Patty Wetterling celebrated her son Jacob’s 38th birthday on Wednesday with a family dinner, complete with Jacob’s favorite foods. Although it sounds like a wonderful time, full of celebration with family, there was one person missing from Jacob’s birthday dinner — Jacob.
According to Good Morning America, reported via Yahoo News, Jacob Wetterling, 11, his brother Trevor, 10, and best friend Aaron, 11, were riding their bikes home from a convenience store when they were stopped by a man wearing a mask and toting a gun on Oct. 22, 1989. The man reportedly told the three boys to throw their bikes into the ditch and then to lay face down on the ground. The unidentified man then asked each boy how old they were, and then told Trevor and Aaron to run into the woods, adding that if they looked back, he would shoot them.
Trevor and Aaron did as they were told, but made sure to make a quick glance back once they entered the woods. It was then that they saw the masked man grab Jacob’s arm. When they turned back again, their brother and friend was gone.
— Star Tribune (@StarTribune) February 17, 2016
Since then, the search for Jacob has been ongoing, and in October 2015, 26 years later, the police finally identified a person of interest after vetting out some 50,000 leads in the case. Daniel James Heinrich, of Annandale, was charged with “receiving and possessing child pornography,” and was then named a person of interest in Jacob Wetterling’s abduction, according to a previous report by the Inquisitr.
“The Wetterling family would like to thank all involved in the investigation of Danny Heinrich and his crimes against children,” the Wetterling family said in a statement at the time. “The search for Jacob is an ongoing investigation and we will watch and learn with everyone else. Right now we know what is being reported. We know what you all know.
“For 26 long years, we have said that somebody knows something. If you know anything about this man, his ties to St. Joseph in 1989 and his victimization of children, please call the Stearns County Sheriff’s Department at 320-259-3742.”
— BringMeTheNews (@BringMN) February 17, 2016
Jacob’s family continues to search for him, never once giving up hope, and celebrates his birthday every year as if he was there with them. Following Jacob’s birthday celebration on Wednesday, his mother wrote an emotional letter to her son that she later posted on the website for the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center.
“Birthdays are supposed to be about parties, hats and noisemakers, cake, ice cream, friends singing and making wishes but not yet,” Patty wrote. “Not this year, again. How I wish to wrap my arms around you and hug you tight! I have watched the tape of your last birthday party over and over. We rented a suite at the Holiday Inn for your party. You and Aaron raced back and forth in the pool and took turns throwing each other in the deep end. It was so much fun!
“I want you to know that since you were stolen away from us, people everywhere have been searching, praying and hoping for your safety and for answers. Last fall, 26 years later, news of possible answers had your story as the number two news coverage in the region. That’s pretty amazing 26 years later. People care. There are more good people than bad in the world and people still hope.
“My birthday wish is for you to come home. We need to find you. I have another wish for every child who is home safe today, that they will never have to endure abduction or sexual exploitation of any type. We are working just as hard on prevention as we are on searching because this is so wrong…so unfair. I remember how much it bothered you when things were unfair. Me too, it bothers me too.”
[Photo via Shutterstock]