Jacob Wetterling's Parents Share Heartbreak After Learning the Truth About His 1989 Disappearance
Jacob's mom, Patty Wetterling, says in the new video that "we need to build a world where children are not afraid"
The parents of Jacob Wetterling, the 11-year-old Minnesota boy who vanished in 1989 and whose remains were found last month, have posted a short video to YouTube thanking their thousands of supporters for providing them succor during the decades-long search for their missing son.
“We have been strengthened by the love and support of so many in our search for Jacob,” Patty Wetterling says in the 90-second video posted Tuesday. “After such a long time, the suddenness of the answer, the horrific last minutes or hour of Jacob’s life and the finality of his death have been so very hard for us to process.”
Jacob was last seen on Oct. 22, 1989, while riding his bike home with his brother and a friend in the small town of St. Joseph, Minnesota. A masked man with a gun approached the boys and forced the three to lie face down in a nearby ditch.
After asking the boys to tell him their age, the man told Jacob’s brother and his friend to run into the woods and not look back. Jacob was never seen again. And then, early last month, Daniel Heinrich confessed in open court to abducting, molesting and killing the boy.
Heinrich was arrested in October on federal child pornography charges and soon after, authorities named him a person of interest in the Wetterling case. He later led officers to Jacob’s remains and gave a full confession to the crime as part of a plea deal to the porn charges.
In return, he will not be prosecuted for Jacob’s death — a “bittersweet” deal authorities have described as the only option to “bring Jacob home.”
In the video, dad Jerry Wetterling says the devastating revelation his son was indeed dead for so long has made it hard to sleep, eat, work or think.
But he says, “We had to find a way to honor Jacob and strengthen Jacob’s hope for a better and safer world for children.”
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According to Patty, her son “believed in a world where children have the right to grow up safe and follow their dreams,” which is now a cause she and her husband are “fighting for.”
Patty says in the new video that “we need to build a world where children are not afraid.” To that end, the Wetterlings are urging people to join the #11forJacob movement.
Named after the number that graced Jacob’s sports jersey, the movement encourages people to live by 11 simple traits the slain child valued: Be kind, understanding, honest, thankful, a good sport, a good friend, joyful, generous, gentle with others and positive.
Heinrich’s federal trial in his child pornography case is set to begin next week in Minneapolis.