Posts made in June, 2014

Another incident and some exciting news

Thanks again to everyone who continues to follow and comment on my Jacob Wetterling story. I have another incident to report that took place in Paynesville sometime during the late 1980s or early 1990s. I’ll share that in a moment, but first I have some other big news.

John Walsh from America’s Most Wanted has a new show called The Hunt coming out on CNN next month. He became interested in the new leads that have been generated in Jacob’s case, and is going to feature the story on his new show! His production crew was in town last week and interviewed Sheriff John Sanner from the Stearns County Sheriff’s Office on Tuesday, Patty and Jerry Wetterling on Wednesday, and Jared and me on Thursday. Here’s a picture of me with the crew — John, Vitaly, and Chris — who came to my house to do the interview last week.

CNNcrew_061914_cropped_sm

Walsh’s new show will premiere on July 13, 8pm CST. Here’s a snippet from the official press release from CNN’s web site:

The Hunt with John Walsh, a documentary-style, non-fiction program will take advantage of Walsh’s unique statue and perspective in television journalism and will tell stories of ongoing international criminal investigations in which the suspect is a fugitive at large. Through interviews with victims, loved ones and law enforcement and the exploration of new leads, The Hunt will provide the public with salient information to help in the fugitive’s apprehension. (Produced by Zero Point Zero Productions)

If you’re not familiar with John Walsh, I encourage you to Google his name and read his amazing backstory. After his son, Adam, was abducted and murdered in 1981, he went on to become an advocate for victim’s rights and launched America’s Most Wanted in 1988. In the 25 years that AMW was on the air (first on FOX, then on Lifetime), that show managed to track down 1,203 fugitives. That’s an impressive track record.

Watch a video interview with John Walsh…

JohnWalsh_video

I’m hopeful that by sharing Jacob’s story once again in front of a national audience, somebody might come forward with a piece of information that could help solve the puzzle. I’ll try and share more information about the show as it becomes available. You can also follow John Walsh on Twitter at @JohnWalshAMW.

Now then… on to another Paynesville incident.

I learned about this story from a 34 year old man who grew up in Paynesville and now lives in Minneapolis. He doesn’t remember exactly what year this incident took place, but he’s pretty sure he was in middle school at the time, so that would put it somewhere between 1990-1992. However, it may also have taken place when he was a little younger, so possibly late 1980s as well.

Here’s his story.

I was waiting for my Dad who picked me up from wrestling every night. He works in St. Cloud, and that night it was taking him longer than usual to get home. Possibly traffic.

I stood out in front of the Paynesville middle school, and sooner than later, I was by myself.

I then saw a long, dark, old green car (possibly brown) with an off white roof. It was driving around the block over and over. It was one of those old cars with a REALLY long hood.

I remember being a little creeped out that it kept circling. I didn’t see it for a while and felt relieved until I saw a figure walking down the sidewalk from the playground area toward me. He got closer and closer, and I could not make a face out because it was dark.

I started to walk away. He got faster. I got faster. Then he got faster again.

I ran to my aunt and uncle’s home who lived about 3-4 houses down from the school and barged into their house. When I peeked out the door, the husky guy briskly walked by and had a black ski mask on.

My dad came shortly after, and we immediately went to the police station.

One interesting note… this young man wrote a paper about his incident when he was in high school. He and his parents have been trying to find it to see if it might include more details or clues, but so far, no luck. (He did mention he got an A on it though!)

Also, here’s one final thing. A lot of people keep asking me who I think did this. The answer is, I don’t know. But since I learned about these Payneville incidents last summer, I’ve been operating under the assumption that one person is responsible for all of these attacks — Jared’s and Jacob’s included. That means the suspect would have to have a tie to all three locations – Paynesville, Cold Spring, and St. Joseph. That narrows the field pretty quickly and leaves us with a short list of strong possibilities. But… who knows. Jared and I continue to talk to people and are grateful for the help we’ve received so far.

Thanks again for following along and for “thinking Jacob” with me.

NEXT: Tidbits…

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Two more incidents

After a much needed break, I’m back in the saddle again. I think by now I have received close to 100 comments, tips, and private messages since our story about the 1986-87 Paynesville incidents first aired on Twin Cities news stations three weeks ago. It was a full time job just trying to field all the comments, pass the information along to the Stearns County Sheriff’s Office, and follow up with people as time allowed.

Again, I’d like to thank everyone for caring and getting involved. I can’t say enough how kind and accommodating the people of Paynesville have been in helping unravel this mystery. Most are amazed they had never heard about it before, but here’s the thing. The grown-ups may not remember these incidents, but if you were a kid living in Paynesville during that time, you can bet they remember it.

The kids called this guy “Chester the Molestor.” They may not have known the exact details of the attacks, nor even the boys involved… but they knew this. There was a guy who was dressed in black, hiding in the bushes, jumping out, and molesting kids after dark. And they were terrified.

Just to back up for a second… the original newspaper article described five attacks in Paynesville during 1986-1987. According to the article, the attacks happened in the following locations:

  • By the river
  • In the hockey rink area
  • Downtown Ben Franklin area
  • Middle school playground
  • Alley between the middle school and the hospital

Here’s the map again, so you can see where these incidents took place.


View Paynesville Incidents, 1986-1987 in a larger map

In my last article about these incidents, “The 1986-87 Paynesville incidents – an update,”, we had found the victims involved in the attacks that took place by the hockey rink, Ben Franklin, and the alley. (We had also found a new one altogether.) However, we were still missing two… the one that took place by the river, and the one that took place at the middle school playground. We believe we have now found the people involved in the attack that took place at the playground, and another group of young men who were involved in an incident that took place by the river.

Here are their stories.

Middle School Playground
This is most likely the first of the reported attacks and took place during mid-June, 1986. It was “Town and Country Days” in Paynesville, and two boys, ages 12 and 13, were hanging out at the middle school playground with another girl their age. The young man I spoke to remembers that his older sister was coming to pick them up at 10pm, so he figures it must have been around 9:30pm when this incident happened.

The three kids were playing “ghost” which is a game like hide-and-seek. They were all three hiding when suddenly one of the boys started to yell for help. He was hiding behind a “triangle piece of playground equipment” that was located by a side door of the school.

The other two kids went running over to help their friend. When they got there, a guy who was dressed in all black took off running. He was wearing a coat, but they couldn’t say exactly what kind. According to the boy who had yelled for help, this man had snuck up from behind, grabbed him, and shoved his hands into the boy’s front pockets.

The kids were really scared and afraid to walk anywhere in the dark, so they decided to just stay together under a street light and wait for the older sister to pick them up.

The mother of one of the boys took them both to the police station to file a police report. The boys met with two officers, but neither felt like they were believed or taken seriously. The general takeaway from the meeting was that the boys shouldn’t have been out after dark, and the guy was probably just trying to steal the kid’s wallet.

Paynesville Middle School playground. The equipment has been updated over the years, but the side door (on left) is still in the same place.

Paynesville Middle School playground. The equipment has been updated over the years, but the side door (on left) is still in the same place.

By the River
We’re not entirely sure on the date of this attack, but the young man who relayed the information to me believes it was the summer of 1987, which would mean it took place after the article was published in May 1987. If that’s the case, this would… again… be another incident altogether.

There were at least 4-5 boys who went camping that day. The group was camping on the northeast side of the railroad bridge next to AMPI (Associated Milk Producers, Inc.) They hung out there a lot… it was across the railroad tracks, and if you forged through the trees, you came out to a clearing where the river curved a bit and made a shallow sandbar.

They all knew about “Chester the Molestor” at this point, and one of the boys had even been involved in one of the previous attacks (he was the one who had been riding his bike with his friend and went for help when the guy came running out of the pine trees by the hockey rink).

(Note, they are the first to admit this wasn’t the smartest decision they had ever made. However, they were young, rebellious, and feeling invincible. They felt they had strength in numbers and were willing to take the risk.)

It was after dark when one of the boys decided to head back up the hill toward AMPI to grab a can of pop from the pop machine. As he went to jump over a log, he lost his balance and grabbed on to a stump to steady himself.

It wasn’t a stump.

It was a guy… dressed in black… who had been spying on the group.

The boy ran all the way back to the camp site to warn the others. They were terrified, but even worse, they were trapped. The camp was surrounded by water on three sides, and there was only one way out… back up the hill. They decided their best defense was to stay together as a group, so that’s what they did. They sat in a circle with their backs to each other, holding their pocket knives… all night long.

The mother of the boy involved in this incident did bring him into the police station to file a report. However, like most of the others, the report no longer exists due to the statute of limitations on the case. If you have any information regarding these or similar incidents around the Paynesville area during this time, please contact the Stearns County Sheriff’s Office at (320) 259-3700. You may also contact the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-THE-LOST.

Railroad bridge, looking  east toward AMPI. The camping spot was to the left, on the northeast side of the bridge.

Railroad bridge, looking east toward AMPI. The camping spot was to the left, on the northeast side of the bridge.

AMPI, located next to the Crow River and along the railroad tracks in downtown Paynesville.

AMPI, located next to the Crow River and along the railroad tracks in downtown Paynesville.

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