A possible break?

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It’s that day again… October 22. A few years ago, this day would have come and gone without much thought on my part. Another day, another dollar, another deadline. However, since I started blogging about a certain story three years ago, October 22 now holds a special place in my heart.

That’s because today — October 22, 2013 — marks the 24th anniversary of Jacob Wetterling’s abduction.

Twenty four years? How can that possibly be? It’s hard to believe, but Jacob would be 35 years old today. That smiley kid in the yellow sweater would be 35 years old. But, instead of running his kids to football practice or lamenting over the debut of our new Vikings quarterback, Jacob remains a memory… forever 11 years old… never aging… and never found.

When I first started writing about Jacob three years ago, I was hopeful I could somehow make a difference. I really believed if I could talk to the right people, get the facts straight, and keep the conversation going, that maybe someone somewhere might hold the key that could unlock this 24 year old mystery.

No go. After a lot of effort, the fact remains the same. Jacob remains missing. The case remains unsolved.

But today… maybe just maybe… the key is closer than we think.

Not long after I wrote my last blog post, “Jared’s story,” I was researching a different story when I ran across an old 1987 newspaper article from the Paynesville Press. (Paynesville is a small town about 30 miles from St. Joseph.)

It ran on the front page. Here’s the article:

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Local police seek help in accosting incidents

The Paynesville Police Department is seeking public support in apprehending a man that has been accosting young men in the Paynesville community. So far there have been five different incidents reported.

Sergeant Bill Drager, Paynesville Police Department, said, “We need help, all the help we can get.”

According to Sgt. Drager, the incidents began last summer, there were two more incidents during the winter, one incident occured this spring and another last week.

The police are taking these incidents very seriously.

Sgt. Drager stated, “After this guy grabs the boys he tells them, ‘Don’t turn around or I’ll blow your head off’ and in at least one instance he used a knife.” The man then makes sexual advances to the boys.

The young men that have been assaulted range in age from 12-16 years of age. “The kids are scared,” Sgt. Drager said.

There doesn’t appear to be any pattern to the area that the attacks take place. One incident happened by the river, another in the hockey rink area, downtown Ben Franklin area, middle school playground, and the alley between the middle school and the hospital.

The last incident happened when two young men were riding their bikes home. One young man was grabbed off of his bike and the other young man went for help.

In every instance, the young men had been downtown before they were accosted. “It think he’s picking them out downtown and then following them home or lying in wait for them to go home,” Sgt. Drager said.

Every instance occurred on a weekend night after dark — between 9:30pm and 2:00am.

The suspect wore a mask on several occasions. Sgt. Drager said one young man described the mask as looking like it was made out of indoor-outdoor candy-striped carpeting.

The man is supposedly 5’11” tall, not fat, but chunky. In the last incident, he had blackened everything — so that you couldn’t make out anything on his face. He can run fast, according to witnesses.

The police are encouraging people to call in if they see anything strange or suspicious. “If someone is lurking around or walking on your property — call us,” Sgt. Drager said. “We want calls — that’s preventative more than anything,” he added.

Sgt. Drager also said, “I don’t know if the public’s going to go for it or not, but we may have to go to a curfew.”

There really are not rules to follow if you are accosted. Sgt. Drager suggested, “Holler and run away if you can — it worked the last time.”

Sgt. Drager is also considering talking to the school administrators so that teachers can help make students aware of what is happening.”

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These five assault cases took place between 1986 and 1987… the last one occurring just a year and a half before Jared was assaulted. If you read Jared’s story, you’re probably in full agreement that the M.O. is eerily similar… hockey rink… kids downtown… threat of a gun… authoritative manner… stocky build…

I read the article to Jared over the phone, and he couldn’t believe it. He wanted to know more. So, I emailed the Stearns County Sheriff Department and told them Jared wanted to meet with them so he could learn more about his own case.

Since then, a lot has happened. The Stearns County Sheriff’s Department is now actively investigating these cases. If you have any information, please contact the Stearns County Sheriff’s Department at 320-251-4240 (answered 24/7), or email sheriff@co.stearns.mn.us (reviewed daily).

As for the rest of us, here’s another way we can help. Today, in honor of Jacob Wetterling and all the other missing children, leave your front porch light lit throughout the day and “let your light shine:”

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LET YOUR LIGHT SHINE OCT. 22 FOR JACOB WETTERLING; ALL MISSING CHILDREN

The Jacob Wetterling Resource Center is asking individuals to commit to leaving a porch light lit on Tuesday, Oct. 22 to create hope and light in the world in honor of Jacob Wetterling, who was abducted on Oct. 22, 1989, in St. Joseph. The case remains open and unsolved. Jacob’s story has left an indelible mark on the hearts of thousands, if not millions, of people throughout Minnesota, the United States and the world.

JWRC has always asked families to leave a porch light on to honor Jacob on Oct. 22. In addition to turning on an outside light, JWRC encourages individuals to let their own lights shine. Help a neighbor, talk to your child about safety, support a local child-serving organization, the ideas are endless. There is no greater way to honor Jacob than to create a more hope-filled world.

It’s very rare an abductor comes forward to confess to a crime like this one. but in most cases, the abductor tells someone what they did. If you are able to shine a light into this case by coming forward to law enforcement with information that will lead to answers, JWRC encourages you to take that step. Leads on Jacob’s case can be called into the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 800-THE-LOST.

The JWRC, originally called the Jacob Wetterling Foundation, was founded in 1990 by Patty and Jerry Wetterling following their son’s abduction near St. Joseph. (www.jwrc.org). JWRC has a proven history of educating families and communities to prevent sexual exploitation and abductions of children and also provides victim assistance to families of the missing.

Jacob’s legacy continues to be honored through JWRC, a program of the Gundersen National Child Protection Training Center. Their mission is to end all forms of child abuse, neglect and exploitation through training, education, advocacy, prevention and awareness, providing care and treatment for children, families and adults.

NEXT: The 1986-87 Paynesville incidents – an update…

11 Comments

  1. Great find Joy!!! My porch light is on, and my FB status updated for Jacob.

  2. great info. excited to hear what might come of this lead. please keep us updated. amazing that the sherrif’s office had never heard of these assaults even though they’ve had 24 years to research things.

  3. is the sheriff’s office going to make a plea via the mainstream media to try to find the young men? that would probably really help. they can’t just sit on their hands if they want to find these kids, they have to get the word out

  4. I used to live in St. Joseph (Pleasant Acres) and moved away in 1985 but have followed Jacob’s case closely. I have always felt there was a connection between the ice arena in St. Cloud where Jacob skated earlier that day. I am convinced whomever abducted him stalked him earlier that day and maybe for some time prior. I wonder how many people were questioned who had been at the hockey tourney that day? So then here again it was mentioned that one of the incidents in the Paynesville cases involved a hockey rink area. Coincidence? Hockey players, coaches and family/fans travel all over to different rinks for games and tournaments. I used to work at an ice rink in MD and one day the local Sheriff deputy came in and had a huge binder full of sex offenders info and photos and asked us employees to have a close look at it-saying that ice rinks, libraries, parks, and the like were favorite hangouts for sex offenders because they can blend in easily and have easy access to kids of all ages. So, I can bet that Jacob was stalked while at the rink and the perp knew enough about him to find out where he lived. Wetterling is not a common name. His father used to have an enormous billboard advertising his chiropractic office on a main highway between St. Joseph, where they lived and St. Cloud. His father’s giant bearded face greeted us almost every day as we drove back and forth. It always seemed to me there was a connection between the rink and that billboard and Jacob. It’s so easy to glean info about the skaters at any given rink. Kids have their names on bulletin boards, etc. The rink I used to work at used to display skaters’ photos, their full names, ages and accomplishments and I fought tooth and nail to have that practice abolished. I failed because for a lot of parents-it’s all about the glory. **PULLING MY HAIR OUT** Anyway, thanks for the great post and info. I will never forget about Jacob and his family and will keep praying he will be found! Please contact me at my email if you need any other info! I lived there for almost 20 years and know the area well. I also feel there is a connection between St. John’s Abbey and Jacob’s disappearance.

  5. This may hurt my theory about Jared being the first but this actually helps the other parts of my theory so much more. For one the fact that the stearns county sheriffs had no idea about what was going on in Paynesville despite being similar cases and being apart of the same county. Shows that if the abductor was going to repeat after Jacob he wouldn’t have gone to a different county. But also it proves that he wasn’t getting more violent in fact it appears he was slowing down. If he had five victims between 86 and 87 none in 88 and two in 89. His threats were even more intimidating before than they were later on. Like threatening to blow a kid’s head off if he turned around to just telling them he’s gonna shoot them. Also because he was picking 12 to 16 that proves that he was more an ephebophile than a hebaphile meaning he wouldn’t have lost interest in his victims because they reached an age threshold. I think he was building up to an abduction. In those other cases he never took the kids anywhere he basically attempted to assault them there where he had encountered them. But then with Jared he took him somewhere else, and with Jacob he never released him. The Paynesville police basically said everything I had said about the time of night and that the abductor was waiting for them to come home. See how his entire focus was one town another thing I had said. He focused on the town and trolled around the neighborhood to find victims that’s how he knows where they live without getting all secret agent and following them home he just already knows because that’s how he found the victim, in front of their house. I still believe he lives in Minneapolis and here is a better reason for that for one pretty much all rapists have at one point had consensual relationships some are even married when they rape and since this guy’s victims are specifically male and in some instances as old as 16 years old he was gay and Minneapolis would be more accommodating then oh I don’t know the more conservative parts of Minnesota. I mean this guy as a kid or young adult wasn’t thinking about rape so if he was gay growing up he’s gonna live where that would work out better. Didn’t Feeney even live in the Minneapolis area despite working in stearns county. I’m not saying he couldn’t be familiar with stearns county but I just don’t think he lived there at the time of the abductions or even now. I mean he had 5 victims in one town all in the town too not like kind of close to the town but all in the town and all victims were downtown at the time. If he was apart of the county to the point where all the county is basically apart of his hunting ground why not mix it up so you don’t get caught if you lived there. Instead it looks like he just kept driving to that town. Also can anyone figure out where that candy striped carpeting came from? Did the Red Carpet have similar colored carpeting what about places built or remodeled at the time? Perhaps the abductor either does carpeting or works at a place that sells it. I mean I doubt he took it from his own carpet so it must have been scrap from work he could have just grabbed up and took with him. What’s more important is why not just wear a mask? Like really can you imagine darkening up you’re face and wearing pieces of carpet over you’re head as oppose to spending some cash on a decent ski mask? I think the mask isn’t to hide his identity I think its part of the intimidation and a way to hide who he is not identity wise but like a way of being a different person. When there’s more than one kid or he has to be more threatening he has a mask. But when he’s trying to get Jared to stop and give him directions he isn’t even trying to avoid showing his face. I mean think about that with all the information we have now. Put yourself in the abductor’s shoes for two seconds. You just terrorized a town for two years to the point where the cops were thinking about putting the whole town on lockdown then two years later you decide to abduct again but this time you don’t have a mask. Why do you want to give them a face to the monster they’ve been worried about if you got caught you’d surely be looking at all those cases and Jared’s why take the risk unless you knew that even with a face and a car description you would be a lot harder finding then just looking in the neighboring city only ten miles away. So this is what I think he went crazy in Paynesville stopped a year smartened up a bit calmed down and then went at it again in a different city. Waited again longer than he would have and realized he was getting to close to getting caught and did the same thing Garrido did and give up trying to abduct a kid every month. I mean is it really that hard to believe that he still has Jacob alive as oppose to a guy killing him and just stopping altogether. So he rehabilitated himself by abducting and murdering despite having 6 prior victims that he never killed. Am I really the only one that sees the problem with this? That’s like a crack head going out and killing a crack dealer and stealing their stash and then coming clean from the drug altogether.

  6. Linda Thompson |

    Why do you make it sound like the police did not know? I showed this to my brother who is an officer. He was very angry.

    You need to write a retraction because of your statements.

  7. joy.the.curious |

    Thank you Jared!

  8. Linda, I think the Sterns County Sheriff dept should have known about every single abduction attempt or molestation attempt in the area around Jacob’s kidnapping. If they haven’t researched every bit of information to see if any of the incidents were similar, shame on them. Then they didn’t do enough research to provide answers for any of these families. I sure hope the SCSD is not protecting anyone. That would allow the abuse to continue.

  9. Thanks I appreciate being recognized for my efforts. I don’t believe in rehabilitation for this man. I believe he is basically like Garrido minus a prison record and wife/accomplice. Before Dugard was abducted he abducted a girl and took her to another location that wasn’t his house. She had given birth twice without going to the hospital while in captivity. The only reason he got caught was because he went to a college with her little girls and let them know he was a pedophile on probation. That’s no small slip up! All this guy would have to do is not do that. There was even a guy in Minnesota they found not to long ago that was missing for 18 years and he wasn’t abducted by a pedo so he probably wasn’t even hidden away. If we’re gonna have hope have hope and use it but people need to stop talking about hope if their only theories are that Jacob is dead. If that’s what all their focus is on and they talk about hope they are a liar. I have hope and I believe that unless people want to wait another 20 years for the abductor to die to expose what really happened people need to start using their heads and stop treating this case like a poorly written lifetime movie. Look for things like a 60-70 year old man with a 35 year old man with extreme height differences consistently being together. Maybe the military thing isn’t just a costume to throw people off and its something that the guy actually does hold interest too. Then check military surplus stores. There is one called General J’s in Minneapolis I would start there. I think he lived in an apartment rather than a house. I was thinking about this but I think because the amount of people migrating in and out of apartments would be harder for anyone to know this guy more than a decade. That and because there’s parking garages and lots and not driveways no one could easily see a man owning a catalina and/or celebrity. A lot less chance of being pulled over in a routine traffic stop because cops in the city don’t have to worry about meeting a quota.

  10. He was from Paynesville. He was comfortable with the area enough to strike 5 times. And it was the only place where he had an elaborate facial covering not simply a mask. Now I still think he didn’t live there at the time but grew up there. People from Paynesville know this guy. He had family there. At best I am willing to say he could have lived there before Jared’s attack but in 88 he moved. I have a troubling issue with the application of black face paint and carpet that would be something that would have to be washed off before driving a long distance. Not something one would want to be wearing while on a long drive getaway. It’s not that he’s intelligent its that he’s always moving. That and Paynesville was the one place where he had ran every time. No car present. He’s also the most cautious in this area he runs before doing anything. In cold spring he never had the mask. And in St. Joseph he risked being down a dead end road. That and he didn’t have a gun in one instance. If this was all planned in this area he would have always brought the right tools. The main focal point should be on Paynesville.

  11. For Jared,
    Thank you for coming forward and cooperating as much as you can with this investigation!! I am wondering if you can provide an answer (even yes, or no) to this question:

    Are there any details of your own case that were not made public to your knowledge?

    I am asking because I know sometimes police hold back on a detail or two (things they all know, but don’t tell the general public for whatever reason). Is there anything in your own case that you reported (either at the time, or in the years since) which police have not made public?

    If the answer is YES, then any idea why the details were not released?

    Again, I am not asking you to release info that police didn’t release, just asking if there IS info that was kept secret from the public, and if so, why?

    Oh, and before I forget,

    Any luck in finding the other Paynesville Victims so far?

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