Agent Garber would call Patty twice a day, once after the morning briefing, and once after the evening briefing. No matter how late at night Agent Garber worked until, Patty knew that he would always call. This allowed the investigators to continue the search without being overwhelmed with constant questions coming from Patty and Jerry. It also gave Patty the structure she needed to stay in control, by writing down anything she wanted to ask Agent Garber on their next call. Patty made a point of going to the offices were the team working Jacob’s case were set up every day to bring in cookies, squares and bars. When she walked in each day the entire room would go silent in respect for Patty. 11 days after Jacob was abducted was Patty’s birthday, and the first thing she received that morning was flowers from the FBI. I have to say that the relationship law enforcement and the Wetterling family had was ideal, and critical for allowing the Wetterling family to grieve, to hope, to carry on each and every day. It created the trust and support that they all needed so desperately from each other. That support launched a sequence of events that inspired so many changes in law enforcements ability to gather resources quickly and effectively when working an abducted child case.
Patty Wetterling approached Neil Neddermeyer, and asked him “What tools do you need to make your job easier?”. Neddermeyer responded with “Oregon is the only state that has a registered sex offender database. I’ve been spending weeks, months, finding out who the sex offenders are. If I could know that through a registry, it would help me a great deal.” With that straight forward answer, Patty Wetterling became a woman on a mission. Four months after Jacob’s abduction his family founded the Jacob Wetterling Foundation, an organization devoted to missing children. Please take a look at their site and help support the cause in Jacob’s name.
Also, in 1994, the Jacob Wetterling Act was passed in Jacob’s honor. It was the first law to institute a state sex-offender registry. Amendments to the Jacob Wetterling Act were made two years later, directed the FBI to create a national offender databases, amongst other changes. Patty became a spokesperson for children’s safety. She took all of that grief, fear and hope, and turned it into something tangible to help others. I can’t wrap my mind around how this incredible woman, was able to do so much for others in her own time of need. Jacob’s case changed how parents handled their children, it changed legislation and it changed the way law enforcement investigates violent crimes. Jim Ramstad, a former Minnesota congressman, recalls the time when he and Patty were trying to gain support for and pass the Jacob Wetterling Act. “I’ll never forget walking the halls [of the U.S. Capitol], going office to office with Patty, to try to get the Wetterling bill passed back in 1993 and 1994. Patty Wetterling personified parental love. It wasn’t difficult to get my colleagues’ attention once they met Patty. The Jacob Wetterling Act started the ball rolling.”.
When a child is abducted by a stranger, the world stands up and takes notice. They follow the case and over time begin to feel as though they know the family. Emotions are heightened and a sense of wanting to make sure this doesn’t happen to another child reaches a peak. What happens when this peak is reached is what gets the ball rolling on making changes to keep our children safe. Patty Wetterling recognized this opportunity in the wake of her son’s abduction and sprung into action. The grieving mother found a cause to focus her energy on, and the ripples it created is absolutely saving children’s lives each and every day. The gift she has given so many in the wake of her personal tragedy is inspirational.
Immediately after Jacob’s abduction in 1989, Patty began to notice the fear that was struck into the hearts of parents everywhere, and the fear that changed the way her neighborhood went about everyday life. The streets were empty, toys and bicycles lay still in the yards with children behind locked doors. Halloween came, and parents were too afraid to let their children walk the streets. Costumes were hung up in the closet, and the promise of free candy was taken away, disappointing the children. Parents believed that the best way to keep their children safe was to keep them close, literally close. When Patty Wetterling saw what was happening, she knew that she had been given an opportunity to make a change in the way the world responds to a stranger child abduction. Patty was one of the first to encourage her children to go outside and be kids, not to hide in the house in fear of the world, after Jacob’s abduction. For the mother of a child who has been abducted, this was an incredible display of wisdom and commitment to improving the way stranger abductions are handled in every sense.
The first thing Patty did, was establish foundations that pushed for new laws on sex offenders and offender registries and to educate efforts which were seeking to help parents prepare their children for the realities of today’s world. Knowledge is power, and a new wave of understanding abductions and the ability to prevent began to sweep over the world. Parents began to understand that keeping their children locked inside, only did more to hurt them by feeding a fear of the world outside their front door. Parents were now given the tools to talk to their children, to teach them what to do when approached by a stranger and to further educate them on what THEY can do to keep themselves safe. People began to understand that fear was not power, and fear will only hurt a situation, not help it.
The “stranger danger” taught to children in the 80’s and early 90’s was not designed to eliminate the fear, but to feed the fear. Patty Wetterling saw this and said it all in one simple sentence. “There’s no research to show that scared kids are safer kids.” The idea that surrounded the change in the way we teach our children how to stay safe changed from frightening children, to empowering children.
Not only were changes made to how we teach our children, changes were also made in how we address child abductions as a whole. Where there had once been a huge lacking in the sharing of information on missing child cases, with no databases or ways to track abductions, the NCMEC formed the database that is still used to this day for child abductions around the world. They didn’t stop there. They began to put missing children’s faces on milk cartons, a move that was criticized as generating too much fear among parents and children. Instead of milk cartons, the NCMEC began to use direct mailings. Campaigns were launched, many of which Patty Wetterling had a direct hand in, that attempted to present a more realistic picture of how pervasive the problem of stranger abductions truly is. The fact is, stranger abductions are quite rare. Children are usually abducted by someone they know. Each year there is an average of 100 – 120 cases nationwide in which a stranger abducts someone who isn’t found quickly. 100 – 120 out of 800,000. That is 0.015% of yearly abductions being stranger abductions. With the knowledge of this information and these statistics, foundations and organizations for missing children were given the opportunity to restructure the way children are prepared to enter the real world. To know that this change was brought forth by a woman who has suffered greatly with the loss of her own child, is humbling. Amongst all the efforts Patty put forth, searching for Jacob was always first and foremost.
In 2010, another person of interest was revealed to the media. Dan Rassier, an elementary school music teacher, owns the home at the end of the driveway from which the masked gunman approached Jacob, Trevor and Aaron. He was quickly considered a person of interest, and it would seem that even after all this time passing, authorities still are considering him as a person of interest, despite no evidential proof that Rassier was ever involved. Dan Rassier is now fighting back against law enforcement, voicing his complaints stating that police officers violated his civil rights and his family’s rights and “abused the privileges of their power” in relation to Jacob’s case. He sent a letter to 14 state officials and agencies with his concerns. When asked why he was only coming forward with his concerns now, Rassier stated “They are just going to keep me kind of on this lifeline dangling there forever, and I want that to stop.”. Rassier was home alone on the night of Jacob’s abduction and has been questioned multiple times, however his name was not released in the media until June of 2010, when law enforcement armed with search warrants descended upon his farm. “Items of interest” were found in the six truckloads of dirt removed from the farm. In the fall of 2010, police released a statement saying that the testing done on these items was unable to “establish, distinguish or identify potential evidence.” Despite being unable to locate any evidence, Rassier has never been cleared of the crime. In Rassier’s letter, he wrote, “Is it considered legal for law enforcement to give the public the perception I am guilty of something when I’m not?” Rassier added: “To destroy our family’s name the way they did because they had a “Hunch!” is in itself, a serious crime. Nothing can make it right now. The damage has been done. But to leave the whole thing open to speculation and open to the public’s imagination is just wrong!”. Rassier also stated that the authorities won’t listen to what he witnessed the night Jacob was taken. Authorities have not elaborated on what prompted them to search Rassier’s family farm, saying only that they had probable cause. Rassier also stated that if nothing else comes of the complaints he’s lodging, at least he spoke out about what he perceived to be problems with the investigation. “Like any unsolved crime, Jacob Wetterling and his family along with the public deserve nothing less than the truth,” he wrote.
The truth is what Jacob’s family will continue to look for until they take their last breath, or until Jacob is home. A note written by Patty, taped around a teddy bear’s neck read “Jacob – call 911 and they will find us. I love you. Mom”. As a mother, coming across the image of this note, brought me to tears instantly. I can’t find the right words to describe how devastated I am for this family, and how much I see myself in Patty. I would do everything she has done in hopes that Jacob will find a way to come home. Despite the horror that grasped this family, and the unknown fate of Jacob, Jerry, Patty and their 3 children have created a legacy in Jacob’s name.
After the thanksgiving which followed Jacob’s abduction, the Wetterling family began trying to piece their lives back together. Jerry went back to work, and the kids went back to school. People always commented to Patty saying, “I bet you can’t ever let them go.”, in reference to Amy, Trevor and Carmen. Patty stated that it wasn’t like that for her. She did not want her children to live their lives in fear. The children never wanted to leave their home after their brother’s abduction, and Patty had to encourage them to go out. “I really believe there are more good people than bad, and I wanted our kids to know that.” Patty showed a strength beyond what most humans are capable of summoning in a time of such horror and shock. Nancy Sabin, executive director of the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center, says she asked both Jerry and Patty how they could ever let their children walk off the end of the driveway after what happened. Jerry and Patty remained supportive of their children and gently coaxed the children back into the world, more importantly, nurtured them into feeling safe in the outside world again. This powerful display of courage completely embodies what Jerry and Patty wanted people around the world to know. Jerry and Patty often say “Don’t let Jacob’s case make you believe that this happens every time you turn around on most kids, because it doesn’t.” Despite working through their own overwhelming emotions they still believed that they needed to get this message out to other parents. In their time of grief and despair, they encouraged others to feel safe, to not shut their children in the house and never let them out. At a time when they needed support from others, they in turn turned around and showed that support to others.
To date the Wetterling’s remain key players in not only their community, but across the country in assisting in missing child cases. Jerry hosts a yearly Rocky Mountain trek to raise money for the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center. Patty Wetterling is the director of sexual-violence prevention at the Minnesota Department of Health. Jacob’s siblings, Amy, Trevor, and Carmen, have reached out to others who have lost brothers or sisters in the same way. There are grandchildren now, including a new baby named Jake. Patty makes a powerful statement about never giving up on Jacob’s case. “My kids are doing well, and I’ve got grandkids, and it would be easier to just curl up and say, “I’m not going to do it anymore.” But somebody took Jacob, and he’s still out there. Is he doing it again? Has another family been hurt by this person? I just can’t live with myself if I don’t try. The boy we knew is gone, but I will always fight for the world he knew.”
Time has passed since Jacob was abducted and the children who witnessed the abduction and following search have become adults, now having children of their own. Aaron Larson is now a member of the U.S. Army Reserves, who served as a technical engineer specialist with the Third Expedition Sustainment Command, or ESC, at the joint base in Balad, where he worked to make sure the 17,000 military men and women had what they needed to complete their missions. He now has a wife, Jackie Tentinger, and together they have a little boy, Anikan. Aaron reflects on the moment he was lying face down in a ditch while his best friend was abducted right in front of him. He asks himself if he will be too overprotective as a parent after what happened. That night changed who Aaron Larson was, and the strength he has shown to become the man he has become today would make Jacob proud of his best friend.
Aaron recalls that night, “There were police cars everywhere, and every time someone pulled up I would run to the window and look. I’d expect to see Jacob getting out of the car because he had been found or returned.” Aaron spent the following weeks at Jacob’s house, comforted by being with people who understood what he was going through. Nothing would ever go back to normal no matter what happened. The best friend he played sports with, hung out with and spent most of his time with, was gone. His normal had ceased to exist. What remains for Aaron are the memories of all the time shared with Jacob, memories which he can one day share with his son, and while Jacob may be gone, Aaron’s best friend will always be carried in his heart.
Jacob grew up in a family full of love, life and support. The family lived in a quiet neighborhood, the type of neighborhood where you think horrific crimes like this never happen. Jacob’s abduction not only devastated a family, it devastated and entire community. Jacob was only 11 when he disappeared. His mother Patty recalls “He was young and sweet and still liked to be hugged. His voice hadn’t changed. He had a girlfriend. He was almost my height.” Jacob was a great athlete, playing soccer, basketball and football often with his brother Trevor and their neighborhood friends. He was competitive and driven. His family fondly reflects on just how incredible this young man truly was. They share that Jacob could be stubborn, and when he made up his mind, there was no negotiating with him. His mother now believes that stubborn streak just might work for Jacob, and I agree. It is amazing what an 11 year old can do when they decide on it. They are still too young to worry about what every person on the face of this earth will think about what they do, and yet old enough, smart enough and mature enough to set their passions in concrete and pursue them endlessly. His father, Jerry, shares a treasured memory, recalling “For Father’s Day, the kids made a video of themselves putting on a skit. Jacob was portraying me. He was sitting in a chair reading the paper and Amy came up to him and said, “Dad, I’m so sorry I broke one of the lamps.” And he said, “Oh, that’s okay, we can get that fixed or get another one.” And Trevor came and said he was throwing a baseball and broke a window. And he said, “No problem, we needed to get that window fixed anyhow.” And then Carmen said, “Dad, we forgot to tape the game.” Jacob said, “What?! You forgot to tape the game?!””.
Jacob would have turned 35 this year. Patty, Jerry and Jacob’s siblings have spent more time searching for their son and brother, than they spent raising and growing up with him. The family has endured daily drives past the spot where Jacob was snatched and years of prank calls like the answering machine message with a young man’s voice whispering, “This is Jacob Wetterling and I want you to know I’m still alive.” And yet, the Wetterlings refuse to change their phone number or move from the four-bedroom home that Jacob biked away from over 2 decades ago.
“What if he came home?” Patty asks.
Jacob played hockey, soccer, football and baseball and greatly enjoyed watching sports on TV. He loved playing his Nintendo and building things from model kits. His favorite foods are steak, peanut butter and pizza. Jacob usually wore sweat pants and sweat shirts with high top Nike sneakers. His smile was infectious and lit up a room. He was a happy, carefree, energetic young man, who delighted everyone he ever met. Hope of finding Jacob safe will never die. His name will forever be a symbol of hope to all the families out there who have been touched by the Jacob Wetterling Foundation. Jacob’s nieces and nephews will be raised knowing what an incredible uncle they have. While Jacob may not be home with his family now, his memories remain, and his family can still recall the days when his smile and love of life greeted them every morning. No one will ever be able to rob them of these memories.
I ask of you all to light a candle for Jacob. This family, and this young man, they deserve peace, so let’s help light his way home.
25-40 Years of Age
Height: 6’0” Weight: Husky Build with Broad Shoulders
Low, Raspy Voice
If you have any information regarding the disappearance of Jacob Erwin Wetterling, please immediately contact the Stearns County Sheriff’s Department at:
The National Center For Missing & Exploited Children at: