The party in the woods – Part 2

I have an update to my last blog post — “The party in the woods.” It was about a high school party that took place on the same weekend Jacob Wetterling was abducted, in the woods just northwest of the abduction site.

When I received the original message from a young man who had been at the party that night, he told me he was fairly certain it had taken place on the same night as the abduction… Sunday, October 22nd, 1989. However, he wasn’t entirely sure and encouraged me to contact other members from his graduating class to corroborate his story.

So, that’s what I did. I put the word out and heard back from several classmates who all remember being at a party in the woods that weekend, but they are sure it took place on Saturday night (the night before the abduction), not Sunday, October 22nd. They also added that the party spot was on the west side of 16th Avenue, not on the east side, as the original commenter had reported. They do, however, remember the police breaking up the party that night. Kids scattered in all directions… some on foot, and some in cars… all racing to get out of there before they got caught.

When I reported this information back to my original commenter, here was his response:

“I am glad you are getting some more responses on the party, and I am glad it is getting cleared up. I am sure that my classmates’ memories might be better than mine, so if others say the party was on the west side on Saturday night, I am probably the one who is mistaken. I am quite sure about one thing. Someone from Law Enforcement interviewed several of us at Apollo High School soon after the abduction. It could have been Tuesday or Wednesday, but it did happen at school. I thought they were from the FBI, but I could be wrong. I do not remember them in any uniforms, but rather in business suits, and there were at least two of them and they used one of the offices of the front school offices. These were not school officials or anything like that, as we had never seen any of them before. I called to try and locate any statements regarding this from both the Stearns County Sheriff’s Office and the FBI in St. Cloud, but neither of them had any record of talking with us nor of breaking up the party. I find it odd that no one kept any record of our interviews unless they were deemed so inconsequential that no records were formally kept.”

So far, I haven’t been able to find anyone else who remembers being interviewed at school by Law Enforcement later that week. That is… except for the young men I interviewed for a previous blog post – “The men in the woods.”

If you recall, these young men had been walking/riding through the woods that same weekend when they noticed an older, balding, gray-haired man who was sitting off in the brush by himself and appeared to be taking notes in a notebook. The man’s car (or what they assumed to be his car) was parked just outside the entrance to the woods. It was a wood-paneled station wagon.

I decided to call these young men back to see if they could help me put together a more detailed map that showed exactly where the party spot was, where the balding, gray-haired man had been sitting, and where his station wagon was parked.

Here’s the new information I learned:

  • They remember seeing the balding, gray-haired man being right near the entrance of the woods. They were young, middle school teens and were on their way to sneak a smoke at the party spot. Some were on foot, some were on bikes, and one was driving a Honda Odyssey ATV (like a go-kart with a roll cage). They all saw the guy with the notebook about 10-20 feet into the woods. He was sitting on a log and writing stuff down in a notebook, but they didn’t think much of it and just kept on walking. However, on their way back out, they noticed the guy had moved closer to them, and was now more in the middle of the woods when they passed him the second time.
  • The station wagon was parked on the gravel road just north of the woods. They’re not sure on the color of the station wagon… they just remember the wood panels.
  • I asked them which day they saw this man. Again, they weren’t sure, but they think this happened on Sunday during the day, which would have been the same day as Jacob’s abduction.

With their help, I was able to put together an updated map which shows the area in 1991. As a comparison, see the map below which shows the same area in 2013. (Click the images to see a larger view.)



So… is any of this significant? I’m not sure. But, here are two things to consider.

First, the woods just north and west of Jacob’s abduction site were a happening place. During the day, it was a common spot for kids to explore, ride their bikes, or sneak a smoke. During the evening, it was a party spot for kids from all four area high schools — Apollo, Tech, Cathedral, and St. John’s Prep. Also, keep in mind, this was the same spot where Trevor and Aaron were told to “Run toward the woods and don’t look back or I’ll shoot.” These are those woods.

Second, I recently learned about another incidence of a possible abduction that took place in Paynesville during 1989 or 1990. And get this… it involved a balding, gray-haired man who was driving a wood-paneled station wagon.

More on that next time.


NEXT: A 12th Paynesville incident…


  1. Keep up the good work, Joy.

  2. terri davison |

    I pray that someday there will be answers as to what happened to Jacob. My heart goes out to this family. Thank you Joy for all that you’ve done to find the answers and put the puzzle together. I hope I’m alive to know what happened to Jacob. God Bless

  3. Oh Joy! Just about the time, I am thinking it is time to give up on my obsession with finding out what really happened to Jacob Wetterling….you manage to entice me with a little tidbit of information!
    Well done, Joy!

  4. Hi Joy, you’d think that the wood paneled station wagon would be significant. Keep going!

  5. I enjoy reading your posts about Jacob. I can only imagine the heartbreak of any parent that loses a child and to never know what happened to him or her. I hope your work on this case will help figure out what did happen to Jacob. God Bless him and all the other children that have been abducted and never found 🙁

  6. Thanks for posting this….. My concern is the guy was old and balding, and may not be alive. According to “The Hunt”, the man was in his mid 40s in 1989. He could be long gone by now. Maybe check the DMV to see if they have a record of that vehicle, and see if you can get a license number to possibly trace who drove a station wagon with wood panels. I don’t know if records go back that far though. Also, the guy might not have been THAT old, considering teenagers witnessed this, the gray hair doesn’t necessarily mean he was old. He could have gone grey in his 40s.

    Maybe this this old man is still alive, maybe he could be a witness. Maybe he was taking notes for another pedophile; maybe the one who took Jacob. He was probably one of many, many pedophiles in Stearns County. Many of them network together, and some are in the same ring.

  7. Thanks for the fantastic updates! Wondering if there is a way to find out what brand of station wagons were made with wood paneling sides and could possibly look up records of people who bought vehicles in those categories? Not sure if they kept records back then of people purchasing vehicles like they do today or not…just an idea.

  8. Hi Joy. To me the older balding guy these young men saw in the woods sounds like the man who was at Tom Thumb. Have they seen the suspect sketch of the guy at the Tom Thumb? Did they think it resembled the man they saw? I also think it’s possible there were two perpetrator’s skulking through this area of Minnesota in the late 80s/early 90s. The guy who attacked Jared and the Tom Thumb suspect always seemed like two different people to me. It’s perplexing, but in this instance you can’t eliminate any possibilities. I admire your tenacity!

  9. Dialogue is good. Why did it take this long to hear about the baldheaded (grey) man in the woodie wagon. I wonder if he was a local and someone in the area would have known who he was, or if he was from the outlying communities?

  10. Reading all your updates. Thank you. Joan winter

  11. Donavon Mickelson |

    If you are any kind of a good officer and especially in a small town, you will know what kinds of cars are around. Take if from me in a town of 4,500 and an officer for 31 plus years. If there was a strange or unusual vehicle OR person around our town, I knew it and had his or her license number down and would run an ownership and a criminal history on the person. You could still do so in those days even without stopping the vehicle and letting them know you were looking at them.
    The vehicles are listed in the state with a make and model but will not tell whether the car had wood paneling on it or not. At one time, it would tell the color of the car and I think they quit doing even that now. In the past, we were able to run alphabetical “28’s”, which mean that if we put a persons name in the computer, it would show all of the cars PRESENTLY registered to that party. A normal “10-28” would just show you the name of the person and a particular car you were checking on. A “10-28” is the code for a vehicle license check. a “10-45” is a license check on the driver of that vehicle.
    I recently was involved in helping to find the identity of a girl who was 18 years old and was buried in the Blue Earth Cemetery in Blue Earth, Minneosta. She was murdered by a Minnesota State Patrolman in 1980 and her body dumped in a drainage ditch. It took 34 plus years to determine who she was and it would have been much sooner if the Sheriffs Dept. in that County would have exhumed the body but they would not do so until late in 2014.
    I am now involved in trying to find the killer of another woman near Sherburn, Minnesota from 1975 and the longer these things take to solve, the more people who might be witnesses have passed away. If someone has evidence on the Wetterling case, share it NOW or it may never be solved.

  12. Thank you for your information.

  13. Thank you Joy. You’ve done such great work and I hope you continue to dig. I pray Jacob’s family and everyone following this case gets the answers we deserve and that Jacob deserves. I can’t wait to read your next blog on the bald man and station wagon.

  14. Great job Joy.

  15. Today’s post gave me chills. Thank you for writing about this. There is more information in your blog than I’ve ever ready anywhere else.

  16. First of all, thank you so much Joy for all the effort you have put into this blog. You have a knack for explaining things so everyone can understand.
    When I investigated the maps you put up. The number 2 scenario below, just popped in my head. Forgive me if its just another rabbit trail. Anyways, God Bless you for all of your hard detective work!!

    Three JW hypothetical abduction scenarios

    What if…

    1. The scary man from Tom Thumb (was he a baldy man holding a notebook??) followed them on foot. I believe this has been thought of, but is it even a possibility??

    2. Mr. Baldy was done journaling. Thought “I’m gonna go get myself a drink”(not water of course,even though it was a hot day, And people didn’t carry water bottles around back then like they do now.).Took off in his paneled station wagon*, which was parked on Dale Str. right??( I’m guessing was a gravel road back in the day) Heading east, towards 16th Str., let’s say he just had his parking lights on and going slow, (cuz he didn’t want to attract any deer, that he almost hit a couple of weeks back.) So maybe the kids would not have seen headlights, to the west of them as they passed Dale str, heading south towards home. Pediphile Baldy, who had good eyesight, saw a moving flashlight and kids on bikes ahead of him on 16th Str. so he pulled over. Turned off his car, put on his mask, grabbed his gun, and seized the opp. Started heading towards them.(maybe they weren’t going very fast cuz one of them was on a scooter) Caught up to them and stopped. (Wasn’t it Trevor that heard the rustling in the ditch??) Then he let them get ahead of him, then caught up with them again, grabbed Jacob, then ran back to his car and took off with him. Is this even a possibility??

    3. Also wondering where did the sex predators live in town. The ones that were housed after jail time on probation. Yeah, the houses that no one was made aware of. Were they anywhere near the abduction site?? Did any of them like to journal or climb trees). Or own a paneled station wagon, if they were even allowed to own a car at the time.

    *Just a random picture of a paneled station wagon off the internet. Could it have been brown so no other color was noticeable??

  17. The abductor which was described by Jared and others as being a middle aged man not an old man had a blue car not a wood panel car. So if you think its this bald guy than Jared’s case is not related. Come on really use your head. Why would he have a notebook what does he have to jot down? What about what he did needed to be written down before hand. Anything he would need to remember wouldn’t be hard to remember. He’s not going to have to write down what Jacob looks like or where Jacob lives in case he forgets. Same goes for any kids he might have also been stalking down that road.

  18. Joy thanks again for new information , while im still very interested in knowing if the B brothers stories mean anything ? why the police don’t seem to think so ? did they associate with DAH?
    The fact you have another incident with a wood panel station is also very interesting and I hope you can follow up in that .
    Joy I don’t think anyone is working harder on this case than you and team
    that includes the police . I know the police have way too many cases to work on , all the more reason for them to share info with someone after 25 years , come on

  19. I’m with Jim. I’d like to know more about these B brothers. I am not convinced that there isn’t more than one person involved. That could be the reason for different ages and different cars.

  20. It amazes how much you can uncover without access to the police records, keep the up the good work!

  21. I’ve posted this before but i don’t think it took so I will try again. I’ve always thought some of these sketches look similar, like the same man or like relatives. The “art student sketch” & the “suspicious car man” sketch look very similar to me, yet different ages. I also think Jareds sketch looks like the 2nd Tom Thumb sketch that was done by Jennifer. I also think both of those sketches look a lot like the “suspicious car man”.

    In September 2010, someone named “Gary” posted on topix. It looks like the posts are deleted, yet you can still read them because somebody else copied his posts onto their posts to respond to him. When I read his posts, I got chills. He basically said that the man who took Jacob suffered a long and painful death. He also said that there was a composite drawing of 2 people of interest in the case. He said the drawings were extremely precise & they were of a father & son. He then infers that the son was the abductor and he used to work for a local nightclub and he used to go on the roof of the nightclub during band breaks to watch guys and girls getting it on in the parking lot. He says the suspect took a bus driving job and got fired for pinching little boys. His comments made me think of Jared’s abductor mentioning the Red Carpet. Again, he said the abductor is dead.

  22. The father son theory could also explain the coincidence of multiple cars being “jacked up”

  23. Joy, could the station wagon be the same one mentioned in the St. Paul Pionner Press that you discussed in this post?

  24. Jared, I may have to disagree. I believe your case is the most significant. Lay out all the cases… which one really does match Jacob’s the most. Think about it. In all cases a similar looking man used either a knife or gun and on occasion either ran himself or ordered his victims to run. But you and Jacob’s were the only cases where he took the both of you to a different location. Those Paynesville cases only told us that you weren’t the first and they also told us that the abductor was a repeat offender and that his cycle of attacks is close together, only 3 months off. But your case and Jacob’s are far different than that of Paynesville. He was a different type of person in Paynesville than he was when he came for you and Jacob. Which makes more sense that he had become tired or bored of the repetition and the distance and maybe wanted more from his victims than just a one time encounter.

  25. Does anyone know if Timothy Huber has ever been interviewed since he’s been in jail or since his dad has died. Delbert Huber claims he never was involved. But then criminals are not always known to be truth tellers. So is Timothy Huber no longer relevant to this case?? Just curious.

  26. a few blogs backward called tidbits mentions two neighbor boys who felt they may have been the actual target of the abduction. They claim they were followed home from tom thumb one night by a Pontiac 6000. It may be useful to find out if they meant the Pontiac 6000 four door sedan, or the Pontiac 6000 wagon. The Pontiac 6000 wagon had the option of wood paneled sides as well.

  27. I believe the red carpet is the next place to look. It makes no sense to mention that if he were lying it must be the truth. He must have really been on his way there after he abducted Jared. See we don’t know anything about the abductor when he isn’t abducting well we thought we didn’t I think most people think that information isn’t that important but its too odd to be a lie. Its weird that he would tell Jared where he was going but its unlikely that he would lie about where he was going since he doesn’t have to even say anything to Jared about anything. He chose to say that. And he chose to let him go after he said that. The key to that is that I don’t think the man had a record. And that’s why he is so hard to find. Most of these guys have records before there even adults. As soon as crimes like these are committed those people normally get questioned immediately. Even though they didn’t have a online sex offender registry they still had records and the abductor wasn’t on them. That’s why he said if they ever find out who he is, not if they ever catch him. He was specifying that he was unknown. I’m thinking that going to the red carpet was fairly common for the abductor and that is why it intertwined with one of his abductions. Its wasn’t as if he was invited there and possibly only went there once a year type thing. No I think it was a very common place for him to go. I also think he lives in st. cloud for a few reasons on there is a car dealership that has been around since before the abuction took place that specifically sells Pontiacs and likely at one time housed the abductor’s vehicle. His fondess for a night club when he lives in a county that is predominantly farm land and the choice of vehicle suggest that he lives more in the suburban area of st cloud than the rural towns that neighbor it. I’m not talking about going up there and trying to find someone that may have seen a man matching the description Jared gave the night he was attacked. I don’t believe the man actually showed up wearing military garb. But I think its where you could still find the abductor. Its been 25 years so even if he knows we know about the red carpet its been too long to stay away especially when he can’t help but mention it to his victims.

  28. I feel that his mention of the Red Carpet may have been to throw off any pursuit by LE. Telling the truth about the Carpet would be sloppy on his part and this man seemed to do everything with efficiency. Everything this man does (assuming it’s the same person in each attack) is planned out, he is no dummy. Rather he is a serial pedophile and serial criminals are not generally dumb people.

    He used selection, he knew when these kids were on their way home, and he used his area of attack to his advantage. He was able to stalk around a town of 2,000 people (Paynesville) mostly unnoticed, and he has evaded LE for a quarter century. It seems that nothing this man said or did was at random, everything was calculated and planned out. He was very good at covering his tracks. Like I said, he is no dummy.

    Let’s not forget, if he is the same person that was seen in the woods taking notes, that means he was planning his attack ahead of time, making sure his tracks would be covered and that no one could efficiently pursue him. Also, if it’s the same man, he used a different vehicle to scout his area than he did when he abducted (Red Station Wagon, Tan car, Blue car), which means he tried to make things look random.

    Also, if he was from Paynesville or a town just west of Paynesville, by letting the words “Red Carpet” slip from his mouth, it may have initially led LE pursuit to the East of Cold Spring, giving him time to escape to his home that was west of Cold Spring.

    In conclusion, the mention of the Red Carpet seems to me just another method of covering his tracks and making things look random.

    I have to agree with Jared. If these crimes truly were committed by the same person, then the real key to solving this mystery is in Paynesville. Someone from Paynesville likely has they key to closing this case, they just don’t know it and have yet to come forward.

  29. Did Paynesville have it’s own police department in 1988/1989?

  30. joy.the.curious |

    Debbie, yes, Paynesville had its own police department in 1988/1989.

  31. Jared had 2 miles to walk before he could get home even to call the cops and the abductor could have just left him where he had initially taken him and made it 4 miles. Why would the abductor need to say something to Jared so that Jared could say to the cops and then that would divert them. By the time Jared got back to his house and called the cops the abductor would have been long gone.

  32. My guess is that the abductor was/ is a narcissist and truly was concerned about himself and his next “appointment” whatever that may have been. He probably met someone at the bar and acted like nothing happened and it was just a normal day.

  33. I also agree the red carpet may have been significant. I don’t think it was said to throw anyone off. We don’t even know if this person is smart enough to “try to throw someone off”. There could be many reasons he let this slip. He could have been high or nervous. Or he could have even been consciously or subconsciously throwing out a clue. Some offenders want to get caught. Some like to taunt with clues. There are so many reasons he could have said it. I’m my opinion, most likely it’s significant.

  34. Or maybe the perp was out on pass from the halfway house for sex offenders and had an appointment with a professional, maybe an attorney. That’s why they are called halfway houses- to help prisoners assimilate back into society. He refered to an “appointment.” Maybe he had to provide “proof” of whoever this meeting was with and needed to get there.
    Did police ever check any halfway houses in the area to find out who was there during this time?

  35. Was the location Jared was taken to, privately owned? Was this land part of a bigger farm? Was the land occupied and farmed, or rented out? Public land? Jared’s attacker knew the area well enough (ahead of time) to know that this was a secluded spot.

  36. Jared,

    If it was the same guy, I wondered if maybe he could have taken Jacob to the same spot he did with you. He would have wanted to get far away and no way would he have driven Jacob back near home with all the people looking for him. I wonder if anyone ever looked into that.

    I also wonder about any other 911 calls from that night or next morning early from that county or nearby counties as well… suspicious cars, etc.

  37. Donavon Mickelson |

    Debbie; great questions and those deserve answers. The answers might help solve the case that involved Jared. These are the type of questions that are important and need to be answered. I recently had been working on finding the identity of a girl murdered 35 years earlier and she was finally I.D.ed. I am now working on a 40 year old case that has been stagnant for many, many years and am making positive progress and hope that the killer doesn’t die before we can get it solved. Too many questions in this case were either not asked and/or not answered.

  38. The abductor (in both cases) could have had access to a local Car Dealership, Repair Shop, or Transmission Shop (for example). Also, the abductor, could have had a connection to local Police, Fire, or Emergency Management Tech.

  39. Jared – It appears that the perp in all 3 areas collected “souvenirs”. There was hair and other items taken from the Paynesville kids, your clothing and the ultimate souvenir, a child (St Joseph). I would imagine that any collector would cherish these possessions. Finding your clothing may be the most crucial evidence ever collected in these cases.

  40. Jared,

    Have you thought about going and speaking with the potential suspects previous roommates or cell mates? I am a law enforcement officer and many cold cases are solved through tidbits of information from prior cell mates. It’s a start… And possibly could develop new leads as to where Jacob is. Or, the Sheriff’s Department could do an overhear and go question him and see if he talks to anyone after they stir the pot. Just some thoughts… God bless you.

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