It’s over.

On Friday, September 2nd, law officials discovered the remains of Jacob Wetterling on a farm in Paynesville, Minnesota. They 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. I have declined all interviews out of respect for the Wetterlings, but 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.


NEXT: For Jacob…



  1. Thank you for all you’ve done in helping tell Jared’s story as well as keeping the light on for Jacob. May every missing child have such champions!

  2. Joy,

    Thank you for your incredible faithfulness, time, love and willingness to use your amazing gifts and strengths to help find Jacob. All of MN thanks you for the powerful connections you made to help solve this heartbreaking case that hit close to home for many of us. All along you “knew the answers would come with time and love.”

    At the same time, it’s overwhelmingly sad as this was not the ending for which we had all hoped and prayed. Thank you for never giving up hope for finding Jacob, even after 27 years. This beautiful verse made me think of you and your tireless efforts to find Jacob.

    “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13



  3. Thank you Joy, I truly believe you help bring it into this for the Jacob’s family. I don’t think we would’ve found Jacob without your hard work and dedication to the story. God has used you in an amazing way. I have been following your blog since the beginning and so excited to see what you’re going to write about now, hopefully something joyful and peace. God bless you and Jacob’s family.

  4. Well done, you really made a difference. Thank you

  5. Thank you for you for being brave and enabling all of us to start to heal.

  6. As I’m learning about what happened to Jacob, I can only think of and express my sincere thoughts of concern for what Jacob’s family and friends are going through. Over time, we all became connected to Jacob’s dreams, hopes, and love. To just learn such a lovable young boy was taken and killed is just too overwhelming to bear alone. We all are supporting each other now and need to do so for the days & years to come.

    Jacob became a symbol of hope & love for all children as well as adults. We will always have his memories with us. My thoughts and hopes go out to Jacob’s parents Patty and Jerry along with their family and friends. A special feeling goes out to Jacob’s friends who shared his world of laughter, fun, love, and joy. May Jacob forever remain in our hearts and thoughts and guide us down our road towards home.

  7. Thank you Joy for keeping Jacob and his story alive after all those years, I have no doubt your influence and research helped close this case. We all prayed for a different outcome, but now Jacob may rest in peace. Blessings to Jacobs family, friends, and loved ones.

  8. Thank you for helping uncover the truth in this tragic situation. You and Jared are heroes. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  9. From all of Minnesota..Thank you. Our thoughts are with the family.

  10. You never did anything wrong Jacob. Never. You didn’t deserve this.

  11. You did so much good in helping to bring this case to a close. And Jared did so much good in talking about something that is hard for anyone to talk about. The light you both brought to this story so many years later was a blessing.

    And the Wetterlings have been strong and brave and I can’t imagine the hurt that they feel now that they finally know what happened. Closure means giving up the hope that they have been hanging on to for 27 years. That’s hard. But the fact that they’ve done so much for so many over these years is nothing short of a miracle. They are truly heroes and I am sure Jacob has watched over all of them for all of these years and was so proud.

  12. Joy, I am so glad that you and Jared “stirred the pot”. I believe with all my heart that the two of you were instrumental in getting answers.
    It was truly heartbreaking to listen to what happened to Jacob, but the truth, as awful as it was, is better than never knowing. I was a brand new Mom when Jacob was abducted and my now grown-up daughter will tell you I was “way too over protective”. It changed all of us in October of 1989. It changed us again today.

  13. Thank you, Joy, for listening and for loving and for keeping the light on.

  14. Thank you Joy! Without you, he would still be on the streets and the case would never be solved. You did more than 27 years worth of Law enforcement efforts. Thank you from a former Central MN Radio reporter.

  15. You are an amazing woman along with Jared and Dan. I have reread many of the comments related to Dan over the past few years. It is amazing how quickly we judge and forget. The courage you have all shown is remarkable.

  16. As I stated on the Websleuths blog, your work on this case shows that there is an important place in investigations for “amateurs”, since they are not bound by the same limitations as law enforcement (like time, for one) and can follow speculative leads that police often refuse to believe. It would help if detectives were more open to information provided by the public.

  17. Without you Joy, I don’t think they would have solved the case. I still have so many questions about this case, but I’m just glad Patty and her family have some closure.

  18. Jacob I am so sorry for what happened to you. You did nothing wrong. You were taken by a horrible cowardly man and he’s the one who is wrong, not you. You are brave and good. Just like the other boys this man preyed on and terrified, but you paid a terrible price for something that wasn’t your fault. You did nothing wrong. Jacob I wish you and your family peace and love now that you’re finally home. My sincerest condolences to the Wetterling family, and to you too Joy because today was so painful, and thank you Jared for bravely facing down an evil man. I wish you peace.

  19. Thank you Joy. I found this blog just yesterday and I couldn’t stop reading. I was a 10 year old who lived all the way over in North Idaho when Jacob was taken and I remember the story on the news. I was always aware of my surroundings after being scared out of my mind after that evening. If it was ever getting dark I would run home as fast as I could when I was usually only two houses down from my own. I’ve never forgotten him and anytime I saw anything on a missing child or a child returned, I always thought of Jacob and wondered if he was ever found. I would look it up online and it was always the same sad news. Nothing. His mother became a face so familiar to me over the years because of her fight. The Wetterling’s are a bright light in a dark place. There is so much love focused on them right now from so many people/strangers, may the healing finally begin for everyone.

  20. You are an amazing person, Joy!! May God bless you for all your days.

  21. Donavon Mickelson |

    Thank God for computers, D.N.A., Joy for this site where people could share their thoughts on this and other similar cases. I have followed this case since the beginning with my own file on the case. I found it interesting that the case came to a head just a short time before a Radio Podcast was due to be aired and I don’t know if this put pressure on Law Enforcement or the Prosecutors but either way, I am extremely tickled by the fact that Jacob has been found and his killer locked away for life. I again want to hope that Dan Rassier can forgive all of us who were looking at him as a suspect. I had faith that Law Enforcement and a judge were correct in what they did by issuing a search warrant on the Rassier farm. Search Warrants are issued on the basis of probable cause and not guesses and somewhere mistakes were made that made Dan look like a top suspect. This case with being solved hopefully will help all of us thank Dan for all that he has gone through. I strongly support the agreement that was made to locate the body of Jacob and bring a lot of closure to the case. It has never left my mind. About 24 or 25 years ago when talking to a B.C.A. instructor, I told him that I strongly believed that Jacobs abductor and Jareds abduction were done by the same man and I showed him some notes from my files that seemed to convince him although we didn’t know the name of the suspect at that time.

  22. Joy, it just takes one person to change the world. You were that change. Thankyou from the bottom of my heart for staying with it. I know at times it was rough on you. We all got frustrated looking for the answers, the pieces to a puzzle. My heart is so heavy today after learning about Jacobs last days and hours. Seeing all the lights on, my God, all the love, it is all so overwhelming. I have had a few good cries. I don’t know why monsters like Dan heinrich exist, I really don’t. It is all so terrifying. I pray that Gods love carries the wetterlings into a place of healing and peace. Thankyou Jared for all your strength and courage in the face of evil. Thankyou to everyone on this blog that cared enough to share and try to figure it all out. You are all wonderful people. God Bless everyone who opened their hearts. You all made a difference! I am proud of everyone. I love you Jacob, you did nothing wrong, and I am so very sorry and sad that this happened to you. I hope now you can rest in peace. You are home little man, finally, you are home.

  23. I’ve been following your blog for years. Like you, I was haunted by this. I was around Jacob’s age when he was taken. I’m from Iowa, and around that time all the newspaper boy kidnappings were going on here. I remember being terrified. Jacob though, he was my age, and I looked a lot like him. I always remember seeing his face, and always wondered. It saddens me that the Wetterling family and friends have to open up unhealed scars. Joy, your journey into a mystery, was able to lead Jacob home. Jared, your bravery and quest for answers is awe inspiring, you, Jacob and all the victims are true heroes. Finally, Patty Wetterling; You may have lost your son, but know that you have more sons and daughters in this world because of the work you have done in the name of Jacob. Your relentless pursuit of educating the public has saved more lives then we will ever know. Jacob will never be forgotten.

  24. Thank you Joy and Jared. You are both lights in a world of much darkness. As a parent, you’ve inspired me to be a better parent, person and to be more appreciative of what we have. The light you shine will hopefully inspire many and continue Jacob’s legacy.

  25. I can’t say thank you enough for what you did. Jacob was a classmate of mine and this has haunted me from day one. You have helped put to rest an issue that has been lingering and plaguing central Minnesota for a long time.
    I really hope the Wetterling family can find peace and closure now.
    Thank you so very much!

  26. Thank you for all that you and Jared have done to help the Wetterlings find Jacob.

    I’ve re-read almost all of the posts. It is uncanny how the early sketches, particularly the one made with the assistance of the female Tom Thumb employee, resemble Heinrich.

    Am I correct that one of the cars that Dan R saw in this driveway was owned by Heinrich with Jacob likely in the front seat? And was the other car maybe Kevin and his then-girlfriend?

    Can someone shed light on the “medical cop?” Did anyone ever figure out who that was?

  27. Joy,
    I began reading your blog one weekend a few years ago, about the house on Longboat Key. I live in Florida, but am from Minnesota. At the end of that amazing story, I noted the blog entry about Jacob. I didn’t have any interest in it, as the story was so dark, tangled, totally unresolved, and likely never to find closure. And the topic is abhorrent, the darkest and most twisted in human experience. But I gave in and started to read it, given your gifts for writing. Well, the story was riveting, and I found myself totally overwhelmed with the heartbreaking tragedy. I have since diligently kept up with the unfolding story, which has finally come to a crushing conclusion. In the midst of the sorrow and grief we all share, I want to thank you for pouring yourself into helping solve this horrible mystery. It takes great courage to go where this sad story has gone. It has now become part of our story, as Minnesotans. And as a father now, it has made me feel an abiding sense of loss, that the innocence and freedom children enjoy in the days of youth must now be carefully limited and guarded. Who are these ones amongst us who will silently prey on our children. Can we ever feel safe again?
    Thank you for your enduring courage and resolve, for taking up Jacobs cause and not letting go.

  28. For 27 years the Wetterlings, along with so many others wanted to know “where is Jacob”. Sadly we got the answer…we now know the who, what, when, and where…but for the life of me I will never be able to rationalize or understand the why. As another poster stated, knowing the truth is better than not knowing. I pray this cold harsh truth will somehow provide some comfort to the Wetterling family, as well as Jared. Beautifully wriiten piece Joy. It may be over, but certainly never forgotten. May Jacob Wetterling live on in our hearts and serve as an inspiration to all that is good and kind and loving in this world…

  29. Learn the entire Jacob Wetterling story through an eight (8) part investigative documentary series titled “In The Dark” by Madeleine Baran (Peabody Award Winning Reporter) of APM Reports (an American Public Media Group) on MPR Minnesota Public Radio.

    Episode one (1) begins September 7, 2016


  30. Thank you, Joy and Jared. Thank you.

  31. When I stumbled upon Joy’s blog a couple years ago, I remember distinctly thinking “This is it. This woman is on to something. This is the beginning of the end.” There is NO doubt in my mind that Joy, Jared, the Paynesville victims, Dan Rassier, and the many other community members who came forward with their stories and details are the ones who put this puzzle together. If not for all of them and their persistence, I don’t think law enforcement would have found renewed interest or motivation to solve this case. If not for the fresh sets of eyes and new technologies, Jacob may have never come home. May he rest peacefully and his family and friends find healing. Always in our hearts, we are Jacob’s Hope.

  32. Thank you, Joy for your work on Jacob Wetterling’s disappearance and for making the connection with the assaults in Paynesville and Cold Spring. Without your writing, Danny Heinrich would not be in jail and Jacob’s parents still would not know what happened to their son. The written word still carries power!

    Dori Moudry
    Lakes Area Review

  33. I read your blog about Jacob a few years ago–within a year or two of when you posted first posted it. I was Jacob’s age in 1989, living in another small town in MN, and his disappearance held monumental importance in my childhood. Reading your blog affected me greatly; I talked to my friends about it and never forgot. You gave me hope that Jacob’s case would be solved. You were a catalyst to fInding Jacob and all that has happened since then. Yesterday, when I listened to MPR’s radio coverage of Danny Heinrich’s court appearance, I was hoping to hear mention of this blog–I knew your work was that “pivotal,” as Patty Wetterling, herself, said. Today I read an online Star Trib article ( that quotes Patty saying just that. I just really wanted to say thank you for your part in bringing Jacob home. You, Jared (what a brave, incredible man!), and, of course, the Wetterling family, are inspirational to me. Your writing made a crucial difference. Thank you for sharing your brilliant ideas and deductions. Thank you for bringing to rest a little boy’s tragedy that has haunted our state since my childhood. I hope you will continue to write and bring light to dark places.

  34. Eric Christensen |

    In 1989 I was a 17 year old growing up in Northern MN.

    Jacob Wetterling. Who could ever forget?

    I have long since moved away to another state but happened to be back in MN this past weekend when I heard about Jacob. The conversation soon turned to your efforts and blog and I was compelled to search it out and start at the beginning. Just Wow.


    I am not sure whether to celebrate or sob.
    Or, both.

    I am now 44 years old and I have 2 kids of my own. The Wetterling’s response to this tragedy has everything to do with bringing this dark conversation to the daylight. Awareness, precaution, education. My hats off to this amazing family.

    I’d also like to thank Jared for his courage. He made himself open and vulnerable when he had every reason to do just the opposite….Incredible strength.

    Thanks for your incredible efforts Joy.

  35. Many thanks to you, Jared, and Dan R. ! You wrote, investigated, asked questions, and published truth; Jared revealed a painful past and helped others by encouraging coming forward; and Dan needed justice for himself. Bless Dan!!! If not for him wanting truth… I really don’t think we would be here today! Danny is one very sick and broken person and never saw the NEED to clear this up! I hope one day we can see what happened to him to make him so broken as well- When you look at such broken folks- remember they were 2 or 3 or 4 once too and didn’t ask for their abuse either!

    Many people have been touched by this incident and it shines a light on the fact that we really are all in Oneness- The Wetterlings are not grieving alone- we are grieving with them!

  36. One question I have is, what has Danny Heinrich been up to since he abducted Jacob? I find it a little hard to believe that he was able to go 27 years keeping his evil intentions in check somehow. Are there other victims out there? Are there other kids missing that could have been his victims?

    We may never know. But it may be something for law enforcement to take a closer look at.


  37. Thank you Joy to your tireless effort in bringing forth the facts, keeping it fresh, and doing all of the hard work required to put this amazing blog together. Patty is right…you and Jerod are the reason this case was solved. Thank you for having a hand in getting the Wetterling’s …and the rest of us answers after 27 years. Although it’s not the outcome we hoped, I pray everyone can find peace, in time. We ARE Jacob’s Hope.

  38. Living in Michigan, I was the same age as Jacob when he was abducted and remember my parents not letting us play outside after dark anymore. I also remember seeing his face on the “Have you seen me” mailers over the years and how said it was to see him still missing. These recent developments and his frozen in time picture brought all that back. Prayers for Jacob’s family and all those affected by this horrible tragedy.

  39. I have been wondering this as well. He may have not killed anyone else but very doubtful he just stopped completely just collecting pictures and whatnot online. I mean clearly he got away with murder, I’m sure he thought he could do anything he wanted, when he wanted. It’s sad and very scary.

  40. A very important question, Sherry. I find it amazing that there has been no mention of this, since his pattern was to kidnap and sexually assault a young boy regularly (a few weeks to a few months), and he carried a gun – which he eventually used to kill Jacob – as well as the fact that he showed no emotion or remorse at any time. He was so unemotional and lacking in guilt that he checked on Jacob’s body a year later and dug it up and moved it. This is the most serious type of psychopath: a sexual predator and also a murderer. That he could have stopped (himself) after killing Jacob is ludicrous. There has been no mention from any law enforcement about any other cases they are looking into other than the time frame of 1986-1989, which covers about a half dozen known victims, including Jared S.

  41. Joy, like a lot of others, I’ve spent the last couple days reading and re-reading your blog, to grasp all of the information, clues, missed clues, that finally brought Jacob home to his family. I am concerned and wondering about the other Paynesville victims- was there resolution in their cases? Are those men still searching for answers regarding what happened to them? Could any of the vehicles that had been described as part of their investigations be traced back to Heinrich? It just seems like there’s still a lot out there to answer regarding those other boys.

  42. Missye Olson-Elm |

    Thank you Joy for your part in solving this horrible mystery. I really question whether this case would have been solved without you and Jared’s involvement. All of Minnesota thanks you. This case has haunted so many of us. #Jacobshope

    May the Wetterlings find peace.


  43. Thank you for your work. I am saddened to the core. I looked for Jacob in the fields surrounding our town along side many who hoped we would find him. I was so hoping for a happy ending. At least the family can bring him home.

  44. Thank you for your energy and commitment to this for the last three years. It was your work with Jared that blew more life into a sometimes dimly lit candle. We have seen the worst and best in humanity through the past week’s recent events. I was one year older than Jacob. Of course, I remember the day this happened and the uncertainty we experienced for so long. We changed how we lived our little lives 26 years ago. Now as a parent, the loss and events that transpired are gut-wrenching and tearful. Rage can ensue when thinking about how cold, careless and cruel one can be with another life. But I must say like so many others, the strength of the Wetterling family and their community has been so overwhelming and impressive. Like no other, it exemplifies that good will always prevail over evil no matter what circumstances. Thoughts and prayers to all those affected by these tragic events.

  45. Sherry,

    That’s a really good point you bring up, and pretty unnerving. I wonder if law enforcement has done any checking into that.

  46. I’ve had the same thought regarding how unlikely it is that Heinrich simply stopped victimizing boys after Jacob. And IF there were suddenly no further reports of assaults after Jacob’s disappearance wouldn’t that in itself lead to suspicion that those local assaults and Jacob’s disappearance were related? I had the morning off so I drove to the abduction site and the site where Jacob was finally found to offer prayers and “talk” to Jacob. I had to do something tangible to honor that darling young boy that I’ve cared about so much for so long. It helped me. I wish that communities were organizing events where people could gather in his honor to celebrate this innocent child that we all grew to love. Does anyone know of anything in the works?

  47. Thank you for your work, Joy. Please everyone, share the word that there are still cases of unsolved abductions of Minnesota children, including one near St. Joseph from 2002. Let’s take a cue from Joy’s work and not let that be okay. There are still families missing children and seeking answers. See the StarTrib op-ed piece

  48. Rebecca Hoffman |

    Joy: When a woman named Patty Wetterling describes you as “pivotal” in bringing her son home– well I cannot imagine a greater accomplishment in life. Thank you for bringing your heart and soul to the search. For being curious. And for being so intelligent about piecing this case together from a new lens. I join the world in being completely in awe of all that you have accomplished. You truly are a hero.

  49. Joan Del Rio:
    Your honoring of Jacob is touching, and I think much needed by everyone as a way of “closure”, if that is even possible.
    Two of the major Minnesota sports teams are honoring Jacob today and tomorrow by wearing the number 11 on their jerseys as well as having other memorials in their stadiums. One is the Minnesota Twins, as this article shows:

    Also, some other ideas being suggested online:

  50. I should add, follow Twitter and you will find numerous groups honoring Jacob under the hashtags: #11forJacob and #JacobsHopeLives

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