Posts made in November 3rd, 2010

Let the questions begin…

If you’re like me, you probably have a ton of questions swirling around in your head after reading my last post about the Jacob Wetterling abduction that took place on October 22, 1989.

I’m going to try and list my questions here in some sort of coherent fashion. Hopefully they’ll follow some semblance of order. If not, bear with me; I’m a journalism major, not a private investigator.

The Babysitter?
First of all, the boys’ decision to rent a video that Sunday evening was spontaneous and impulsive. The only people who knew they were planning on going to the Tom Thumb that night were Jerry and Patty Wetterling (Jacob and Trevor’s parents, who were at a dinner party in Clearwater 45 minutes away), the 13 year old neighbor/babysitter who offered to come babysit the youngest Wetterling daughter while the boys were gone, and, presumably, the babysitter’s family. I wondered if someone in the babysitter’s family could possibly have been involved, but no. They were good friends of the Wetterlings, and the dad is the one who called 911 when his daughter called in a panic to tell him what had happened.

That means whoever took Jacob did it impulsively, acting quickly when they saw the opportunity.

The Scary Guy at the Tom Thumb?
There’s a theory that someone at the Tom Thumb saw the boys and stalked them on their way home. Reports from eyewitnesses say there was a strange man at the Tom Thumb earlier that day who walked in and glared at customers, then left without making a purchase. He was a large, older, bald man with a raspy voice. You’ve seen him before; we all have. That’s because he’s the one from the first sketch that was sent to the media. This same man was reported to have been seen at another area convenience store as well. He was never identified, never found.

Composite sketch of possible suspectSo, let’s entertain this thought for a bit. Could it be that this scary bald man was skulking around St. Joseph that day, looking for a random boy to abduct? OK, let’s just assume that could be true. He didn’t know Jacob; he didn’t know his family, and he didn’t know where he lived. That means, the stalker would have had to follow the boys out of the Tom Thumb in order to figure out which direction they were heading. Not only that, he would have had to quickly get ahead of them, change into all-black attire, put a mask over his head, hide his car, and get positioned in the ditch… all without being seen.

Impossible. Having now driven down that road myself, there’s no way the boys would have missed seeing a car coming down the road. No way. It’s a dead end road in a small town. When neighbors drive by, they wave. When non-neighbors drive by, you notice. If a strange car had passed them, then pulled into Rassier’s driveway, they would have noticed.

A Neighborhood Stalker?
That leaves us with the possibility that whoever did this saw the boys on their way TO the Tom Thumb, then made preparations to abduct them on their way back home. Whoever that person was had to know the boys, be familiar with the Rassier property, and have quick access to dark clothing, a face mask, and a gun. If they planned on using a getaway car, they would have had to take the time to stash it somewhere north of the dead end street where they could access Highway 75 and make a fast getaway.

A Getaway Car?
The only place I could figure to stash a car was either in the neighborhood behind the Rassier farm (to the north), or on the Rassier property itself (see satellite map of abduction site). However, the houses to the north of the Rassier farm look pretty new… early 90s perhaps, so I’m not even sure that neighborhood existed in 1989. And as for the theory of stashing a car on the Rassier property and then escaping on some back field road… it’s hard to believe investigators couldn’t have followed those tire tracks pretty easily. Plus, whoever was doing the “stashing” had to be pretty confident the farm family wouldn’t be home at the time.

In 2003, investigators discounted the theory of a getaway car after a local resident came forward to explain he had arrived early on the scene the night of the abduction, after hearing the call on his police scanner. He admitted the tire tracks found on the scene were most likely his. His story checked out. This led officers to believe the suspect probably escaped with Jacob on foot.

The “Person of Interest”?
Now, onto this “person of interest” named in the case last summer… Dan Rassier. Rassier is the 55 year old single son of Robert and Rita Rassier, owners of the farm property where Jacob was abducted. (If you didn’t see Rassier’s interview with KARE-11’s Julie Nelson last summer, view my last post.) Rassier is a band teacher at Rocori Middle School in Cold Spring and lives at the family farm with his parents. He is also an avid runner.

First of all, in Rassier’s defense, he does not have a low, gravely voice. In fact, if you watched the video interview, you’ll notice Rassier has a very distinct speech pattern. Considering the close proximity in which Trevor and Aaron were to their abductor, it’s hard to believe they wouldn’t have picked up on that. That was my first thought.

In newspaper reports, Rassier also admits to undergoing DNA testing, a lie detector test, and even hypnosis to help the investigation. And while we don’t know the results of these tests, you must admit, that’s pretty forthcoming for someone considered a “person of interest” in this case. To date, Rassier has never retained a lawyer either.

However, like many others, I do question Rassier’s actions on the night of the abduction. First of all, he admits to having no alibi and no witnesses. His parents happened to be on vacation in Europe the night of Jacob’s abduction, so Rassier was home by himself. In his TV interview with KARE-11’s Julie Nelson, Rassier said he went for a run the day Jacob was abducted. He remembers it being “a splendid day for running.” When he wasn’t running, he says he spent the remainder of the day typing index cards he used to organize his record collection. He went to bed early and was awakened by the sound of the dog barking outside. He looked out the window and saw people with flashlights out by the wood pile. He thought they were intruders and called 911.

OK, lots of questions here.

First of all, he awoke to the sound of the dog barking? How about the sounds of sirens wailing? I live in a town the size of St. Joseph, and when you hear a siren in a small town, any siren, you take notice. That’s because you just naturally assume you know the person who’s in trouble on the other end. Your heart leaps; and you pray to God it’s not someone you know, someone you love. However, on the night of Jacob’s abduction, there had to be SEVERAL sirens, all stopping right at the end of Rassier’s driveway. And yet, he was awakened by the sound of the dog barking?

However, maybe there were no sirens. What do I know.

But here’s what we DO know. Jacob was abducted at 9:15pm. A sheriff’s deputy was the first to arrive on the scene six minutes later. He immediately called for reinforcements. By 10pm, the Rassier property had to be in full-blown chaos. My question is… what in the heck time did Rassier go to bed? I’m all for getting a good night’s sleep, but 9:15pm seems a little early… especially for a 33 year old whose parents are gone on vacation.

According to Rassier, the 911 operator told him a child had been abducted near his property and law enforcement officers were combing the area looking for him. Rassier says he got up and searched all the outbuildings on his property with a flashlight. Hard to believe a police officer didn’t notice him during this time, giving him that much-needed alibi.

And hey… what about those police officers? Didn’t they knock on Rassier’s door and question him as an eyewitness? Wouldn’t that be the first thing you did, considering Rassier’s was the closest home to the crime scene? Didn’t they ask for his help in the search? Did they knock and receive no answer? Did anyone get a warrant to search his house that very night? These seem to be obvious details I couldn’t find in any news report.

And where was Rassier the next day? And the day after that? Did he have an alibi on those days? How about the next week? The next month? If Rassier had Jacob, wouldn’t he need to be attending to him somehow?

To me, it seems highly unlikely that anyone could be so brazen as to abduct a child right outside their own home. However, *someone* was waiting for Jacob outside the Rassier driveway that night. If it wasn’t Dan Rassier with the low, gravely voice… who else would have been on the farm property that night? Who else would have seen the boys heading toward Tom Thumb, then have the ability to quickly get the supplies they needed, possibly stash a getaway car somewhere, and wait for their return? If it was a stalker-stranger, how did they know how/where to escape so quickly?

Please add your own comments and questions below. Maybe all our thoughts and prayers can help somehow. Surely it can’t hurt to keep “thinking Jacob.”

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