Was Jacob’s abduction “a perfect storm?”

I have a few more thoughts about the Jacob Wetterling case. After this, I’m hoping to move on to a new mystery – a happy one with a happy ending. Surely there must be a happy mystery that exists somewhere. If you know of such a thing, let me know.

(New here? Start from the beginning…)

Several people have wondered what the weather was like the night Jacob was abducted. I wondered the same thing, so on the day I drove through St. Joseph a few weeks ago, I made a stop at the St. Cloud Library on my way home. I wanted to check the microfilm for the local newspaper on the day after Jacob was abducted (October 23, 1989) to see if I could find any information that hadn’t been included in recent news reports. Click here to read the article.

3rd quarter moonAs for the weather… here’s the skinny. After making a copy of the October 23, 1989 newspaper article, I rolled back the microfilm to one day earlier so I could look at the weather report from October 22, the actual day Jacob was abducted. It had been a clear, beautiful day for late October, with a high near 70 degrees. The evening sky was clear with a waning moon in its third quarter. That means it was a half moon; the full moon had been one week prior.

That being said, the question rolling around in my head was… even though the boys said they never saw a car, could a car have been parked in the Rassiers’ driveway a little further down, so the boys couldn’t see it in the dark?

In 2003, the investigators discounted the “getaway car” theory when a local resident came forward to admit the tire tracks found by police in the Rassier’s driveway that night were most likely his. But why were authorities so quick to discount this theory and instead, focus on the “local-resident-who-escaped-on-foot theory?” Was it because it was Dan Rassier, himself, who’d been the one to tell police he’d seen a car turn around in his driveway that night, and then speed away at about the same time Jacob was abducted?

If Rassier witnessed the car from inside his house, that must mean the car pulled all the way into his property to turn around. That’s because you can’t see the end of the driveway from the house; it’s hidden by trees/woods. If I understand it correctly, the local resident (Kevin) who inadvertently left his tire tracks in the driveway that night, told Trish Van Pilsum from FOX 9 News that he had simply pulled in, backed up, and driven away. Wouldn’t that mean he didn’t go all the way into the property? So, if Rassier is telling the truth, doesn’t that mean there had to be another car that night… someone besides Kevin? (If you didn’t see Trish Van Pilsum’s interview, read my previous post).

I re-visited this “getaway-car-parked-in-the-Rassier-driveway theory” one more time. Even though Aaron and Trevor said they didn’t see a car that night, could there have been one parked halfway up the driveway, away from the road so the boys couldn’t see it, yet before the curve, where Rassier would have seen it from the house? Could someone have been parked in the Rassiers’ driveway that night, waiting for the boys to return from the Tom Thumb? Was it so dark that night that the boys wouldn’t have seen a car in the driveway?

At first, I thought no way. You’d think a half moon would be pretty bright. Surely if a car had been parked on that driveway, only 20 yards away, at least one of the boys would have seen it. Right? But, here’s something I learned about a third quarter moon. It rises at midnight and sets at noon the following day. That means, at 9:15pm, when Jacob was abducted, there was no moonlight at all. The moon hadn’t even risen yet, so the sky was completely dark.

So… was it a stalker-stranger who abducted Jacob and escaped in a getaway car that he’d stashed in the Rassiers’ driveway? To me, this scenario seems highly unlikely since all the elements of the abduction would have had to have fallen together perfectly. The boys had never been allowed to go to the Tom Thumb after dark before. If a stranger had been stalking Jacob at his hockey tryouts earlier that day, and/or skulking around at the Tom Thumb earlier that afternoon, what are the chances he’d be so lucky that Jacob would come strolling along, out for the first time after dark, on a moonless night, when his parents just happened to be away at a dinner party? A perfect storm? I doubt it.

The person who abducted Jacob KNEW he’d be returning down that dark road within 30 minutes or so. He knew the Tom Thumb plan. It seems that a stalker-stranger who just happened-upon three young boys out after dark would strike while the iron was hot, like in the Cold Spring case. After all, without knowing the boys, or where they were heading, wouldn’t the stalker-stranger logically assume they were just on a one way trip… either back home or to a friend’s house?

However, this person KNEW the boys would be making a return trip to the Wetterling home. He knew where the Wetterling home was, and he waited for their return. If it was someone who saw them at the Tom Thumb picking out a movie, that person had to have known who they were, where they lived, and where they were heading. If he was driving, he would have had to hurry to get ahead of them, stash his car, pull a mask over his head, and position himself in the ditch, all without being seen.

Or, it had to be someone who knew the boys were on their way to the Tom Thumb and knew they’d be returning down that dark road in about a half hour. He knew they’d be RETURNING soon… that they weren’t just on a one-way trip to another friend’s house. Could that person have been outside on that warm, quiet October night and overheard the boys talking on their way to the Tom Thumb?

Aaron Larson, Jacob Wetterling's best friendAs you recall, Aaron (Jacob’s friend) was on a scooter, so they had to have been going pretty slowly. Was someone spying on them, listening to their every word? Didn’t Aaron report that he thought he’d heard rustling in the tall grass, halfway to the Tom Thumb? The Minneapolis StarTribune interviewed Aaron in 2009, on the 20th anniversary of Jacob’s abduction.

Watch Aaron’s 2009 interview here

We know for sure there was another boy, Jared, just one year older than Jacob, who was abducted, molested, and released by a stalker-stranger in Cold Spring… just 10 miles away and 9 months prior. That man was never found, and the similarities between the two cases are striking (i.e., Jared was abducted on his way home after skating at a hockey rink; Jacob was at hockey tryouts earlier that day; the man was concerned about being recognized in both cases; he had a gun and a low gravely voice; and, in both instances, he told the boys, “Run and don’t turn around, or I’ll shoot.”). These facts are hard to deny. Sure sounds like it could be the same guy.

However, they sure have put the heat on Dan Rassier lately, and God help him if he had nothing to do with the case. Yes, his actions on the night of the abduction seem a little weird. But then, why in the world didn’t the police officers search his house or interview him that first night? Also weird.

And really… could a guy like Dan Rassier, an educated man with a Master’s degree and a TEACHER for heaven’s sake, actually do something like this? For 21 years, he’s lived his life under a microscope. If he was guilty of child molestation/abduction, wouldn’t they have found some nasty files on his computer or some kiddie porn in his bedroom? They’ve searched his house three times now… chances are they would have found something incriminating by now. Right?

Confounding. Frustrating. Agonizing!

Let me just end by saying this…

Peace to the Wetterlings, and peace to you, Jacob. If there was something… ANYTHING… more I could do for you, I would. But unfortunately, only two people know what really happened that October night 21 years ago – you and your abductor. So… here’s one last word for you, Mr. Gravely Voice. If you’re still out there, know that it’s never too late to do the right thing. It’s never too late to ask for forgiveness, and it’s never too late to be forgiven. Please, do the right thing.

In the meantime, I’ll keep praying and “thinking Jacob.”

Skip ahead to 2013: Thinking Jacob. Again.

14 Comments

  1. me too. Forever!

  2. I agree with you, Joy.

  3. Donavon Mickelson |

    I went to the scene of the abduction many years ago, looked it over and told my wife and the couple with us that Jacob never left that area. I said that whoever took him was from that area and the Rassier farm was #1 in my mind. I never changed my thought on that point. Rassier saw them going to town and knew they were coming back home, right past his parents farm. If Rassier saw a car turn around in his parents driveway, he had to be either in the woods close to the road or in the the long straight part of his parents driveway. I was in Law Enforcement for 31 years and someone really missed the boat in this investigation. I spent a lot of time watching this case and even going to the scene where the young officer told me “Somewhere in this area” when I asked him where the abduction took place. I guessed it closer than he did and I had only seen the area on T.V. If that kidnapping took place in my jurisdiction, every one of my officers would know EXACTLY where it happened.

  4. Donald..I disagree..you law enforcement people think you have the answers to everything. That’s part of your problem.

  5. could there be a hockey adult link? did anyone check out voices of adult men helping with hockey?

  6. Could it be that someone was lurking around the Wetterling house that night…perhaps to break in to abduct or assault, someone who knew or overheard there would be no parents home, maybe earlier that day!? Then when the boys left, the plans changed!?

  7. It was one of those absolutely perfect Minnesota fall days, and a warm evening. At the time, Tom Thumb was on the edge of town — where Minnesota (the main street) met Hwy. 23. It is possible that IF an abductor noticed the boys on the way, he could have assumed that they were going to Tom Thumb. If they weren’t, they would have had to go much further (double or triple the distance) nearly to the corner of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church (in the middle of the town) for any other businesses — and they might not be open on a Sunday night (9:15 pm was late in St. Joe’s on Sunday nights). While the local public schools were out of session, the nearby colleges were in session the next day, Monday.

  8. I didn’t realize there was a hockey connection between the two cases. In light of the other similarities, it just feels like one of those parallels that cannot be easily shaken off.

  9. I agree with the hockey connection. Maybe it was a man that knew the boys from Hockey, maybe someone who worked at the rink.

  10. Laura you make a good point about a man who worked at the rink. I don’t however think the man lived in the immediate area. He may have lived about 30 minuntes away.. possibly in St. Cloud but being in the town when a major investigation was going on would put him on the pedestal. Everyone would be thinking about who they know who could possibly commit a crime like this.This would make him feeling very nervous and uneasy and probably flee the area for good. Most likely he had a car stashed on Rassier’s driveway and lived in a bigger community like Minneapolis. I will agree with Donovan though that law enforcement really missed the boat on this crime though.

  11. I am glad I found this blog. Jacob has never left my heart. Thank you Joy for sharing all your reseach

  12. The hockey connection is very interesting. Now, granted, this is Minnesota and almost every family has a tie to hockey, but it is worth looking into. I am from Michigan and went to college in Wisconsin. I was a sophomore in college when this happened. One of my close friends has just transferred to St. Ben’s and we would talk about this case a lot. Like everyone here, I have always felt strongly about the Jacob Wetterling abduction and have followed it closely. Someone should look into employees at the hockey rinks and/or locals that would hang around the rink. In lots of different sports that kids participate in there are guys that hang around the rink, court, diamond etc. because they used to play or are interested. In this case the kidnapper could have been hanging around the rinks looking for victims.

  13. Thank you Joy for writing this blog, it got a lot more eye’s on this case including mine. I hope someday this case is solved, I think it can be. I think this last blog, your right on.

  14. My longstanding theory is that the perp had been a regular at the ice arena near Fingerhut (I grew up skating there and know it well and was a member of the figure skating club many years) and I will say this again- ice rinks, parks and libraries are favorite hang outs for sex offenders. I shared my story about that in a different post and I won’t repeat myself but it is very plausible that the current POI was a regular visitor at the rink. He may have ice skated at public sessions. If you’re a “regular” or even an infrequent visitor of a community ice rink, you get to know the “rink rats” and I say that in the most endearing way. I feel the person who took Jacob “knew” him from the rink. He overheard things. He may have sat behind Jacob’s dad in the bleachers or saw his name posted somewhere. Go to any local rink and look around. There are bulletin boards all over the place showing team info, skater accomplishments, schedules, photos etc. Spend a couple of hours at a public session you will be familiar with the kids skating there that day. I feel the person who took Jacob knew him and followed him home, perhaps at an earlier date. He stalked him. When he felt the time was right, he took him. Maybe he got lucky that night or maybe he waited outside for him on many occasions but I feel he was familiar with that family and probably from the rink. This is just my opinion but I’ve had this theory for years. I’d love to know if LE questioned staff working at the rink or looked at public session receipts or spoke with any of the “rink guards” or any other people who had been there that day. The rink guards work the public season and check people in, hand out rental skates and supervise everyone on the ice. They skate with the public for the common two hours of public skating. I believe I read that Jacob was attending a public session that day or perhaps at a different date, but it is safe to say he probably did at some point because it’s a very common and economical way for skaters to work out, especially before tryouts or exams. Anyway, you can just waltz into any rink all across America during a public session and got get a cup of coffee and sit in the stands and watch anything taking place, for as long as you want, even if you’re not a skater. Or you can participate–the point is, it’s a perfect place for a sex offender to enjoy his day. I’ve worked at an ice rink. If you work there, you know the regulars. You know who is odd. Did they talk to anyone? How far did the investigation go as far as the ice arena is concerned? The current POI may have been a regular there. They need to question him about that.

    God bless you Joy for all you’ve done and God bless Jacob. You’re always in our hearts.

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