Posts made in February 23rd, 2013

Dan’s Story

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I feel like I have been part of something significant this weekend. Bright and early Saturday morning, at 8am, I met Dan Rassier and Kevin the-tire-track-guy at Panera in St. Cloud. The two of them had never met before and were anxious to hear each other’s story, “straight from the horse’s mouth.” What I thought would be an hour long conversation turned into a two hour conversation, and then a three hour conversation. And lo and behold, I wasn’t the one doing any of the talking.

These two men have been put through the wringer. Police and the media seem to have pitted them against each other over the past nine years, stirring up suspicion where none previously existed. So, it’s no surprise they seemed a bit guarded with their words as we began our conversation. But, as they began talking and answering each other’s questions, the cloud of suspicion seemed to lift, and a willingness to share information soon emerged.

Above all, we share a common goal. We want to find out what happened to Jacob. Our hope is that if we can put the facts out there, in order, exactly as they occurred, maybe someone can add to the story. And maybe that someone will have just the piece that will finally solve this 23 year old puzzle.

So, here we go. Let’s start with Dan.

Dan Rassier lives with his parents on the family farm. Their driveway is across the street from the scene of the abduction. Here’s a map from one of my previous posts:

Map of Wetterling abduction

As it happens, Dan’s parents are away on a European vacation, so he is home alone for the week. After teaching a private saxophone lesson earlier that morning, Dan decides to spend his day organizing his extensive record collection. (I wondered why that would be an all-day affair, so I asked him exactly how extensive his record collection was. “Hundreds?” I asked. “Thousands,” he replied. It turns out he has crate after crate of old 33 RPM albums.)

So, after his saxophone student leaves, Dan settles in for a long day of typing. He sits at a desk in his bedroom and decides to open the window because it’s a beautiful fall day… unseasonably warm, with a forecasted high near 70 degrees. He types. And types. And types.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, a big tan-colored car (possibly a 1972-1978 Monte Carlo with a white vinyl top) comes racing down the driveway. When it reaches the farmyard, the car whips a u-turn (dust flying everywhere, like a stunt car), and goes racing back out of the driveway. He has never seen anything like this happen at their farm before.

Dan isn’t exactly sure what the make/model of the car was, nor is he exactly sure if it had a white vinyl top, but he’s very certain about the color… tan/amber. The car pictured here is a 1978 Monte Carlo that I grabbed off the Internet.

MonteCarlo-1978

As early afternoon yields to late afternoon, Dan decides to take a break from his typing and go for a jog. (Note, Dan is an avid runner and still participates in several races each year.) He takes off through the back fields and heads toward the Del-Win Ballroom which is located immediately north and a bit east of his property. (In those days, the neighborhood that existed just north of Dan’s property was not there; it was all woods at that time.) There was a Polka Fest taking place at the Del-Win that day, and the place was packed.

After running through the Del-Win parking lot and taking note of the Polka Fest, now in full swing, Dan cuts back over to 91st Avenue and heads toward home. He remembers stopping at the farm mailbox and picking up the paper, then continuing down the driveway toward his house. Nothing is out of the ordinary. It’s a beautiful day.

FormerDelWinBallroomLocation

After 23 years, Dan is a bit vague on what time he returned from his jog, but he assumes he showered and probably made something to eat for supper before returning to his typing. At any rate, it’s dark out when he hears his dog, Smokey, start to bark (Smokey is an outside dog). The window is still open, and Dan hears a car coming up his driveway. He shuts off his light so he can see who it is. He’s a little unnerved, wondering if it’s the same car he saw earlier in the day.

It’s a different car this time. This one is small and dark – possibly dark blue or black. It pulls in and makes a u-turn in exactly the same spot as the previous car, and while it’s not moving as fast and furious as that car, it’s still moving along at a pretty fast clip. In the passenger seat, Dan sees a woman, (or possibly a child) staring out the passenger window with his/her hands cupped over his/her eyes. (NOTE, Dan is the first to admit he’s a little fuzzy about his memory of the passenger staring out the car window. Very early in the investigation, within weeks of Jacob’s abduction, he agreed to be hypnotized to see if he could help uncover more information. He’s not sure if his memory of the woman/child in the car was a result of being hypnotized, or if this is something he recalled on his own.) Regardless, Dan is again certain about the color and size of the car… small and dark… possibly a small sedan or hatchback.

I asked Dan if this happens a lot… people turning around in his driveway. No, not really, he says. However, he explains that young couples used to park along their driveway all the time and “make-out.” It seems it was a “Lover’s Lane” of sorts. Often he or his parents would come home after dark and come upon cars parked in their driveway with people inside. They would never see the cars until the headlights came right up on them. (Keep this in mind as we re-visit the “getaway car theory” later in the story.)

Not long after the second car swings through and leaves, Dan gets ready for bed and goes to sleep. He has to work in the morning, so he assumes the time was around 10pm.

He is awakened by the sound of Smokey, the dog, barking again. I ask him whether he heard any sirens go screaming past his house, and he says no, he never heard any sirens. (There may be an explanation for this later in Kevin’s story.) The dog continues to bark, so Dan finally decides to get up and see what’s going on. He looks out the west bedroom window (which faces up the hill toward the woods), and sees several flashlights shining up by the woodpile. He’s concerned that people are stealing wood, so he decides to investigate further and heads downstairs. He leaves the light off and steps outside. Smokey the dog is still barking like crazy and he sees that there are actually SEVERAL people with flashlights down by his woodpile… and they’re not kids. He realizes he’s outnumbered, and decides to call 911.

The 911 operator tells Dan a child has been abducted at the end of his driveway and that the people with flashlights are cops searching for the missing child.

When Dan learns this information, he does NOT go back to bed. He got dressed, grabbed a flashlight, and went outside to see if he could help. I asked him if he talked to any of the police officers that night and he said, “Yes, I spoke to an officer on the road, up the hill. I didn’t know who he was for 23 years.” He explains that it was just last December when he went in to the Stearns County Sheriff’s Department to request to look at the affidavit they used to execute the search warrant in 2010. He spoke to Sheriff’s Deputy Bruce Bechtold who told Dan he was the officer he had spoken to on the road that night. He remembered seeing Dan walking up the hill with a flashlight in hand. (This was never reported before, and proves that Dan was, indeed, home that night.) They speak briefly, and Dan offers to search the outbuildings on his property.

He heads back down the road/driveway and searches the outbuildings. Every one of them. You would think there would be cops everywhere, but Dan said there were not. A helicopter was searching the woods and fields around his house, but as far as he knows, there were no cops who came down into the yard all night… just the few up by the woodpile earlier.

Dan doesn’t know what more he can do, and he realizes he has to work in the morning. It’s very late, he’s tired, and he decides to go back to bed.

Stay tuned. I’ll share Kevin’s story next time.

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