For Jacob

jacob-picture-11-yrToday is Saturday, September 17, 2016. It’s been eleven days since I sat in that courtroom at the U.S. District Courthouse in Minneapolis and heard Danny Heinrich confess to the kidnapping and murder of Jacob Wetterling.

It’s been eleven days, and I still can’t think about it without crying.

Admittedly, I’ve been through some hard stuff in my lifetime. In 1999, two of my closest friends each lost a child. Cody was ten years old when he was struck and killed by a car while biking. Emma was two years old when she died from a cancerous brain tumor. As moms and friends, we clung to each other for strength and support. We questioned fate and silently waged our own battles with God. All of it was devastating and traumatizing. It changed who we were, forever.

But this. How do you explain this? It has taken me eleven days to get a grip, and still, I cry every time I think of that day. I sat there, three rows behind Patty, and had to listen to what that horrible man did to her son. I had to close my eyes through most of it, tears streaming down my face. I questioned why I had even come. I felt sick, wanted to leave… couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

Then, when Heinrich finished his confession about Jacob, he moved on to Jared. In chilling detail, he confessed what he had done to that scared 12 year old boy who has since become a close friend. Until that moment, I don’t think I fully appreciated how lucky Jared is to be alive.

After it was over, I couldn’t take anymore. I bolted. I didn’t stay for the press conference… I just couldn’t. I left and drove to my parents’ house where I crumbled into my mother’s arms. Even at 49, I needed her to hug me and make the world right again. We hugged and cried, then she made me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich… toasted… just how I like it. Later, she poured me a glass of wine and we cried some more.

Since that horrible day in the courtroom, I’ve struggled to make sense of everything that’s happened over the past few weeks… months… years. I look back over the entire journey and question how I ever ended up on this road in the first place. What started as mere curiosity eventually became a battle of faith and purpose. I plodded along, never knowing exactly where I was headed and wanting to quit more often than I care to admit.

Why? For Jacob.

This boy… this eleven year old boy that I’ve never met… captured my soul. He captured all of our souls with his smiling face, his yellow sweater, and his youthful innocence. He was a symbol for all that was right with the world… our world. It was a world of backyard sleepovers, bomb pops, and neighborhood water fights. Saturday cartoons, Vikings football, and Labor Day telethons. It was good, and predictable, and fun.

And then, on that awful day in 1989, our good and predictable world slipped away. We bumbled around, lamenting fate, losing faith, and becoming bitter. As the days melted into months, it seemed all hope had been lost. But then, a warrior emerged. She was a warrior who was willing to fight for our world… for bomb pops and water fights. She was tiny, but fierce, and we clung to her words, because she spoke of hope and change. If she was willing to fight, then by God, we would follow her into battle.

screen-shot-2016-09-17-at-1-20-23-pmAnd follow, we did. We marveled at this tiny warrior and all that she stood for. She became Super Mom to us. She grew and effected change that rippled well beyond the borders of our own little state. She helped write powerful legislation that would eventually make the entire country safer for children. She fought, and she fought, and she fought, never once losing sight of her ultimate goal… to find her missing son.

Jacob, I never knew you, but I do know you came from good stuff. You must be so very proud of your mom. Her drive has always been fueled by hope, and she has fought tirelessly for the world you used to know. In fighting for you, she fought for all of us, every day. Looking back, I have to believe you’ve had a hand in all that’s transpired here. In your short eleven years, you also fought for what was right and fair. Today and forever, we will honor your legacy by trying to do the same.

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

(Thank you sueney65 for passing that along.)

NEXT: What’s next…




  1. You have truly made a difference in the world with your blog. One thing I find amazing is that the authorities kept a piece of Jared’s clothing all these years that proved to match Heinrich’s DNA.

  2. I am certain Jacob feels the love from all of us. Let’s concentrate on that and keep sending him love. “What’s-his-name” is not worthy of another of our thoughts. We, along with Jacob, will keep the Jareds of the world safe. Yes, Jacob has a hand in this…………..his spirit is present in our souls. His face has been inscribed in my mind since his abduction. Such a beautiful child.

  3. I hope you write a book on your blog / research you did for Jacob Wetterling. I agree you have made a huge difference in this world and it gives everyone hope . You have set a wonderful example for your children . God Bless you & your family.

  4. Think you Joy. I have followed Jacobs case for years and here I am crying again. I almost feel as if I lost my own son who is now 8. My daughter is almost 12. This whole tragedy has put things into perspective for me and everyone must be diligent in the war against child predators. God bless the Wetterling family.

  5. All I can say is if something like this happened to my daughter’s you would be one of the first people I call. You helped keep his story alive.

  6. Beautiful thoughts on this blog. My heart has broken in a million pieces. You made a huge difference. Thank you for sharing your words and being so deligent to the truth
    Trying to stay hopeful through all of this. πŸ’™πŸ’™

  7. Beautiful words….Peace to all who sorrow.

  8. I like how you reached back to the story of Joseph to draw strength and hope from. What is so remarkable to me in Joseph’s story is how God worked not only in Joseph’s life but even more so in the lives of his brothers who sold him into bondage. The fruit of that work came so full and genuine when Judah was willing to take the full charge for the staged stolen cup when he was offered an easy way out to save his own skin. Reminds me of my own brokeness and my great need for God’s forgiveness and sustaining grace. The cross of Calvary puts all of humanity in proper perspective where I stand no better than any among the masses. Including Mr Heinrich.

  9. Thank you for all your hard work to help uncover the truth! I’m still crying too! Jacob was stolen 3 days before the birth of my first child. Every year I marked he was still missing and prayed that he would be found.

  10. Thank you, Joy. And thank God for Patty. She is truly an inspiration to me and the world.

  11. Patty embodies my three favorite qualities; faith, hope and positivity. What a woman! <3

  12. I can’t stop stop thinking about Jacobs comment. “what did I do?” You did nothing child. You did nothing.

  13. Thank you Joy, for letting us all share in your blog. Most of us have followed Jacob for the past 27 years. You tied many ends together and kept Jacob alive. My heart breaks for the Wetterlings, may the lord comfort them.

  14. Carli Lindemann |

    Beautiful tribute to a beautiful soul… thank you.

  15. It’s been an emotional roller coaster for you all! Bless the work you have done! Looks like you picked a perfect choice of a life path! I do hope once your have done some good healing- soul wise- you pick up your work and push on!

  16. Thank you, for all you have done.!

  17. Thank you, Joy, and God bless you for all you have done to bring Jacob home.

  18. Laura Garczynski |

    I join you in crying everyday since I heard the confession. I am a Mother of an eleven year old boy and this rips my heart out. The picture of Jacob is one I stare at often. I have the most horrid thoughts of doing bad things to Heinrich. He is the person I despise right now. Thank you Joy for all you’ve done.

  19. Bless you Joy. You made/make a difference in so many lives. Thank you.

  20. When I look back into the past 16 years or so that I discovered this mystery, I reflect upon the things earned throughout the way, love, endurance, faith, all of these became stronger, and now that Jacob was found I know that you have cherished more love and you have learned to endure and that your faith is even stronger, in other words we harvested some of the best traits that make us human and we are improved human beings today. Jacob is another story of both human’s evil and human’s good. You are part of a history on the good side and you’ve built so much in many people many of whom don’t even realize it. Without Jacob we wouldn’t have grown so much. It was our story and a very powerful one, what is left is to value the world around us and try to start endeavors that bear human meaning, in doing so, we will have continued the story that began 6 years ago when this blog began and we will be honoring Jacob, the story we chose to follow. I know that we don’t know what made us enter this road but nothing happens just because. If it weren’t for you the new story that is to begin in everybody’s path wouldn’t have started yet, I think you should feel some sort of accomplishment. Best. Doug.

  21. My daughter is the same age as Jacob. I’ll never forget that day and how it effected everyone’s lives thru the years. We have followed,prayed, and watched the amazing strength and all that was done for the good if the children.I too have cried over the years but not as much as those days to follow the testimony. I don’t think there’s anyone with a heart that wasn’t in the same place. I too felt as if it were my own son and prayed for the family to find some peace. Your blog is amazing, Thank you …..Prayers to all who have lost a child, my heart sends out long heartful Hugs.I can’t imagine what you have lived and I wish you peace.

  22. Sandy Lynn Erickson |

    Sending God’s love to surround you, Joy!

    Sending God’s Message of Hope to a broken world!

    Sending more love and limitless compassion to Patty and Jerry!

    When I met you and talked to you in 1992 – all that I saw was love.

    You are beautiful people, Patty & Jerry.

    I have, since then, met some more of your friends who repeated-

    How very wonderful you are.


    Sandy Lynn

  23. I second the book idea. You are amazing Joy and thank you for opening up this and finally allowing this case to be solved. To think this could have been answered years earlier. I cant stop thinking of that night so many times I had senarios in my head of what happened an where he went. There is a patch of trees I pass on my way home everyday and I always think of Jacob when I see them I dont know why. I cried reading what happened to him I cant imagine the pain of hearing him speak those horrific words. Well done to u and Jared!! Jacob will not be forgotten and he will live on. I will never forget his smiling face in the yellow jumper. Beautiful boy may he Rest in Peace xx

  24. Thank you for all you did Joy! I was sick that night, I can not imagine how anyone remotely close to that family and Jacob could handle hearing those chilling last moments? But evil doesnt win #jacobshopelives! We keep fighting to make our neighborhoods safe and secure, that our children our safe. We can not go back, but we can keep going! Jacob is safe in the arms of our Savior. What an amazing family he came from! Joy will you cantact me about a fundraiser I am doing for the JWF, I would like to send you and Patty something?

  25. Joy I was thinking of what you said about Patty and how tough she is and I thought of this quote; “Though she be but little she is fierce!” That’s from A Midsummer Night’s Dream and it just seemed to fit Patty Wetterling. It also may be something that Heinrich will come to realize when his sentencing happens and he has to listen to the victim impact statements. Fierce indeed, and all while showing so much grace and positivity. Joy I hope that you and the Wetterlings, Aaron and Jared will all soon have some peace.

  26. My family and I really appreciate your work in helping to bring these crimes to light! We also love the verse in Genesis 50:20 that you sighted! Spot on!

  27. Beautifully Spoken! This embodies the spirit of Patty and Jerry Wetterling, Jacob’s friends and family….”Though she be but little, she is fierce.”
    “Fierce indeed, and all while showing so much grace and positivity.” Thank you, Anne, for reminding us to focus on THIS. :-). Gratefully, Sandy

  28. Joy, Thank you for being an instrument in finding the truth for Jacob. And Jared. I am so thankful you have done all this blogging. I think we are all better for all you have done. I am so glad you got involved. Words fail me. I’m sorry. I wish I could say how much you are appreciated and loved.

  29. From one Joy Baker to another, bless you for going through that. I don’t know if will ever be in that position, but if I were, I’d be the only to run to for comfort, as my mom has already passed. So, in lieu of that, here’re my hugs for you.

  30. Joy, Thank you.

    Thanks for being so curious, asking questions, listening so closely, seeking answers to the questions so many of us had, and then helping Jared and the rest of the guys to shine a light on the cases so hard that the investigators HAD to take another really hard look.

    As someone who’s Jared’s age, and who grew up a county away (where, ironically, we also had a serial molester–except up in Pope County, the man was sentenced in October of ’89), Jacob’s story shaped my childhood, and those of everyone I grew up with. And there have been many tears shed here, too lately, over the injustice of all of it, and most of all, the delay.

    I hope that the rawness eases soon and that you are able to draw at least a little strength & comfort from the knowledge of the fact that, but for your curiosity & that tiny voice guiding you to ask those important questions–we’d STILL be wondering.

    You done GREAT, lady! You really did.

    Thanks for teaching us, along with Patty, that one person, who is really determined and patient, really can make a difference and get things done.

  31. Hi Joy , I pray your feeling somewhat more rested than yesterday. Meaning Oct 15th. Grief / trauma take such a toll on our whole person. Hugs to you and your family as well. Bless you. From Wisconsin. Sj

  32. Having had time to ponder the words of Jacob’s murderer as he told of the events of that night so long ago, this phrase from an eleven year old has stuck in my head – – – “What did I do wrong”.

    Jacob, you did absolutely nothing wrong.

  33. I believe that Jacob came to visit me shortly aftet I learned about his death. It was a spiritual thing, I just felt his presence, I did not see him. He told me something that really helped me. And I really appreciate it. Your Son is doing good work from Heaven, you can be sure of that.

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