Authorities say they have found the remains of an 11-year-old boy who went missing in 1989.
Jacob Wetterling was abducted at gunpoint by a masked man on Sunday, Oct. 22, 1989, from St. Joseph, Minnesota. He was biking with his brother and a friend at the time of the abduction.
On Saturday, authorities said remains found in central Minnesota recently belong to Jacob, ending 27 years of speculation and uncertainty, according to the Associated Press.
According to CBS, the suspect in the case, Danny Heinrich, led the FBI to the boy’s remains.
Jacob Wetterling: Boy’s remains found, authorities say https://t.co/pFv1VKHZb2 pic.twitter.com/pXNqsuKleB
— KOCO-5 Oklahoma City (@koconews) September 4, 2016
The FBI says a similar case happened in January of 1989 when 12-year-old Jared Scheierl was sexually assaulted in nearby Cold Spring. There was also a series of sexual assaults in nearby Paynesville in 1986 and 1987.
Heinrich, of Annandale, Minnesota, was questioned in 1990 about the series of sexual assaults and the Wetterling case, but was never formally charged, WCCO-TV reports.
In a statement released Saturday, the Stearns County Sheriff’s Office said it “confirms that Jacob Wetterling’s remains have been located.” According to the statement, the Ramsey County medical examiner and a forensic odontologist identified the remains Saturday.
“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.”
— WCCO – CBS Minnesota (@WCCO) September 3, 2016
In October Heinrich was named a person of interest in the Wetterling case after DNA linked him to another similar case. In January of 1989, 12-year-old Jared Scheierl was sexually assaulted in nearby Cold Spring.
Heinrich was also charged with 25 counts of child pornography, to which he pleaded not guilty.
The statute of limitations prevents Heinrich from facing any charges in any of the assaults, but Scheierl’s family filed a civil suit against him in May, accusing Heinrich of sexual battery and false imprisonment.
— New York Daily News (@NYDailyNews) September 3, 2016
Although he will not be charged with the murder of Jacob Wetterling, Heinrich, who goes on trial next month, will likely face decades in prison. Experts say the case against the alleged child molester is strong.
Attorneys for Heinrich have asked for a change of venue for the trial, saying he will not receive a fair trial.
Jacob’s mother, Patty Wetterling, texted WCCO-TV on Saturday morning.
“Our hearts are broken. We have no words.”
Later in the day, Patty posted a message on Twitter thanking those who offered their love and support.
Our family is drawing strength from all your love & support. We’re struggling with words at this time. Thank you for your hope. #jacobshope
— Patricia Wetterling (@pattywetterling) September 3, 2016
The Jacob Wetterling Resource Center released a statement Saturday morning on its Facebook page.
“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 what could be, a light of hope. Their choice changed the world.
“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.”
While the outcome is tragic, the mystery of what happened to Jacob Wetterling has finally been resolved.
[Photo by AP Photo/Craig Lassig]