As his family grieves the newly confirmed death of Jacob Wetterling, the Minnesota boy who was abducted nearly 27 years ago, his mother is finding strength by encouraging others to spread joy wherever they can.
“Everyone wants to know what they can do to help us,” Patty Wetterling posted Monday on the Facebook page of the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center – two days after she confirmed that remains were found of her son, then 11, who disappeared in 1989.
“Say a prayer,” Patty wrote Monday, atop a list of supportive and life-affirming activities.
“Light a candle. Be with friends. Play with your children. Giggle. Hold hands. Eat ice cream. Create joy. Help your neighbor.”
“That is what will bring me comfort today,” she concluded, after introducing her post by writing, “The Wetterlings are deeply grieving and are pulling our family together. We will be eager to talk to media as soon as we are able.”
Authorities confirmed the discovery of Jacob’s remains on Saturday. They have named 52-year-old Daniel Heinrich – who was arrested in October on federal child pornography charges – as a person of interest in Jacob’s case.
Jacob’s parents have said he was riding his bike home on Oct. 22, 1989, from a convenience store in St. Joseph, Minnesota – along with his younger brother and a friend – when a man allegedly approached them wearing a mask and holding a gun. After asking their ages, he grabbed Jacob and told the other boys to run or he’d shoot.
It was the last time Jacob was seen alive.
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The outpouring of community support for the family since the confirmation of Jacob’s death has included a continuous display of outdoor porch lights through Monday night, organized on Facebook at Lights on for Jacob Wetterling.
The event echoed the family’s decades-long hopes for a positive outcome to their son’s abduction, which pushed Patty to become a nationally recognized advocate for missing and exploited children.
“The Wetterlings had a choice to walk into bitterness and anger or to walk into a light of what could be, a light of hope,” according to a post Saturday on the resource center’s Facebook page. “They lit the flame that became Jacob’s Hope. … It’s the light that illuminates a world that Jacob believed in, where things are fair and just. ”
“Our hearts are heavy,” the center wrote, “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.”