Jacob Wetterling's Remains Found After 27 Years: 'We're Struggling with Words at This Time,' Mom Says

The Stearns County Sheriff's Office confirmed the remains had been found Saturday afternoon and said it will release more information on Tuesday

Photo: National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

Nearly 27 years since his abduction, Jacob Wetterling’s remains have been found, authorities said in a statement released Saturday evening.

“The Stearns County Sheriff’s Office today confirms that Jacob Wetterling’s remains have been located,” authorities said the statement released around 6:45 p.m. and obtained by PEOPLE. “The Ramsey County Medical Examiner and a forensic odontologist identified the remains as Wetterling’s earlier today. Additional DNA testing will be performed.

“The Stearns County Sheriff’s Office, assisted by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, the FBI, the Stearns County Attorney’s Office and the United States Attorney’s Office are currently in the process of reviewing and evaluating new evidence in the Jacob Wetterling investigation,” the sheriff’s office said.

“Authorities expect to be in a position to provide more detailed information early next week. We are asking for your patience and respect for the Wetterling family’s privacy until that time.”

Earlier in the day Jacob’s mother, Patty, told the news to several local news outlets via text.

“All I can confirm is that Jacob has been found and our hearts are broken,” Patty Wetterling wrote in a text message to KARE-11’s, a Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota TV station on Saturday morning. “I am not responding to any media yet as I have no words.” She reiterated those statements to several other local news outlets.

She also posted a message on Twitter but declined to comment further when reached by PEOPLE.

“Our family is drawing strength from all your love & support,” she wrote. “We’re struggling with words at this time. Thank you for your hope.”

Jacob, then 11, disappeared on Oct. 22, 1989, on his way home from a convenience store. Jacob, his brother Trevor Wetterling and best friend Aaron Larson, were riding their bikes from Tom Thumb store in St. Joseph, Minnesota when a masked man with a gun allegedly forced them to lie face down in a nearby ditch, according to the Tribune.

After asking the boys to tell him their age, the man told Trevor and Larson to run into the woods and not look back, according to the Tribune. Jacob was never seen again and no one was ever charged, according to the Tribune.

Daniel Heinrich was arrested last October on federal child pornography charges and named a person of interest in the Wetterling case, according to Fox 9. Last July, investigators searched Heinrich’s home for evidence of Wetterling’s disappearance and a case involving the sexual assault of a boy in Cold Spring, Minnesota, that happened the same year as Jacob’s abduction.

Several three-ring binders with child pornography were found, and Heinrich was arrested and charged on 25 counts of child pornography offenses, Fox 9 reports. According to local reports he led officers to Jacob’s remains.

Heinrich’s brother David Heinrich, gave an KARE 11 emotional response to his brother’s involvement in the case.

“I want the Wetterlings to know I had no idea,” David Heinrich said. “My prayers are with them. I am happy for them that they know, not that he’s passed, but at least they have closure.”

In a statement posted to their website, the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center said they were 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 of what could be, a light of hope. Their choice changed the world.”

Heinrich’s federal trial for his child pornography charges is set to begin on Oct. 11 in Minneapolis.

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