It’s over.

On Friday, September 2nd, law officials discovered the remains of Jacob Wetterling on a farm in Paynesville, Minnesota. Law officials were led there by Danny Heinrich, who was named a person of interest in Jacob’s case back on October 29, 2015 after being arrested on child pornography charges.

After nearly 27 years… it’s over.

MplsStarTrib_9-4-2016I’ve dreamed about this day for years. What would the headlines say? What would the public’s response be? How would the people of St. Joseph react?

Now that it’s here… now that Jacob has finally been found… there is no joy… just deep and profound sadness for this 11 year old boy who touched all our hearts for so many years. Yes, we have answers and, in time, that will bring peace. But for now it all just feels very raw and real.

Truth be told, I’m a wreck.

I was drawn to write about Jacob’s case for reasons I’ll never fully understand. The more I learned, the more I cared. The more I cared, the more I craved answers. Like every other Minnesotan who lived through the horror of his abduction, I wanted to know what happened to Jacob. And with each passing moment, it felt like time and opportunity were slipping away. I thought if I could just get his story out there, people might start paying attention. Maybe they could even add details that might help. More than anything, I just didn’t want people to forget.

I published my first blog post about Jacob’s story on October 23, 2010, one day after the 21st anniversary of his abduction. Read “Where are you Jacob?”…

After three weeks, I wrapped up Jacob’s story and may never have come back to it if it wasn’t for an email I received on January 18, 2013… over two years later. It read:

Hello Joy – My name appears in your articles. I’m working to clear lots of wrong info out there about me. Are you curious or do you care…?
Thanks…. if so…send a tele#?
– Dan Rassier

I wasn’t sure if I should reply or not, but there was one thing I did know. Yes… I cared. So, I emailed Dan back and we agreed to meet at 6:30pm at the St. Cloud Library on Tuesday, January 29, 2013. Had it not been for Dan getting in touch with me and sharing his story, I likely would never have gotten back to blogging about Jacob. I published Dan’s story on February 23, 2013, and since then, I’ve blogged about little else. Read Dan’s story…

This weekend, when I learned that Jacob had been found, I emailed Dan to let him know I was thinking of him. I wanted him to know that, for what it was worth, I had always believed him. I wished him and his family peace… they surely deserve it. He sent a very kind reply which meant a lot to me.

Over the past few days, I have been receiving emails, texts and phone calls from reporters all over the state, and even the country. There is one in particular who deserves a lot of credit in this amazing journey of discovery, and that is Esme Murphy from WCCO. She was the first person to really pay attention to what Jared and I were doing in Paynesville, and she contacted me shortly after I published my first blog post about the Paynesville attacks. It was October 22, 2013… the 24th anniversary of Jacob’s abduction. Not long after, Jared and I agreed to do an interview with Esme, which aired on May 14, 2014. See the interview…

I’d also like to acknowledge the countless others who have played a major role in this journey. I have received thousands of comments and private messages on my blog, along with hundreds of phone calls and texts from people passing along tips or suggestions about the case. I diligently organized and passed them along to law enforcement, never knowing if one of them might turn out to be the “the piece” that solved the puzzle. Thank you to everyone who cared, got involved, and took the initiative to pass those tips along. Who knows what may have been helpful along the way.

But without question, the one person who absolutely made the difference in bringing Jacob home was Jared Scheierl. He was the 12 year old boy from Cold Spring who was abducted and assaulted just nine months before Jacob. When I decided to dig back into this story back in early 2013, I wanted to focus on people who had a direct connection to the case. One of the people I knew I wanted to interview was Jared. I found him through ancestry records and then contacted him through Facebook. I never in a million years thought he would reply to my message. To this day, I am so very grateful that he did. Read Jared’s story…

Jared is one of the kindest and bravest people I know. He has become a good friend, and we have been through a lot together over the past three and a half years. When we first learned about the Paynesville attacks that took place in the late 1980s, it was Jared who willingly put himself out there, reaching out to victims and sharing his own story so that they might, in turn, be wiling to share their own. Without Jared, this story would never have unfolded the way it did. His enthusiasm and dogged determination were contagious. We found ourselves driven to find answers, not only for Jared and the Wetterlings, but also for all those young men who were never truly heard. The more we learned, the bigger it felt. Without knowing why, we were convinced that the Paynesville incidents were somehow important to the bigger picture.

In the end, it all came back to Paynesville… Jared’s hometown. The story started there, and it ended there. Jacob was found in Paynesville… a town just 15 miles up the road from me. Fifteen miles. He was buried in a spot that I have driven past countless times in my lifetime, never knowing that he was RIGHT THERE this whole time. Jacob and Jared were together in the same small town for the past 26 years.

How do you put words to that?

As hard as it is to give any credit to Danny Heinrich in this story, I’m just so incredibly grateful that, in the end, he did the right thing. Because of him, the healing can finally begin for the Wetterling family, and for the entire state. We have hurt, and hoped, and prayed alongside them for almost 27 years. Today, it’s finally over.

The Wetterlings have become like family to me, and I love them dearly. They are good, kind people who have changed the world because of their undying dedication to their missing son. Patty, especially, has worked tirelessly to fight for children’s rights, to educate parents, to train law enforcement, and to spread a message of love and hope that has resonated with us for all these 27 years. She did it for Jacob… Jacob’s Hope.

Today, I continue to pray for the Wetterlings. I’m sure there will be many more hard days to face in the weeks and months to come, but with answers, I hope they can finally start to grieve and heal. I will be forever grateful to them for believing in me.

#ThinkingJacob
#JacobsHope

NEXT: For Jacob…

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127 Comments

  1. Thank you so much for all your work on this. I found your blog shortly after hearing Mr. Heinrich admit that he killed Jacob. I could not stop reading and have now read every one of your blog posts about Jacob. I was less than 5 years old when Jacob was abducted, but I remember hearing all about it while I grew up in a small town in southern Minnesota. The type of town where I had free reign to ride bike all over town, ride to the park, the pool, the ball fields, any of my friend’s houses, etc. I’m now 31 years old and married, with a one-year old son. I don’t want to be a helicopter parent and want to let him experience things on his own, but I have a feeling it’s going to be hard to draw that balance to allow him to do things on his own, while still protecting him.

    Anyway, I’m so thankful for the work you’ve done to help the Wetterlings and all other victim’s families begin to heal. I hope there can be some resolution to the remaining Paynesville victims as well. You are a true hero.

  2. Dear Jared,

    You truly are the hero in this story. I’ve followed the story since1999,
    2000 I think and I thought it would never be over. I hope all people
    involved find peace in their hearts and that one day we all meet
    in the same end of this road we call life, and that we get to experience
    the relief of tasks accomplished but in different forms. In the mean
    time I will continue praying for Jacob and for all those who ever cared
    for him.

    Best,

    Dough

  3. As much as I despise the man that did this to Jacob… I can’t help but wonder, was he a victim himself at a young age? What in the world happened to him to become such a cold blooded heartless perverted coward? I wonder if he too was an innocent boy that someone mistreated? Only God knows. And although he will not do time for the crime he committed against Jacob and his family, when he stands before God, he will be judged by the Almighty One.

  4. Julie Jo Severson |

    Endless thank you, Joy.

  5. Those wondering about events and other links to remembering and honoring Jacob’s memory, as the Minnesota Twins did yesterday afternoon in their game against Cleveland, follow the JWRC on Twitter:

    https://twitter.com/JWRCSafeKids

  6. Kristine Thompson |

    As a child abuse survivor, I thank you for all the work you did for Jacob, his family, for all of us. Best Regards…

  7. Barb from Mpls. |

    What you have done here is so tremendous, words are not enough to express thanks. I hope you continue to pursue your many gifts and talents, and will write about things good and bad (hard as it may be). People like you change the world. And Jared… I feel that his grace, bravery and honesty have caused hearts to grow all over the state of MN, and the country. Please let us know if you and Jared have PO boxes (in order to protect your privacy). I suspect that many people would love to send a personal note or token of gratitude to each of you. God bless.

  8. Finished reading your blogs. Thank you for your commitment, perseverance, and care!

  9. Joy,you were called to do this and you were instrumental in solving this case. Our oldest daughter is Jacob’s age.It affected us deeply when he was taken. I am in awe at your efforts! Thank you forever!

  10. I was wondering if what was said on the podcast “The crime” is true? They interviewed some of the neighbors,and there was about 5 people that saw the boys going,and coming from Tom Thumb that night..The kids that lived right before you get to the abduction site,said that they were in their yard playing a game called “Tossing the corn”
    that they had got from the field across the street from their house,and that they even threw it at the boys as they walked by and boys even threw some back at them..They said that they went inside right after the boys passed their house so they never heard or saw anything else that night.I have not read Heinrich’s full confession but the reporter on this podcast said that she was in the courtroom when he told the judge what happened to Jacob.She said that he admitted to shooting Jacob in the head after he had sexually molested him,and then went home for a couple of hrs.He then walked back with a shovel so that he could bury Jacob.He then said that the shovel was too small,and he could not dig a hole deep enough so he went to this construction site that was not far from where Jacob was murdered,and stole a bobcat and drove it down the street and into the field where he proceeded to dig a grave for Jacob..After he was finished he returned the bobcat and went home. if this is true then that is just beyond brazen behavior.It would also prove that he was not afraid of getting caught that he had finally crossed over to murder which usually happens with these sick psychopaths.
    The two reporters seemed to truly care about the Wetterling family,and just like everyone else they wanted to help find Jacob,and bring him home so that his family,and friends could finally have the answers about that night,and to start the long process of healing their broken spirits..

  11. Joy, through your writing, listening, inviting, you led another search, holding hands with many to once again scour the terrain in a great human chain looking for Jacob. Thank you for showing the difference one person can make!

  12. thank you so much for the time and energy you put forth in helping to find Jacob. You are an angel… I wish you would help solve the Jonbenet Ramsey case…

  13. Without you, I don’t know if this would have come to an end. You were able to connect dots that the police could not or would not. My porch light has been on since Jacob was found. I am not sure if I will ever turn it off. Thank you.

  14. Being a male victim of child sexual abuse myself, although under different circumstances than poor Jacob, I can relate so much to what have been said and reported. I want to thank Joy for the incredible work you’ve done, but even more I want to thank Jared for the immense strength he has shown in speaking out – not only now but also back then. Trust me, that’s not an easy thing to do. My thoughts are with the Wetterling family and Jacob’s friends.

  15. Would love for you and Jared to write the book regarding this case. It is only because of both of your insistence to connect all the dots that Jacob is finally laid to rest by his family and friends.

    My heart breaks for this family, been in my heart for almost 27 years.

  16. Katie Estlie, St, Paul |

    I found your blog years ago and was riveted by your discoveries. I knew at that time it would lead to answers. Thank you so much for taking that leap of faith to start writing. You have and are a true gift!

  17. I want to encourage all to listen to the blog post of MPR that is mentioned above. It’s very interesting to see what work or lack there of was done at the time. I believe that Jacob was killed so quickly that the outcome wouldn’t have beed different for him- just the family having closure. Also, Don’t know how many other boys were Danny’s victims after this. I commend your investigate work and writing! You and your team of Jared and Dan R. Did it!!! This was truly affected us all and we wit the Wetterlings family can have closure! Thank You!

  18. Joy,
    I truly believe that the Lord was guiding you through all of this. What you did ultimately got everyone talking. It got Jared to open up and for the pieces of the puzzle to fall into place. I was 14 years old and living in southeast MN when Jacob was abducted. I remember seeing his face on the milk carton, billboard, newspapers–everywhere and like every Minnesotan, wondered what happened to him. No Minnesotan’s life was the same after that day. So much innocence was lost. I am filled with such sadness when I think of what that beautiful, innocent, smiling boy went through! I pray for peace for the Wetterlings, Jared, all the victims, and for you, Joy. You did an amazing thing, but I know your heart has a whole in it for what the outcome was. Jacob will not be forgotten and thru him all of our children have a safer future!

  19. Oh i think it is so great people are able to see your posts from the beginning and understand what a long investigative road this was for you. In the thick of it, your posts were so gripping. They made us all want answers more than ever before. Thank you again for your persistence and for handling this case with so much heart. I never doubted you would get to the bottom of it Joy. Thank you again to Jared for his courage. You made a difference Jared. Glad to see cbs recognize the work of both of you today. Nice mention. Can’t wait to see what you are inspired to do next.

  20. Also one more thing–sure would be nice for the sheriff’s office to issue a formal apology to Dan Rassier. Any word of that happening?

  21. Joy, after reading the interview with you and Jared it seems that there was alot more going on than we knew from your blog. Things that were very serious and as Jared indicated possibly life threatening. The two of you showed so much courage to continue with something like this. Not only that but you both were willing to talk with and listen to people who came forward with information and stories of their own as you discovered the Paynesville incidents. By being open and listening you and Jared learned more and I hope that is something law enforcement can take from this. The next time someone has something to tell them that person should be heard, not dismissed.

    There are so many amazing people involved in all this and I think what Patty and Jerry Wetterling have done is going to save kids for generations, and hopefully prevent another Danny Heinrich from ever finding another little boy.

    It still hurts me that Jacob thought he did something wrong. He was only busy being 11. How is that wrong? And Trevor and Aaron were hurt too and I hope they can find peace now that all of this has come to light finally. Joy what you and Jared did was incredible and brave really, beyond words and it’s touched so many people. Thank you both for what you’ve done and the difference you’ve made.

  22. Margie Fort Worth TX |

    I have also followed your blogs for a long time. I remember reading and wondering and hoping if the Wetterling’s would ever have their young son back. It’s with tear filled eyes that I am so thankful to you and everyone who worked so hard for so long to make sure Jacob got to go home.
    I’m in awe of all involved in such a miracle and my heart is with you all during this sad and heart wrenching time.

  23. Joy, your work is superb. Thank you for all you have done.

    To Jared, you are my hero. For speaking, for sharing your voice and allowing others to have a voice through you.

    RIP Jacob. You are loved.

  24. I came across this bible verse today and thought it summed up what Jacob and Jared suffered through: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” – Genesis 50:20. God bless you Joy and Jared, and God bless the memory of Jacob Wetterling.

  25. Ronald Wilkes |

    Joy, I have just finished listening to the final episode, 9 episode, of the APM Reports podcast documentary called, “In The Dark” regarding what went wrong in the Jacob Wetterling case.

    Did you listen to the program? Since you did a lot of research on the Wetterling abduction mystery, I wonder, what is your opinion regarding the documentary produced by Samara Freemark and Natalie Jablonski and reported by the Peabody Award winner, Madeleine Baran?

  26. I am so happy this case has been resolved even though it’s a sad ending. Jacob’s hope still lives in everyone of us everyday. It’s the hope that allows us to love each other and raise our children without fear. It’s ok to be happy. I feel so much sympathy for the Wetterling family, the Larson’s, Schreils, and Rassiers. All that they have been through but the fact that they had never given up hope. I will hope that they can find a cure for psychopathy someday. No child ever deserves the fate of Jacob Wetterling.

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