Still No Sign of Jacob Wetterling on 25th Anniversary of Disappearance
Wednesday officially marked 25 years since Jacob Wetterling vanished while riding his bike near his home in St. Joseph, Minnesota. Jacob was 11 years old when he was abducted by a masked gunman in 1989; he hasn’t been seen since.
This week, the Wetterlings, the Stearns County Sheriff’s Office and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children introduced a new campaign focused on generating new leads.
The initiative is a billboard campaign that features Jacob’s picture when he was 11 years old and a picture of what he would look like today at age 36. They have been placed in six locations around the St. Joseph area.
To the Wetterlings, the billboards are not just photos of their son but true signs that hope is not lost.
“It’s a reminder that he’s still out there; it is a call to action,” Patty Wetterling, Jacob’s mother, said. “Those of us searching are going to continue to hope and pray until we’re told differently.”
Porch lights on for Jacob Wetterling a 25th time
It was 25 years ago today that a masked gunman kidnapped 11-year-old Jacob Wetterling while he was riding his bike with his brother and his best friend near his home in St. Joseph, Minn., but the case remains unsolved.
It’s one of the state’s most notorious mysteries, but the Wetterling family has never given up on the search for answers. In the headquarters of the center that bears his name, the 25th anniversary is complicated.
“The wounds are still fresh,” Alison Feigh told Fox 9 News. “I mean, there’s no justice, and without justice, there isn’t resolution. So, it remains ongoing and active.”
While Feigh believes it’s an honor to work with the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center, she and others wish the nightmare that unfolded in 1989 never happened. Even so, they take some comfort in knowing that the organization has been able to do so much good on behalf of missing and exploited children, and they look forward to the day when they’re no longer needed.
“The best-case scenario is: We work ourselves out of a job,” Feigh said. “That would be phenomenal. If we could prevent crimes against children, we wouldn’t need to exist anymore.”
Until that day, the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center will be there to help. An hour northeast, the town of St. Joseph, Minn., looks only slightly different than it did before Wetterling was taken. The road is paved now, and there’s a new neighborhood nearby — but it’s still bordered by the same farm fields, and the Wetterlings still live in the same wooded neighborhood at the end of the road. In fact, Jacob Wetterling’s father is still a chiropractor there, and every year, the family leaves their porch light on in the hopes that the boy who vanished at gunpoint will come home.
Wetterling’s best friend: ‘How come it wasn’t me?’
Last week, the Wetterlings met with the media to unveil new billboards that will call new attention to the case. On Monday, Patty Wetterling was a special guest at the Minneapolis stop of the Squeaky Wheel Tour, which raises awareness of missing person’s cases. On this anniversary, however, the Wetterlings are keeping to themselves at home with family and a few friends.
25 Years Later, Jacob Wetterling’s Mother Recalls Abduction
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Patty and Jerry Wetterling will spend Wednesday surrounded by friends and family.
Patty Wetterling said there’s likely to be tears, and laughter.
Her son Jacob was 11 years old when he was abducted by an armed man wearing a mask.
She says Jacob has become Minnesota’s son over the years.
“Much like when Kennedy was shot, or 911, and in Minnesota, people remember where they were when they heard Jacob was kidnapped,” Wetterling said.
“I study the cases of kids who make it home, and I ask, ‘What haven’t I done?’ and I will keep trying until I get answers,” Wetterling said.
There has never been a memorial for Jacob.
“At what point do you say, ‘Oh, I’m tired, and I’m giving up?’ I want to look Jacob in the eye and say, ‘I never gave up,’” Wetterling said.
She remembers how difficult those first days and months were, without Jacob and the pressure it put on the family.
A law enforcement official noticed the tension, and made a suggestion that she says saved her marriage.
“They sat us down and said we can see that you are struggling,” Wetterling said. “And we want Jacob to have a family to come home to, and we want you to get help.”
There are new billboards up in the area where he was taken, and Wetterling says she hopes it will help someone have the courage to come forward with information that will give her and her family answers.
On Wednesday, Stearns County Sheriff John L. Sanner issued an updated incident report, which read:
On the night of October 22, 1989 Jacob Wetterling was abducted from St. Joseph Township in Stearns County. Since that time family, community and law enforcement partners on the Federal, State and local levels have worked together to find and bring Jacob home. Together we have worked tirelessly to provide the answers everyone has waited far too long to hear.
I would ask that today, October 22, 2014, the 25th anniversary of Jacob’s abduction, we all take a moment out of our day to pause and remember Jacob and all of the other missing children. In doing so, let us all make a personal commitment to never forget or take for granted the many blessings we do have in our lives as they can be taken from us. In addition, on this 25th anniversary as in previous years, we would ask that everyone leave a porch light on tonight to remember Jacob.
I can assure you that the Stearns County Sheriff’s Office, the BCA and the FBI will remain steadfastly committed to providing answers as the passage of time has in no way diminished our resolve.
Jacob’s legacy: Fighting to keep kids safe
MINNEAPOLIS – What started as a fight for the Wetterling family to get their child back, has turned into a battle for a better world.
“There’s a big part of me that was fighting for – always fighting for Jacob. We’re also fighting for the world Jacob believed in,” Patty Wetterling told KARE 11 about their efforts to prevent child abuse.
And in that war, the Wetterlings have a trusted ally: one that understands their hurt all too well.
“Being sixth grade and having the kid who sits with you in math class suddenly gone, my brain couldn’t handle that when I was 11, and it still can’t,” said Alison Feigh, who was a classmate of Jacob Wetterling.
Feigh remembers well how the abduction of 11-year-old Jacob Wetterling on Oct. 22, 1989 transformed the entire town of St. Joseph.
“There’s a cloud over the city,” she recalled.
And so Feigh has dedicated her career to keep the skies clear over other cities, by working as a program manager at the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center.
“We believe at the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center, that it’s a kid’s job to be a kid. It’s the grownups’ job to keep them safe,” Feigh said at a recent presentation to parents.
Feigh delivers speeches to groups several times a week, believing that education can help protect children from adults who intend to harm them.
And her advice for parents, explained in detail at the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center’s website, is simple and can be broken down into five steps:
1. Make sure each child has five adults they can trust.
“If they have five people in their life who will say, ‘I love you, unconditionally, and I’m here for you, unconditionally,’ when that person swoops in with, ‘I will love you if…’ the red flag starts to go up a bit faster,” Feigh said.
The number also allows a child to turn to multiple adults if the first trusted person doesn’t know how to handle the situation – or if one of the five happens to be the adult stepping over the line.
2. ‘Check first’ with a parent or caregiver before agreeing to do anything with anyone – whether going into a house or vehicle, changing plans or accepting a gift.
“It’s not about do you know the person or not, the question is, ‘Is this person trying to get you to break your rules?”” Feigh said.
3. Trust your gut.
“Is this person trying to get me to break my safety rules? Is this person giving me an uh-oh feeling?” Feigh said, adding that if a child does get that feeling, they need to know they can say “no.”
4. Open Communication. NO Secrets.
Feigh recommends telling your children the following: “You know if someone ever does something to break your rules, it’s not your fault, and you can tell me about it, and we’ll do what we can to keep you safe.”
5. Touching: Swimsuit Area = Private Areas.
Feigh recommends telling kids the parts of their body covered by their swimsuit are their private parts and off limits for touching. She says parents should explain the exceptions of a “clean and healthy touch,” like during a doctor’s visit. And she emphasizes that if a child isn’t sure if the touch was clean and healthy, they can always ask. She encourages parents to remind children touches are never secret, and if someone crosses the line – children need to know they can talk.
Two other suggestions: Families can have a family safety night at the start and end of the school year, during which they talk about everything from fire safety to internet etiquette to appropriate relationships with adults. Feigh also recommends “What If” games that allow parents and children both to think about different scenarios and their responses to them.
Bottom line, Feigh believes education, communication and assurances can comfort a struggling child – or better yet – prevent the hurt from ever happening.
“Because we owe it to the kids, and we owe it to Jacob to create a safer world,” she said.
To learn more about the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center, or to get additional resources or schedule a presentation with Alison, click here.
Photo courtesy: Star Tribune (View their article on the 25th anniversary of Jacob’s abduction here).